On this season finale episode we're talking movies, movies, movies. But not just any movies - evangelical masterpieces of cinema. We watched all four God's Not Dead films so you don't have to! Join us as we take a trip to an alternate reality where Christians in America are a persecuted minority, public schools sell condoms to 2nd graders, and disavowing god is a college course requirement. Action!
Jey: I don't do dabs for the same reason that I don't take Ritalin. And it's because the time that I was testing out Ritalin for a week, I went on this bender and right after I did dabs, this guy cried after he came in my asshole and then like, sent me a text about it, like, “sorry, your ass is just so good that I just, I just cried.” But really, the reason that he cried is because we had just a dabs. And then he asked “who am I to you?” after I had known him for like three days. And I was like, “You're some dude I met on Tinder. What do you want from me?”
Clint: So that's why he cried.
Jey: Yeah, he had just gotten fired from Trader Joe's. I feel like there wasn't a lot going on.
Clint: I've never had anyone cry after sex.
Jey: Really? Well, maybe your asshole just isn't as good as mine.
Clint: It's not so good that people are crying, but it's not so bad that people are crying either.
Jey: I've never been told that I'm the best sex someone's had, but I have been told that I'm the funniest.
Clint: I've found that people do not like it when I do bits during sex.
Jey: I know! I'm like, “I'm just making fun of you. I'm bratting.” They're like, “That's not how you brat.”
Clint: I think a little comedy in the bedroom is healthy.
Jey: Yeah. I walk around at parties and I go up to women and I'm like, “I could be a top.” [slurping sounds] And no one has taken me up on it. I don't know why.
Clint: Really? Because it seems like that would be very effective.
Jey: Yeah. It's like, what, you didn't want me to make jokes this whole time then gag me, bitch.
Clint: I may not be tight but my five is.
Jey: Every fucking time I fuck it up, so I'm letting you start.
Clint: Yeah, I end up re-recording the intro basically every time you do it.
Jey: Yeah, I know. Oh, man. Okay. Hi, everyone, and welcome to How Gay Thou Art, the comedy podcast with me and Clint. We are gay-ish…
Clint: You've already gone off the rails.
Jey: No way. It's different this time, Clint. Don't worry about It. I'm Jey Austen, they/them and the other person on this podcast is…
Clint: Clint Keller, he/him. And today we are talking about the ultimate Christian movie franchise. It is Avengers for Evangelicals - God's Not Dead.
Jey: And ironically, it has nothing to do with Jesus or anything he told Christians to go do and everything about the Christian persecution fantasy.
Clint: Also, it entirely abandons the premise of proving the existence of god after the first movie. It goes purely political.
Jey: No, there's no one doing miracles. Wait. No. The Newsboys do miracles. My bad.
Clint: The only thing that's a miracle is how much goddamn money the first movie made.
Jey: No, the only thing that’s a miracle is how convenient it is that there was always a car wreck when they needed a plot point.
Clint: Lots of deus ex machina in these movies, unsurprisingly. For anyone unfamiliar with these cinematic masterpieces, the God's Not Dead films are based on the book of same name authored by Rice Broocks. The overall plot centers on a Christian pastor named Rev. David Hill, who, along with others in the community, argues for the reality of God through a number of controversies. But it should be said that the book is not a fictional narrative. It’s an apologetics book that argues for the existence of god. The films are only based on it insofar as they use the arguments presented in the book as a foundation for the script.
Jey: It's kind of like how Mean Girls was based on a book about how to be a girl. But the movie has nothing to do with that.
Clint: It's exactly like that actually. So I’ve given the textbook definition but how would you describe the God’s Not Dead films?
Jey: I would say that each one is a little vignette into the fears of Christians getting their rights taken away while at the same time in real life, they're actively taking away the rights of queer people.
Clint: There’s some major projection happening.
Jey: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. There are some recurring characters throughout. There's the pastor.
Clint: Yes. Reverend Dave Hill. He’s the only character who is in all of the movies. He’s the anchor of the GND universe. He only plays a small role in the first film but becomes more central over time.
Jey: I didn't want to spend any money on this, but I forgot to cancel the free trial on Tuesday. So I spent $0.99 on watching all of this.
Clint: Damn. I canceled mine in time. I put a reminder on my calendar and everything, I had no intention of paying for this. What’s most interesting about this series is that each film is allegedly based on real court cases and cultural incidents. And then at the end of the movie, during the credits, they always list all of the court cases that inspired the film. There will be like 20+ court cases related to each movie.
Jey: I wondered, so did you go and look up the cases at the end of the credits that they were based on?
Clint: Well some of the movies give a brief synopsis of each case in the credits that explains the basic conflict and who the court favored, but I looked up the ones that didn’t. But here's what's interesting. As far as I can tell, the courts ruled in favor of Christians and/or religious freedom in every single one of these cases. The Christian persecution fantasy is the core concept that drives these movies, but their basis for this fear is a list of cases where Christians were legally validated. It’s literally not enough for them to win time and time again. The religious right can’t tolerate even being challenged.
Jey: Yeah, it was definitely a caricature and a lot of straw man stuff.
Clint: And while each film is its own self-contained story, there are several things that apply to all of the films. The #1 thing that ties all of the films together is the idea that Christianity and the American education system are at odds on a fundamental level.
Jey: Sponsored by the Newsboys and Duck Dynasty.
Clint: Well nobody ever accused the Duck Dynasty folks of being overeducated.
Jey: I ain't got nothing to say to that. You know.
Clint: It’s basically a movie for the homeschool/tradeschool crowd. Public schools, private secular schools, secular universities - all of them are anti-Christian indoctrination stations. The Venn diagram of people who subscribe to the God’s Not Dead worldview and the people who educate their kids with Abeka is a circle.
Clint: I got Abeka-cated!
Clint: All of the movies take place in what I can only describe as an alternate reality where news stations openly mock Christianity and being publicly anti-Christian is somehow a winning political strategy. In our reality, however, there is only a single member of congress who is religiously unaffiliated. That’s Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona.
