I watched “God’s Not Dead” and, going into it, I really knew I was going to be challenged, however, I did not expect myself to leave the movie so upset over the message. Evangelism is one thing, evangelism at the cost of the integrity of those of different faiths or without faith is something else entirely different and something that I will not tolerate.
The war in Syria has been raging for three years and no end in sight, a conflict undoubtedly fueled in some part by religious hatred, and there are bombings in Iraq between people of different faiths threatening the peace and stability of the Iraqi people. With the continued Israeli/Palestinian conflict and centuries of world history marked in bloodshed over religious difference, I think the people of the world can come together in agreement that it is time we end our trend of vilifying our neighbor, our brother and sister, over whether or not they pray to God or Allah, whether or not they pray laying down or with their hands clasped together or if they even pray at all! The time has come for us to remember, especially those of us of faith, that these are all God’s children, God’s creation, and they deserve our love and respect. As Jesus says, “my command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” The solution to our differences is love.
In “God’s Not Dead,” there is a Muslim family in which the oldest daughter seems to be less interested in the faith and drawn to Christianity as she is listening to the Bible on her iPod while her father is portrayed as “very traditional.” According to the daughter he makes her wear the hijab and when he finds out that she is listening to the Bible and declares Jesus Christ to be “her Lord and Savior,” he slaps her across the face, beats her and throws her out of the house while her younger brother and grandmother look on.
For me, this alone almost caused me to walk out of the film, it was the most grotesque and offensive portrayal of a Muslim man that I personally have ever seen in film. Muslims are not abusers, they do not beat their daughters or force oppressive restrictions on them anymore than Christians do, or people of any other faith do. That is because it is not a testament to the tenets of the faith, rather a mark of the character of that individual. We hear stories of Christian ministers preaching hate from the pulpit all the same; hate against Muslims, Jews, foreigners, LGBTQ people, the list is endless.
What would be the reaction if a film was made portraying all Christians in that light? My suspicion is that there would be a serious outcry. So then why is it acceptable for Christians to make a film portraying Muslims, and by default those of all other faiths and those without faith as just that? It is not acceptable because Christians are called to act and serve as Jesus did, that is the whole foundation of our faith. Jesus said, “My command is this: love each other as I loved you.”
It is time for people of faith and without faith to come together in ecumenical, interfaith dialogue and love, to get down to solving the world’s real problems and solve them with incredible acts of love. Let us relegate interfaith hate and conflict to the history books and take one big step together as a generation of great power, voice, and love to end these unnecessary, hateful views and to love our neighbors as ourselves whether that neighbor is Christian, Muslim or Jew because it’s maybe time we take this Jesus guy seriously.