Sundays With The Christianists: 'God's Not Dead 2' Could Use More Electric Boogaloo

We demand to see an EEG

[wonkbar]a href=""[/wonkbar]Let's get one thing out of the way right away: God's Not Dead 2 is not nearly as bad a movie as Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas. Somehow, we lucked out of seeing the original 2014 God's Not Dead, so we can't compare the sequel to the original, in which Kevin Sorbo plays an atheist philosophy professor who forces all his students to sign a statement that "God Is Dead," except one brave lad defies him, debates him and proves evolution false, and then the professor gets hit by a car and converts to Christianity before breathing his last. Really. Honestly, we wish the sequel had that much action in it.

Instead, we get a tedious courtroom drama about high school teacher Grace Wesley (Melissa Joan Hart), who gets sued for quoting the Bible in a history class. Yes, Grace Wesley. What happens is, a sweet young girl named Brooke (Hayley Orrantia), who's just started reading the Bible after her brother's death, asks if maybe Gandhi and Martin Luther King didn't believe things that were a lot like what Jesus taught. Another student surreptitiously snitches that Ms. Wesley is preaching in class, and so of course Our Hero is immediately in hot water with her atheist principal (Robin Givens), hauled before the atheist school board and its atheist lawyer, and given the choice to recant or risk losing her job. When she stands her spiritual ground, the school decides her fate will be determined by the outcome of a lawsuit brought against her by Brooke's parents and the ACLU. Yes, it's that kind of movie, which is pretty obvious from the trailer:

Before we go any further with this review, Yr Doktor Zoom would like to thank his very patient GF for shushing him and keeping him from shouting out "bullshit!" every few minutes. You see, God's Not Dead 2 takes place in an alternate universe where the ACLU is out to erase Christianity from public life, not in the America where the real ACLU has a webpage explaining why everything our Grace does in the classroom is in fact perfectly legal: she's not proselytizing, she quotes the Bible in a historical context, and for that matter she makes no claims about the divinity or not of Jesus. Try to file a lawsuit against a teacher for that and you might get fined for bringing a frivolous suit. But then you wouldn't have a movie to make Christians feel persecuted. So instead of actually presenting any factual information about real case law -- or even real dilemmas -- surrounding religion in schools, God's Not Dead 2 serves up a positively Mephistophelean ACLU attorney (Ray Wise, Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks), who hates Christians and who talks Brooke's parents into suing Grace, because all the controversy is sure to get Brooke into an Ivy League university. Strangely, the suit is only against Grace, but not the school, because in this universe not only is the ACLU pure evil, it's also too stupid to go after a defendant with some assets. Maybe public school teachers in the movie's universe are paid in gold ingots. In any case, for this movie's ACLU, the simple prospect of destroying a Christian teacher is reward aplenty.

Happily, Grace has an earnest defense attorney, Tom Endler (Jesse Metcalfe), who knows law talking real good, but hasn't thought to read a Wikipedia article on how separation of church and state has actually played out in American courts. Mind you, since this is a Christian movie, he does wow the jury with the news that the phrase "separation of church and state" appears nowhere in the Constitution!!! As in so many bad courtroom movies, there's precious little real law in God's Not Dead 2, although there is Ernie Hudson as the judge (just try not to shout "Ghost-BUSTERS" in your head), and a whole lot of courtroom theatrics that could happen only in a movie. Also, Brooke, the girl whose venal parents bring the lawsuit, ends up getting saved, so that's nice. Hope you don't mind if we spoil the ending for you: After the most idiotic testimony (including Real Life Christian Scholars, as themselves, presenting proof that Jesus was a real historical figure, so quoting Him in history classrooms is OK) and the stupidest closing argument we can recall in any courtroom movie (hint: it involves reverse psychology!!!!), GRACE WINS, and everybody is happy except the ACLU lawyer, especially when one of his junior staff points out that the case proved Jesus is real.

There are also about eighty-seven subplots involving characters from the first film, including: a former atheist blogger who questions her newfound faith after her cancer goes into remission; a Chinese college student whose father actually says -- in subtitles -- "I have no son" when the lad announces he's found Christ; a touchy-feely Buddy Christ minister ("Reverend Dave," played by David A.R. White) who is a very nice fellow indeed (oh, and who ends up on the jury! But then has acute appendicitis and can't serve out the trial! And is replaced by a goth chick! Who it turns out is also a Christian! Oh, shoot, that was another spoiler!); a gratuitous appearance by Mike Huckabee as himself, hosting a cable news interview show about the trial (which as we have mentioned, would be thrown out of court in mere reality); Pat Boone as Grace Wesley's granddad, who shakes his head wisely and says "Atheism doesn’t take away the pain. It takes away the hope"; and the late Fred Thompson in a cameo role as a senior pastor in Reverend Dave's church, delivering the distressing news that for some reason, in some unrelated case, "the government" has subpoenaed all the ministers' sermons for the past six months, because of course the government is at war with God. If you manage to sit through the credits (Just like in a Marvel superhero flick!*) you're treated to a setup for God's Not Dead 3, as Reverend Dave, just home from the hospital, is arrested for failing to comply with the subpoena, because Conscience. We can hardly wait to see what bullshit the next installment in the series throws at us.

We also have to admit, our curiosity is piqued: While God's Not Dead 2 is simply tedious and not worth watching, even for the sake of mocking it, we've now read just enough about the sublime awfulness of the first one that we may have to check it out. And since we can see that one in the privacy of our own home, our GF won't have to keep poking us in the ribs when we start snorting in derision at it.

* The credits also include a list of court cases of supposedly persecuted Christians that scrolls by too quickly to read. Not one of them involves a teacher quoting the Bible in a public school. Imagine that!

God's Not Dead 2, Pure Flix Studios. Directed by Harold Cronk, Written by Chuck Konzelman & Cary Solomon. Trigger warning: There is Christian Pop Music in this film. You have been warned.

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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