Jey: All of Congress.
Clint: And she's not like, anti-Christian. She's just religiously unaffiliated. But in the God's Not Dead reality, basically every politician with a perceived liberal bias is actively attempting to undermine Christianity.
Jey: We're just trying to make it so people have health care and can go to the doctor and not be sick. Why is that so bad?
Clint: Article 6 of the Constitution prevents this from actually being enacted, but there are 7 states that have laws specifically banning atheists from even holding office. That’s the real world.
Jey: Which states? Name and shame, name and shame, Clint.
Clint: Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. And the Tennessee GOP recently tried to get a provision barring pastors from holding office removed but elected to leave the atheist ban in place. But in God’s Not Dead, Evangelical Christians are a persecuted minority that does not share the same level of freedom as other religions and people groups in America.
Jey: If Christians just spent a day in Muslim shoes in America, they would have a very different idea about what persecution actually is.
Clint: Well something interesting about that - a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 8 out of 10 white evangelicals believe that discrimination against them is just as bad as discrimination against black people and religious minorities. In America. 80% of white evangelicals think they face just as many challenges as a Muslim person or a black person or a trans person. It’s just unthinkable.
Jey: How does that work when, like even in the Jesus music documentary, I think it was Kirk Franklin talking about how he stopped in a sundown town.
Clint: Yeah which town in America has threatened to kill any Christians still hanging around after sunset?
Jey: They're not threatened with their lives for just stopping at a gas station with a fucking ichthus necklace. Like, absolutely not.
Clint: It's all imagined. And these movies are dangerous because they reinforce that delusion. This kind of thinking allows evangelicals to completely ignore both their own privilege and the suffering of others. It’s also bizarre how both the first and second films end with a Newsboys stadium show that is filled to the brim with fans. It really undercuts the notion that Christians are so few and far between.
Jey: And then the big thing is getting you to text all of their friends “God's not dead.”
Clint: Yeah they all have a call to action at the end. But in the fourth movie they change it #GodsNotDead to be hip with the times.
Jey: I just love that the guy who dies at the end of the first movie gets a “God's not dead" text when he is dead.
Clint: God’s not dead but you are, atheist scumbag. Another thing that comes up a lot is that coming out as a Christian often has very severe consequences.
Jey: You come out as a Christian and get kicked out of your house, like when you come out as gay? No.
Clint: You might lose your job, your grades will be threatened, the government will try to take your children away, romantic relationships will be severed.
Jey: And a lot of the “persecutions” they show are the exact things the religious right is doing to other people right now. Like, you can’t believe in god and go to college, you can’t say Jesus in a public school. Really? Because Florida now has a don't say gay bill where teachers literally can’t say gay in the classroom. They accuse us of grooming when they want teachers to actively indoctrinate kids in Christianity at school.
Clint: Absolutely. They’re terrified of what they do to others happening to them. It is just so transparently a projection.
Jey: Straight up.
Clint: This should come as no surprise, but The God’s Not Dead series consistently conflates Christianity and America. George Washington might as well be Jesus himself.
Clint: And anything that isn’t American Capitalism is evil on par with Satan. And lastly, the Newsboys play an outsized role in the world of evangelical Christianity in these movies.
Jey: I think they probably helped fund this.
Clint: They did write the theme song for the movie.
Jey: They didn't even write that, though. Like, that's an older song. I feel like that's a Crowder song, but I could be wrong.
Clint: Yeah. You’re right. David Crowder.
Jey: Fucking got it.
Clint: Should’ve known to not challenge you at CCM trivia. I still don’t understand why they keep popping up in the movies though. It’s so hamfisted.
Jey: It's because any time someone in Christian music wants to retire, they just put them in the Newsboys instead.
Clint: I also read - skimmed - the God's Not Dead book.
Jey: So tell me how that is.
Jey: Is it still a story or is it more Mere Christianity?
Clint: Definitely more Mere Christianity. It’s an apologetics text. The author, Rice Broocks, attempts to “prove” the existence of god through various means including science, history, philosophy, and textual criticism. The arguments made in the college class during the first movie hit most of the highlights from the book. But all he has are weak, familiar arguments we have been hearing our entire lives - he says atheism is a religion, he misrepresents evolution and the fossil record, he argues for irreducible complexity, he claims the gospels are all factual first person accounts - none of which proves the existence of god anyway. His entire approach to proving god is disproving ideologies that conflict with his own. He constantly portrays people like Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher to be some sort of left-wing heroes as if I give a shit what Bill Maher thinks about anything.
Jey: They're not like our pastors. They don't understand where atheists are coming from. It's different worldviews. All of theirs is based on an ancient allegorical text that they take literally. And in Christianity, they believe that the Bible is the truth. That's the basis of all truth. And then from there you study other sources.
Clint: You start making some incredibly big logical leaps when you try to conform every piece of new information to an ancient, pre-science book. Let's talk briefly about Pure Flix, the production company/streaming service behind the God’s Not Dead series. How was your experience using their streaming platform?
Jey: Let’s talk about Pure Flix. Pure Flix, for the uninitiated, is basically Netflix, but for Christian films. Netflix is one of the biggest companies of all, like the tech companies, their algorithm is amazing. Their UI is okay.
Clint: It works. It functions.
Jey: It works. Pure Flix is the Christian knockoff and their logo is almost the same typeface. And then the app, the keyboard. When you go to search for something, it’s just a string of the entire alphabet in alphabetical order and you go left to right, but instead of holding it down, it goes a little faster. No, if you hold it down for a second too long, it goes all the way to Z. And then if you press like one click, it'll like go. But then you have to press the button a thousand times. It's just the most annoying keyboard. Like I thought that there couldn't be a more annoying keyboard than just having to, like, go through and type out everything.
Clint: They were clearly cutting any corner they could.
Jey: There was no money spent on design. They got someone on Fiverr to design this app.
