A church in my neighborhood put a flyer in my mailbox inviting me to a screening of “God Is Not Dead.” I decided to go and see it and to meet the people at the church.
The film was interesting, but the church was even more interesting. The people there were extremely nice, both to me and to each other. People of different races sat together, with no trace of self-segregation. It was surprising how surprising this was to see. The children were exceptionally polite, but without any evidence of brokenness. They seemed very happy and alive. The service was moving. Everything centered around love. God loves every one of us. The world is underpinned and saturated with love. We are called to love each other.
The only major problem I had with any of it was the image they had of their non-Christian neighbors. I saw this image both in the film and in how they spoke about the wicked people in the world that make life difficult for everyone — themselves most of all, but also believers. The characters in the film were alarmingly flat and unbelievable. It was nearly as bad as reading Ayn Rand. They had some kind of horrific aversion to God and could not accept his love for various reasons, despite on some level feeling the truth. It made them lash out at God and Jesus and his faithful worshipers.
If I lived in the world with angry, irrational, evil people like that, and especially if I had children, I would take drastic measures to stop them. But they don’t live in a world full of people like that. These unbelievers were imagined characters — moral straw men. When I tried to tell them how they were getting their neighbors wrong, they were uninterested in discussing it. Eventually they stopped answering my emails.
It makes me wonder if we don’t store our own most vicious, hateful and violent impulses in the imputed inner-lives of our enemies.
I hear “God Is Not Dead 2” is coming out soon. Maybe they’ll screen that, too. It might be a good excuse to resume the conversation.