In Saturday’s Washington Post, they published a letter to the editor from a Paul Whittemore in Spotsylvania, Virginia, who noticed the Post’s movie critics never attempted a movie review of God’s Not Dead, which has so far grossed $55.5 million at the box office and tiptoed back into the top ten this weekend.
On March 21, the Post could only report “This movie did not screen in time for critic review in Weekend.” As if the Posties couldn’t buy tickets at the cineplex? Whittemore also noticed the naughty, porny movies they did not skip:
For several weeks, the movie God's Not Dead consistently showed up on The Post's weekly list of "Top 10 Films" but received no review in the newspaper. Did The Post just blow it on that one and now thinks that it's too late for a review? I hope that is the case, rather than The Post simply not liking the film's premise, as expressed in its title. I noticed The Post was on top of Nymphomaniac Volumes I and II - which we won't be seeing.
Even liberal Post film critic Ann Hornaday never got around to the task, even though she mentioned the film in her recent “Look at me, I’m a Christian” column: "As a critic, my first obligation is to assess each of these films not as theology (an exercise for which I'm supremely unqualified), but as a piece of commercial entertainment, whether the form it takes is a mass-market spectacle or a more niche-oriented product that preaches to the choir."
Obviously, it wasn’t her “first obligation” to darken the theatre door for this movie. She did review both Nymphomaniac movies. She may have been a harsh critic of the Kevin Sorbo flick – the Metacritic score is 16 (out of 100), or "overwhelming dislike." This is not to say the movie didn’t get trashed in the Post. For that, see “conservative” columnist Michael Gerson, who slammed Noah and then God’s Not Dead on April 1:
But while "Noah" tries (and fails) to reconceptualize religion, the surprise hit "God's Not Dead" positively discredits it. This movie is an extended exercise in evangelical wish fulfillment. (Freud is evidently not dead, either.) The plot: Fresh-faced Christian lad bests abusive, atheist philosophy professor at his own game, and then the professor converts just before he dies. Along the way, a Muslim girl gets beaten by her father and converts, and a liberal blogger gets cancer and converts. Everyone is a willing, pliant participant in a vivid fantasy, vaguely bringing to mind a very different kind of film.
The main problem with "God's Not Dead" is not its cosmology or ethics but its anthropology. It assumes that human beings are made out of cardboard. Academics are arrogant and cruel. Liberal bloggers are preening and snarky (well, maybe the movie has a point here). Unbelievers disbelieve because of personal demons. It is characterization by caricature.
And it raises a sobering question: Do evangelicals actually view their neighbors this way, as moral types and apologetic tools? Not in my experience. Most evangelical leaders and laymen I know would recognize that the line between good and evil (to paraphrase Solzhenitsyn) runs not between groups but within every heart - and that grace often moves in subversive and unpredictable ways. In general, evangelical lives are better than their art.