Clint: So I have a fully integrated Google Smart home system. All the speakers, all the devices, everything is Google based, everything connects. I could not get Pure Flix to cast from the browser to the TV. So I go to the TV to download the Pure Flex app, which they have, but it hasn't been updated in so long that it's not even compatible with the current Google TV OS. So what I ended up having to do is download the Pure Flix app to my iPhone and then use that to cast it to the television.
Jey: Uh huh. Uh huh. Okay.
Clint: It is honestly one of the worst interfaces I've ever seen on a streaming service.
Jey: Yeah. Like, I've got to start giving Hulu a lot more credit. I thought they had the worst UI, but honestly, it's not that bad.
Clint: No, it's nowhere near this bad.
Jey: Ten being like a really good streaming app. It doesn't exist. Netflix being an eight, Hulu being a good solid five, and then Pure Flix is like a one.
Clint: Ok it’s time to really dig into each of these God’s Not Dead movies. We'll start with the first one, of course. God's not Dead vanilla. It came out in 2014, directed by Harold Cronk. It stars Kevin Sorbo, who you may know as Hercules from the Xena Warrior Princess spinoff show, Dean Cain, who starred as Superman in the 90’s sitcom Lois & Clark, David A.R. White, who plays Reverend Dave, and Shane Harper, our college student protagonist named Josh Wheaton. Its budget was $2 million. But guess what its worldwide net income was.
Jey: $100 million?
Clint: Very close. $95.8 million.
Clint: Synopsis: College student Josh Wheaton attends a philosophy class, where the uncompromising Professor Radisson requires all students to agree in writing that the Christian god is "dead". When Josh refuses on account of his Christianity, the Professor challenges him to defend his position that his god is real, which leads to a series of confrontational presentations by himself and the professor in turn, each making their case in front of the class, before a final debate. At the same time, Reverends Dave and his friend Jude attempt to leave town but are hindered by curious car problems, Muslim teenager Ayisha is at odds with her father over her interest in Christianity, Mark, who is some kind of businessman, acts cynically towards his mentally ill mother, while his vegan journalist girlfriend learns she has cancer, and Chinese exchange student Martin becomes fascinated by Christianity after seeing Josh so ardently defend his faith.
Jey: First of all, why are you making everyone write that and sign it? Like, what does that have to do with your philosophy class? It doesn't.
Clint: You cannot, in any university in America, ask students to renounce their faith as a course requirement.
Jey: And obviously him saying god is dead automatically assuming that all of his audience was raised Christian, like not saying gods don't exist. What if there is a Hindu student? But no, the default is Christianity.
Clint: The very idea that a philosophy class would necessitate disavowing god is absurd. Discussions about god are a pretty big part of philosophy.
Jey: Like it just doesn't make sense from a professor's perspective. Like it felt like they had never been in a classroom.
Clint: I’m not convinced anyone involved with this film went to college.
Jey: And then they're saying God's dead. Like not God doesn't exist, God's dead. And those are two very different things.
Clint: And he does address that. He says that this is not to imply that God used to exist and is now dead. It's just a convenient turn of phrase or whatever. But at the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the professor isn’t truly an atheist. He just hates god for letting his mom die when he was a kid. And that’s true for most of the atheists in these movies. It’s not that they don’t believe in god. They’re just pissed at god.
Jey: Yeah, they're treating God like a bad ex-boyfriend, like they're mad at God. But if they're mad at God, then they still believe in a God.
Clint: As you could probably surmise from the synopsis, this movie has way too many subplots. The Islamophobic plotline, the Chinese exchange student plotline, the vegan journalist cancer lady plotline…
Jey: The vegan cancer lady who gets healed by the Newsboys while doing a hit piece on Duck Dynasty guys.
Clint: The film ends with a Newsboys concert which reminded me of the 2001 cinematic masterpiece, Rat Race, which ends at a Smash Mouth concert.
Jey: Oh my God. You think it ends in the Newsboys concert but actually, there's still 20 more minutes of drama left, because then the professor who doesn't believe in God gets hit by a fucking car and then accepts God into his life again and then dies and then gets a God's not dead text.
Clint: Another moment where these movies felt very Chick Tract-y. It did feel like the movie had 15 different endings though because there were so many plots to wrap up. But the plots also started becoming interwoven. It’s like Crash for Christians. One of the plots is about a super conservative Islamic family. The daughter starts listening to Franklin Graham on her iPod which is apparently a very big problem, which I have to agree with to be honest.
Jey: Yeah, and the kid sees Franklin Graham and automatically knows who it is.
Clint: Yeah her little brother sees it, somehow knows who Franklin Graham is, steals the iPod, shows it to their dad, and the dad throws his daughter out onto the street and says he never wants to speak to her again. So she becomes homeless but also has tickets to the Newsboys concert somehow..
Jey: Yes, she's just there. I thought that she was going to start dating the guy who the movie's centered around, who met his girlfriend at a Newsboys concert. But then she breaks up with him because he's not focused on their relationship and just wants to focus on proving that God is alive.
Clint: Right. We haven’t even mentioned that. Somewhere along this way, Josh Wheaton’s girlfriend breaks up with him because of his dedication to schooling his professor. Their relationship is just so fucking ridiculous.
Jey: They met when their youth group went to a Newsboys concert.
Clint: When they were 12 years old.
Jey: And now they're 18 and freshman in college preparing for marriage.
Clint: So they've been together for six years. And she’s acting completely shocked by his behavior. You don’t date someone for 6 of your most formative years and then get surprised when they do something like this. I feel like it would be more on a “not again, you always do this” situation.
Jey: You're telling me that the girlfriend that you met with your youth group at the Newsboys concert doesn't want you to prove God's real? Really?
Clint: What a bad fucking actor she is, though. She is the worst actor in the movie.
Jey: Who was she? Just like some director's daughter that they threw in?
Clint: I think she was probably just the hottest girl in youth group. And they were like, you, no need to audition your acting ability. Just come on down to the set.
Jey: Yeah, we just need generic hot girl #1.
Clint: I also find the timeline of this movie very confusing. At first, I assumed Josh was going to be working on this proving god project all semester. But then all of the other storylines happen in the span of a few days. And they all intersect with each other so it doesn’t make sense for them to be unfolding at different speeds. Like does all of Josh’s research, debates, breakup, everything happen in just a few days?
Jey: It has to because the philosophy professor gives him three class periods for him to prove that god's real, which people have been trying to do for thousands of years. But yeah, do it in three class periods when you haven't been taught philosophy.
Clint: My actual favorite character in the movie is the vague evil business man played by Dean Cain. He's the boyfriend who breaks up with vegan girl after she learns she has cancer.
Jey: Oh yeah. What the fuck?
Clint: She is a left wing blogger and we know this because she has a meat is murder bumper sticker on her car. She finds out that she has cancer and she tells her boyfriend, Dean Cain, who's been a huge atheist asshole the entire movie. But he breaks up with her immediately. He's like, “This isn't the agreement we made. I'm not here to support your illness.”
Jey: Yeah, like what? They'd been together for how many years? And he's like, “Well, if you're going to die, I'm just going to cut you out early.”
Clint: And when she first tells him about the cancer, he says, “Couldn't have waited until tomorrow.”
Jey: Yeah, he's like, “I got a promotion. You're supposed to celebrate me.” They think atheists don't have morals, so they think that would have been a normal interaction and break up.
Clint: The atheists in the God's Not Dead universe are villainous, heartless people.
Jey: They're like the queer coded villain from fucking Disney. They're like, they're basically caricatures.
Clint: They don't grieve for any of their loved ones. They don't give a shit about anything. They're all smug. It's so ridiculous.
Jey: Like, it's marrying the idea that Christianity has to be a right wing conservative thing because the left is trying to infringe on our rights.
Clint: I've never watched a movie that had so many mic drop moments. It would dramatically build up to some sort of bombshell moment where Josh is yet again providing irrefutable proof of god. Like, “boom!” But then he would just say the dumbest shit you’ve ever heard.
Jey: And then the whole class gives him a standing ovation saying, “God's not dead, God's not dead.”
Clint: My favorite part of Josh’s lectures is he does a whole bit about circular reasoning, how scientists who believe in evolution and the Big Bang are just engaging in circular reasoning. Then it immediately cuts to a scene where Reverend Dave is circular reasoning.
Jey: Oh, you're saying he proved the Bible by saying that it was in the Bible.
Clint: Exactly. It almost feels on purpose. That’s the thing about this whole movie. On some level, it reads as satire to me. It’s not, but it feels like it. It feels like the Scary Movie of faith based films, like somebody made this to make fun of faith film tropes.
Jey: These felt like Chick Tracts, like in the way that people comically die and stuff.
Clint: They absolutely did. And also kind of hell house. It reminded me of the post-birth abortion center scene in Hell House. Because it’s portraying what could happen in America. That this is the road we're going down. This is the world liberals want.
Clint: Let’s move on to the second movie, God’s Not Dead 2. We won’t spend as much time on this one. Released in 2016, Harold Cronk returns as director. It had a budget of $5 million and a net profit of $24.5 million, so about a quarter of the first one. The film stars Melissa Joan Hart AKA Sabrina the Teenage Witch, David A.R. White returns as Reverend Dave, Ray Wise from Twin Peaks plays the atheist lawyer, and the judge is played by none other than Ernie Hudson from Ghostbusters.
Jey: This movie has a ghostbuster in it?!? I ain’t afraid of no god.
Clint: The synopsis for this one: High school history teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart) comes under fire for answering a student's question about Jesus. When Grace refuses to apologize, the school board votes to suspend her and threatens to revoke her teaching certificate. Forced to stand trial to save her career, Grace hires young lawyer Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe) to defend her in court. Endler devises a powerful strategy to show the jury the historical significance of Wesley's classroom discussion.
Jey: I thought it was interesting that they were like, so right leaning politics. And then they're like, “Oh, but we'll give her a union representative, and then the union won't even fight for her.”
Clint: Yeah they make a point to throw a little anti-union propaganda in there. What does that have to do with the existence of god? I have no idea. The way the courtroom scenes are portrayed is the most ridiculous aspect of the movie. So she talks to a student about Jesus and gets put on leave by the school. But then, completely separately, the student’s parents sue the teacher for mentioning the name Jesus to their kid. Somehow victory in civil court means she gets to keep her job as a teacher, which doesn’t really make sense. But all of this is coded as a criminal trial. It’s in a grand courtroom, full jury, theatrical attorneys, the works. In reality, this would be more like Judge Judy than Law & Order. It’s civil court and is so ludicrous that it’s unlikely a judge would hear it to begin with, let alone convene a fucking jury. But it was 100% done on purpose because it carries the visual implication that Christianity is on trial.
Jey: I think they made an interesting link casting choice, downgrading Sabrina the Teenage Witch to a teacher that gets in trouble for saying, “Jesus.” I wasn't even allowed to watch Sabrina. And now she's starring in Jesus movies.
Clint: Yeah it’s kinda depressing to be honest. At the very beginning of the film, the student asks the teacher, “You never let anything get to you. How do you do that? And Melissa Joan Hart says, “Jesus.” And it's like, this entire film series is literally about things getting to evangelicals.
Jey: And they don't even really bring up Jesus or God. They don't care about, like caring for the sick or the poor and the needy. Like that is not at all in these films. It's just the right to be a Christian.
Clint: We do pick back up with the vegan blogger from the first film. She is friends with the Newsboys now and has been miraculously cured of her cancer. So she calls the Newsboys to tell them the news. It's not really clear why they're in the movies anymore at this point.
Jey: It's a Newsboys commercial. That's what I'm saying.
Clint: They've been pretending to be real musicians for 20 years, and you would think that would have made them better actors, but they're fucking terrible.
Jey: She is calling them up on the tour bus like, “Hey, I'm cured of cancer. Thanks for praying for me.”
Clint: The villainous atheists are back led by Ray Wise from Twin Peaks. And the incident that acts as a catalyst for all of this is just completely ridiculous. The way Jesus was brought up in the classroom was in a completely historical context. It would not have been boundary crossing to say what she said.
Jey: Yeah. You don't get in trouble for mentioning that Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was a reverend. That's not weird. You just, as an instructor, shouldn't teach religion because it's not Sunday school. It's not church. But you can talk about the historical context of, yes, this person was a believer.
Clint: They act as if saying the name Jesus in a public school is illegal.
Jey: I was brought up believing that you couldn't say Jesus.
Clint: And the exact people who are upset that this teacher wasn't allowed to answer a question about Jesus are the ones who don't want teachers to be able to answer students’ questions about sexuality or homosexuality or racism. They clearly want restrictions on teachers. They’ve been campaigning on it for years now. They just don't want those restrictions to apply to anything they care about. It's projection. They're just projecting.
Clint: They want to recruit kids into their death cult so they assume everyone else wants to recruit kids too.
Jey: No, we're not trying to recruit people. We're just there to explain that there are multiple ways of existing. But in Christianity there's only one true way.
Clint: For some reason, there are large, rowdy protests on the courthouse steps for the entire movie and, of course, all of the protestors are POC and/or queer coded. And the pro-Christian counter-protestors are mostly blond haired, blue eyed people. And in the end, the teacher comes out on top and the atheist lawyer’s team concedes that a legal precedent has now been set and god's existence has been proven in a court of law.
Jey: Okay, but no.
Clint: Overall, the 2nd entry was pretty boring and forgettable so let's move on to the highlight of the series, God's Not Dead 3: A Light in the Darkness. It was released in 2018, directed by Michale Mason, and had a budget of $5 million, net income of $5.1 million.
Jey: So the best movie was the least profitable.
Clint: No, the fourth one was the least profitable. Each movie made less money than the previous one. I guess everyone had been convinced that god is alive at that point. I don't know. Of course, David A.R. White returns. John Corbett, who you might know from My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Northern Exposure plays Reverend Dave’s atheist lawyer brother.
Jey: I knew him from Northern Exposure, not My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but I was like, “Oh my God, this guy was the radio deejay that got all the girls.” Northern Exposure was my childhood show. My dad had every season on DVD. And it is not on any streaming because of music rights. It's a great show. It sort of holds the test of time.
Clint: So in this movie, we face new legal challenges to the church. After Rev. David Hill is released from prison for refusing to hand over his sermons to the state, controversy is sparked against St. James Church, which is on college campus grounds. This causes the college to start the process of shutting down the church, much to the dismay of Dave and his co-pastor Jude. When informed of the decision to shut down the church and to replace it with a building to expand the school, Dave and Jude begin the process of suing the college to save St. James. Things get worse when college student Adam Richertson tosses a brick into the church, igniting a fire that kills Jude and nearly destroys the church. Dave is forced to come to grips with the loss of his dear friend. Adam is horrified by his actions and contemplates whether to confess to the crime, leading him to reconnect with his skeptical girlfriend, Keaton. Reverend Hill soon seeks help from his estranged brother, a big city lawyer and atheist in a fight to help rebuild the church.
Jey: I thought it was really interesting that they were just like, “Oh, let's blow up The only black guy in the series and replace him with another black guy.”
Clint: It was a bummer too because that guy was one of the most likable characters by far.
Jey: Absolutely. All he wanted to do was go to Disney and take some pictures and tell you that “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.”
Clint: I would be happy if I never heard that again. My God. They say it a hundred fucking times.
Jey: I feel like that's what a youth pastor says after sex.
Clint: Maybe that'll be my next bit.
Jey: Part of your tight 5 - all the time, Clint is good.
Clint: I definitely know a few people who would understand the reference.
Jey: Oh god…
Clint: So right off the bat, everyone in the movie immediately categorizes the burning of the church as a hate crime. We find out later it wasn't but that’s irrelevant. In the world of God’s Not Dead, that is everyone’s first thought as if it is a feasible explanation. But it's worth noting that in the history of the United States, there is no record of any white church being burned down as the result of a hate crime. By contrast, in the last ten years, nine black churches have been terrorized or burned. Only one time has an American on U.S. soil been killed for claiming Christianity. And that person is Cassie Bernall at Columbine High School, who may or may not have even said any of that stuff.
Jey: Yeah, that was disproven.
Clint: On a single day in 2015, Dylann Roof murdered nine African-Americans because of their race and religion. And for this movie to cast the destruction of a white evangelical church adjacent to a college campus in a southern town as a potential hate crime is just so fucking offensive and ridiculous.
Jey: And it's like this guy just threw a brick because he was mad at god. And the brick broke through the church, turned on the gas pipe. When this guy goes into the church, it all blows up and he dies.
Clint: Despite all this, this is the best movie for sure. They do come close to having a semblance of self-awareness and self-criticism. They acknowledge some of evangelicalism's failures.
Jey: But yeah, they do it through the personification of the lawyer.
Clint: The atheist lawyer.
Jey: Yeah, and he basically is just like you guys rejected me when I started asking questions, which is true. He starts asking questions and they leave him.
Clint: What he says is very valid and even powerful at times but the problem is that by this point, the series has already undermined anything that character has to say. They’ve spent 2 whole movies turning atheists into diabolical cartoon villains. You can’t turn around and have those characters deliver the only self-aware lines of the entire series.
Jey: It was just really disheartening because it's like, guys, come on, you were so close.
Clint: This one could have been something worthwhile.
Jey: If they just explored it a little bit more. Because that's the thing. People who used to be Christian and then aren't Christian anymore aren't mad at God. They don't believe in God. They're mad at the church for doing all this bullshit. They're mad at the people who are acting in bad faith with very valid reasoning. They're not against your God.
Clint: They can't wrap their heads around it. I am not mad at God. I'm mad at you.
Jey: Yes, yes. Like, I'm not pissed at God. I'm pissed at the church for allowing all this shit that happened to me to happen.
Clint: What I kept thinking about through all of these movies is that no one involved with these productions have ever heard of the paradox of tolerance. Are you familiar with this concept?
Clint: The idea is that to have a tolerant society, you must be intolerant of intolerance. So you can never have a fully tolerant society. Because if you tolerate everything, then the intolerance you tolerate will eventually undermine the tolerant society.
Clint: All through these movies, they go on and on about the “so-called tolerant left.” They act like the left will tolerate anything except Jesus. And it's like, no. No one has a problem with Jesus. The problem is that you guys want to use Jesus as a weapon to discriminate against people and harm people. That's what we're intolerant of. We're not intolerant of Christianity. Their idea of persecution is not being able to be openly shitty to everyone all the time.
Jey: Let's move on to God's Not Dead 4: Birth Control Ads For Second Graders.
Clint: Oh god, this is the most problematic one of all.
Jey: This one's terrible.
Clint: And of course I have a vested interest in it because this time we're tackling homeschooling.
Jey: Yes. Go listen to our episode on Abeka and watch God's Not Dead 4 back to back.
Clint: Then you will understand exactly why this movie is such bullshit. This one was released in 2021, directed by Vance Null, made with a budget of $2 million, and turned a net profit of $189,240, so barely breaking even on this one.
Jey: It's because only home schoolers went.
Clint: It has a 0% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes but a 100% audience score.
Jey: They even include that in the Pure Flix title card.
Clint: 100% percent fresh according to the people who already believe this shit.
Jey: Not the critics, the audience, which is fine. Like, critics don't usually like things.
Clint: There's usually at least a couple critics that find a redeemable value though.
Jey: I mean, I feel like Adam Sandler movies usually get a good 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, so God's Not Dead 4 is sliding in directly underneath every Adam Sandler movie.
Clint: I wonder how it feels to have worse reviews than I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Now as the name implies, we're getting real American with this one. Christianity definitely takes a back seat to conservative American politics.
Jey: Yeah, Christianity barely has anything to do with this. The premise is so dumb.
Clint: Reverend Dave is called to defend a group of Christian homeschooling families after a local judge orders them to conform their homeschool curriculum to state standards. He finds himself taken aback by the interference of the government, and believing that their right to educate their own children is a freedom worth fighting for, Reverend Dave is called to Washington DC to testify in a landmark congressional hearing that will determine the future of religious freedom in our country for years to come.
Jey: God. Okay, so what actually happens is Reverend Dave goes to some homeschooler’s house because he's helping sit in for their theology class and at the exact same time that they're learning the theology of the story of Noah, a CPS worker shows up and then just starts questioning them on, “Oh, so you're saying that Noah was the only good person, but why did all the animals deserve to die?” Like, she's just basically, like arguing with her, like from a theological standpoint and not really reviewing the lessons. It's like, did they only have one lesson that day or did she only sit in for like 20 minutes and then leave? You're allowed to like, have a Bible class. You're allowed to have whatever classes you want as long as you also have math, science, reading.
Clint: This movie was literally the personification of everything the homeschool families I knew growing up feared. It’s just this paranoid persecution complex believing that the government is going to shut down homeschooling one day, that any day they're going to come knocking on the door and forcing your kids into public school.
Jey: It was a homeschool co-op, right?
Clint: Right. It’s a co-op that Reverend Dave helped found through the church.
Jey: That's what it was. I was like, “How the fuck? Why is he going to testify? He didn't even have kids.” Like, none of it made sense to me.
Clint: Reverend Dave goes to Washington. My favorite part was when one of the moms asks the CPS worker how the kids should address her, miss or misses. And the woman says, “I identify as self-partnered.”
Jey: Are evangelicals afraid of people like me that just don't want to be in a relationship.
Clint: I mean, yes. But it was clearly an attempt to make the CPS worker look like a crazy progressive or something. Long story short, she does not approve of what's happening at the homeschool co-op. So she escalates the problem, the families have to go to court, and you'll never guess who the judge was - none other than Judge Jeanine Pirro from Fox News, who confusingly did a cameo playing herself in God's Not Dead 3 but then reappears in God's Not Dead 4 playing a character.
Jey: God's not dead. He works miracles.
Clint: He miraculously made her a completely different person.
Jey: If God can work miracles and make the Fox News lady a completely different person in a God's Not Dead movie, then I can be nonbinary.
Clint: You would think so. The judge tells the parents they've got ten days to either conform to the educational guidelines or send their kids to public school. They can’t settle for this so all the homeschool parents, Reverend Dave, and Martin (the Chinese exchange student from the first movie) fly to Washington DC to speak at a senate subcommittee meeting in opposition to a new educational standardization law that would make homeschooling practically illegal. At one point, the homeschool parents are talking to each other and one of them is like, “I was talking to my friend who started sending her kids to the public school and they were handing this out.” So she pulls out this paper and passes it around and says,” It’s an advertisement for condoms. They're in the second grade.”
Jey: They're just coming up with things that don't really happen? When I went to public school, one of the few years that I did, in fifth grade after our DARE program, they handed everyone a bag that had deodorant and a panty liner and said, “Your body is changing soon.” And I had no idea. There was no further contact. So that was all we got. No idea about what to do with the pad.
Clint: You mean they weren’t teaching you how to use condoms when you were seven?
Jey: Absolutely not. Yo, unrelated, can I tell the story of when I had my first tampon? So out in Glen Rose, Texas, there are a few things. One of them is a creation museum. The other thing it has is dinosaur footprints. And these dinosaur footprints are in the water and you can go swimming in them. And I wanted to go swimming, but I had my period. And so I go in this bathroom and my sister comes out with these cardboard tampons and she's like, “You just stick it up there.” And so I did. And she never told me to take the applicator out, though. So I'm like walking around all bow legged. And, uh, anyway, so that hurt for like a while. And then I finally told her what was up, and she's like, “You're supposed to take the cardboard out.” And that was how I used my first tampon. Anyway, they should really give kids sex ed, but they're definitely not doing the condom thing.
Clint: But the problem is that the people who are watching this shit believe it’s real.
Jey: Yeah, but the people that watch those shit never went to public school in the first place.
Clint: And they certainly don't send their kids but that's what I'm saying. That's what's so dangerous about this shit is because they portray ridiculous, over-the-top, extreme scenarios and reinforce the beliefs already held by conservative evangelicals about these institutions.
Jey: And then there was this whole subplot, the exchange student from the first movie is really, really excited to go and tour all the museums in Washington, D.C. and it's just a really, like, America centric thing.
Clint: It was a fucking America commercial. What’s funny though is that the Chinese exchange student, Martin, is portrayed as the smartest person in the movie but he was educated by the Chinese state so I don’t know what these parents are so worried about.
Jey: And he's like, “Oh, I just started learning American history as my pastime. It became a hobby after I had to study for my citizenship test.” And so he's just there to give the exposition, to say like the first words of the Constitution and all this stuff. And wasn't there a thing about, like the Founding Fathers were slave owners and then they were like, “Well, yes, but they were also Christians and they were young kids. Kids make mistakes.” And why does that matter? They literally saw people as less than human and we're venerating them.
Clint: The revisionist history was unbelievable. Totally downplayed any wrongdoing on the part of the Founding Fathers.
Jey: They talk more about the Founding Fathers’ teachings than they ever did Christianity's teachings.
Clint: Gone is the humanized, interesting-ish character that John Corbett played in the third movie. In the fourth one, we are back to an over the top atheist senator villain who got elected on an anti-Christian platform and has an 82% approval rating somehow. And it’s so irritating because they could have written a believable villain. It could have been someone who was misguided but thought they were doing what was best for students. Instead, they go with a cartoon character who wants to destroy Christianity no matter the cost. It’s just bad writing.
Jey: And like you said, these cases, like they all ruled in favor of homeschoolers and some of them weren't even in the US.
Clint: Some of them are in Canada!
Jey: This movie's called We the People.
Clint: It's really what frustrates me most about these movies. They use this “based on real cases” thing to market the movies but what is presented in the movies is not reflective of reality on any level.
Jey: And I'm not against homeschool. I want to be clear, like I work from home now. So obviously, like, you can do things at home, but…
Clint: We do need to have standards.
Jey: Yeah, and Abeka is not.
Clint: This movie was arguing that there should not be any standards for education.
Clint: When they go to the initial court trial with Judge Jeanine Pirro, she says the only sensible thing that’s said in the entire fucking movie. She's like, I'm paraphrasing here, “Your rights as parents do not supersede your child's right to an education.” But she's being cast as the villain in that moment. I mean, that was my number one point on the Abeka episode. Kids have a right to an education, to real information. And homeschooling does not always provide that. Nobody's checking up on these kids. I mean, never once did anyone ever check up on me growing up.
Jey: I don't think we had anyone from the city. We might have had an accreditation person, but our school was only certified by the National Association of Private and whatever.
Clint: Yeah, the National Association of Christian Schools. I found an interview with David A.R. White, who plays Reverend Dave. He also is a producer on the movies. He was being interviewed about the fourth film and he said, “If you look at when God's Not Dead: A Light In The Darkness came out, it came out during the Trump era. It came out when we didn't really have the problem necessarily of all this government trying to take liberty and freedoms from Christians. It was a time of, ‘Hey, everybody's yelling at each other, but no one's listening.’ And so it came out, I think for such a time as that was. And here we are, we are in a different administration and it's a different time and what we're finding is all of these laws being passed that are, I think, threatening our freedoms and our liberties.” So when evangelicals are in control, everybody should stop yelling at each other. But when they're not in control, it's an active threat against them.
Jey: It's a fight for your life. But when evangelicals are in control, they're taking away Roe v Wade. Because if we are in charge, there's no reason for y'all to not get along. Just conform to our ways. Because there's only one way, one truth and one life.
Clint: And he says the laws are being passed that threaten his freedoms and liberties. What fucking laws? What laws, Dave? My God, half the states in America are actively legislating against trans people. Which states are doing that to Christians? Where is that happening?
Jey: It’s not.
Clint: Name a single law passed during the Biden administration that is discriminatory against Christians. It's fucking ridiculous.
Jey: It's annoying and frustrating. And I wish that these movies weren't made, but they are. And so we're talking about them. Yay.
Clint: Obviously, we have not seen this, but God's Not Dead 5: RIse Up is coming out later this year. Jey, If you had to guess what the plot of this one is going to be, what would you say?
Jey: Probably something about trans people or gay people, because they're really trying to like, fuck with us right now.
Clint: That's too controversial. But you’re in the right ballpark.
Jey: What it may be about like an abortion. Like, I'm just thinking like hell house since…
Clint: You're dancing all around it. But the new film will follow Reverend Dave Hill as he runs for office in a campaign against an opponent that seeks to remove religion from public policy. And the reverend begins to question, is god dead in American politics?
Jey: It's supposed to be a separation of church and state.
Clint: I mean, at this point, God’s Not Dead is just Christian Nationalist propaganda. They’ve abandoned any facade of caring about Christ.
Jey: Because remember, church and state means that they can control the government, but the government can't control the church.
Clint: In addition to Reverend Dave, Dean Cain and Ray Wise are both coming back for this one, so that's good. I love me some Big Lots Superman.
Jey: Oh, speaking of gay hymns, when I went to the Metropolitan Community Church, I noticed that all of their hymns had a gender neutral version of referring to god. And I always thought that was really cool.
Clint: So they weren't hymns, they were thymns.
Jey: My bad, my bad, bro, you're right.
Jey: That's my new pronouns.
Clint: OK, final thoughts. There is something going on with the cameos in these movies. There are a lot of them - Mike Huckabee, Judge Jeanine Pirro, the Robertsons. But something less apparent to an outsider is that all of the “expert witnesses” in the court trials were real people. They were not actors. They were evangelicals who have written apologetic texts and stuff.
Jey: Oh, interesting. Was Tim LaHaye in it?
Clint: Unfortunately, no. But there's still time. He might make it into God's Not Dead 5: Rise Up. I think they use cameos to try to further the illusion that these movies are taking place in reality. It grounds the story in the real world when they include real evangelical celebrities playing themselves.
Jey: Yeah, it gives it an air of legitimacy that it definitely should not have.
Clint: From that interview with Reverend Dave, he said, “The whole point of these films is to really open up conversations about God. It started out on the college campus and it moved into the high schools and into the community. And it always seems like for such a time as this life imitates art and here we are making God's Not Dead: We the People. And it is just meant to, I think, take conversations to Washington about our freedoms and our liberties. And so this franchise was built to do that. And there's no better time to do that than right now.” I just don’t know how they expect to open up conversations about god with the very people that they negatively stereotype and misrepresent in their movies.
Jey: Yeah, that wasn't what it was about. This is a movie for evangelicals by evangelicals. They weren't using this as a conversion movie.
Clint: No meaningful conversations were started here, despite that fact we’ve been talking about these movies for literally days.
Jey: It was very much negatively stereotyping anyone that doesn't believe in God as a terrible person who doesn't grieve when people die, doesn't feel the same way, doesn't care. It's just kind of gross and infuriating.
Clint: It's hard for me to comprehend how absurd and confusing this movie would be to someone who had no exposure to evangelical Christianity. It wouldn't make any fucking sense.
Jey: The farther we get down this rabbit hole, the more I am realizing everyone knows about Christianity. No one has no exposure. Well, I guess my friend did at the beginning.
Clint: And you just had to ruin that, didn’t you?
Jey: Let's wrap things up. I really thought this was going to be one of our shorter episodes because there wasn't a lot of research. It was just movie watching, but we had opinions.
Clint: I'll leave you with the final quote from David A.R. White.
Jey: Who's David A.R. White?
Clint: He plays Reverend Dave. And he's a producer.
Jey: David plays Dave?
Clint: Yeah, that's also a kind of cameo. He's really just saying what we've been saying here. “The God's Not Dead movies have been based on different court cases over the years in different ways. And so there's no doubt about it. These things have actually happened in different communities in different ways. Now it's not national yet that it's happening. But our goal with the God's Not Dead movies is to alert people to the things that are happening under the surface, so to speak, and to bring out the conversations. That's really what the purpose of this movie is, to alert people of the situation before it goes widespread.” So he just wants to pre-alert America’s most privileged group to a problem that doesn’t exist. Makes sense.
Jey: Then these court cases that happened in different communities in different ways, every one of them favored Christianity, like get the fuck out of here.
Clint: And the ways the court cases differed from the movies are significant.
Jey: That's the last thought I have on these Christians. They do not deserve any more of my time. All right. So as always, thank you so much for listening to our rant on all four God’s Not Dead movies. This is the end of season two.
Clint: Taking a brief break.
Jey: We'll release minisodes during the break and we'll be back soon. So if you want to be on a minisode, send us your story. Send us your voice submissions. I also want to do an episode where we go through all of them and we can commiserate our stories together. Also, we have merch, go buy a hoodie, a beanie or a sticker.
Clint: We got an order today.
Jey: Really? Yeah.
Clint: Somebody ordered a daddy hat today and last week we sold a mug! Shoutout to Jen.
Jey: Thank you so much for ordering a mug. I love that. That's so exciting.
Clint: We are on social media, of course, @howgreatthouart, howgaythouart.com. We have a Patreon.
Jey: Yeah, support our Patreon. Both the merch and the Patreon just go to the cost of making the podcast and all this research because at the moment we don't run ads. So yeah, help support it if you want. You don't have to, but we would love money. Money's great. Also, if you're in our Patreon and had trouble signing up for the Discord, just hit us up for a link.
Clint: I know that Jey discouraged people from viewing the God's Not Dead movies, but I'm here to say that I endorse watching these films, I had an excellent time. The first one is on Amazon Prime but you’ll have to go to Pure Flix for the rest.
Jey: Yeah, sure. Go. We also post our transcripts. Sometimes I post pics related to the episode or like doing the Christian music when I post all the links to all the songs as well as a playlist of Christian music that I like as well as, you know, some fun songs.
Clint: This playlist that you made has fucked up my algorithm so bad.
Clint: I was at the gym the other day and what did I hear but “coming in hot, like a fajita.”
Jey: You texted me that you were listening to it one day and I was like, what?
Clint: It's growing on me in a completely unironic way.
Jey: I should add to this playlist. I never added any Apologetix stuff, and I think I should add Bone Digger.
Clint: You know, a couple of years ago, I had a friend's Christmas in Oakland, and one of my friends who grew up Mormon started a joint Christmas playlist. And most of us added popular artist covers of Christmas songs and Trans-Siberian Orchestra and stuff like that. But Kofi just added like 50 Apologetix Christmas songs. Nobody was into it at all. We made an executive decision to remove those from the playlist.
Jey: Yeah, as you should. Anyway, thank you so much for listening, everyone. I'm Jey Austen, them/them but like thymn.
Clint: Honestly, that's like something that they would put in God's Not Dead to be like, “Look at this. Look how crazy the atheists are now.”
Jey: They're changing the hymns to thymns.
Clint: I identify as self-partnered.
Jey: It's also the nicest way of saying I'm single.
Clint: And not ready to mingle.
Jey: You are?
Clint: I'm Clint Keller, he/him. And this is How Gay Thou Art. We'll be back in a few weeks.
Jey: Yeah. Bye, everyone. XOXO.