Sunday, March 30, 2014

God's not dead, but he is easy.

It's been almost a year since I last posted. Wow. I really forgot about this place. But I have things to say and I can't say them on tumblr and I can't find a place for them on the OYAN forum. So here will have to do.

A few hours ago, I and my family saw God's Not Dead. I'd heard... things about this movie, and 99% of them were correct. I disliked this movie strongly, unlike my family. I told my aunt I thought of the movie as "emotionally manipulative, overly simplistic, and self-congratulatory." And after hearing my family's side of the story, I still think of it in those terms. We're okay with disagreeing (mostly). But I didn't really get to explain everything I found wrong with it, mostly due to my insufficiency at oral communication and dislike of corporeal conflict.

So, again, here will have to do.

Earlier this morning during church, the preacher talked about our names being engraved into the hands of Jesus (Isaiah 49:16, I think). And when Jesus was crucified, the nails in his hands looked back to that passage - his blood covering our names, our sin. It was a visceral, stark image, the very basis of Christian salvation in "one photographical moment."

Christianity is, at its core, incredibly visceral. In our white-washed, scoured, politically correct, Victorianized society today, we forget that Christianity is a religion based on a god. It was one of a whole collection of ancient religions. People worshipped Jesus alongside people who worshipped Zeus and Isis. It's doing God a disservice for Christians to think of him as anything less than an actual deity of the mystical sort of the gods of Olympus and Asgard. We've forgotten God's godness, the stark mysticism and other that he is. He's not a picture of a long-haired shepherd petting a lamb on the head, or a giant vending machine that helps you get what you want when you follow a seven-step process.

God is a god. Mysterious, powerful, unfathomable to human conscience. The Bible is our only taste of him, and what a tiny, bare taste of the dying god it speaks of.

How could less than one hundred short books - much of it to do with bygone law and people, very little of it to do with the actual god we call Jesus and his nature - tell us all we need to know to live comfortably as Christians? They can't. We are woefully underprepared when it comes to the ins and outs of our own religion. We have one slim book that doesn't even contain the same volumes from denomination to denomination. We have more information on Middle Earth than we do about the ungraspable god we serve. God is and always will be a mystery to earthbound humans, first and foremost, maybe even before savior and king and friend.

And that brings me to God's Not Dead.

In the movie, I saw a world I don't recognize. (Or maybe it's because I recognize it that I dislike it.) In the movie world, God is simple. God is easy to understand. God is easy, period. God stands at a street corner in stiletto heels and a corset, waiting for uninitiated virgin atheists to come get a taste of what he's selling. It'll feel good and it'll solve all problems - if nobody loves you, if you're confused, if you're having a bad day. It's that simple.

Atheists are also easy. They're stunted, puritanical modern virgins, angry and deluded. They are villains. There's only one thing for God's little whores to do - get the atheists to try it, just once. Get over whatever your mental block is and just try it. We're not the stupid ones - you are. Did someone hurt you in the past? Are you frigid? God'll fix it, don't worry.

To switch from a metaphor in slightly bad taste to a metaphor in even worse taste, the atheists are Snidely Whiplash and God is Dudley Do-right, with the atheists tying Nell - God's girl, the church - to the traintracks. The principal Whiplash is, of course, Professor Radison, the radically anti-theist philosophy professor painted in painfully simplistic brushstrokes of black and white. The principal Nell was Josh Wheaton (were they trying to be clever?), a whitebread Christian college student who, instead of reporting personal threats (another groaningly contrived scenario) made against him by his professor, went ahead with "academic suicide" in order to prove a point.

There is no godly love in this movie's main plot. Even while it mocks and vilifies Professor Radison's intelligence and circle of philosopher friends, it hides in a neat, tidy mound of scientific proof for God's existence. While I did appreciate that Josh was, nominally, not trying to prove God's existence, but to lobby for a chance for the students to decide for themselves, the movie didn't take that stance. Even after his 'victory' against Radison, when 98% of the student body stood up and smilingly repeated that God Isn't Dead, it's not treated as a score for free will and intellectual choice - it's treated as a score for the Western church, for the movie's prostitute form of Christianity.

Any victory is won when a villain loses. Radison was the villain. Radison lost, according to the movie. He was beaten by a freshman kid who quoted pop culture phrases from a few top-ten scientists, a Christian freshman kid who never made one gesture of Christ's love towards Radison. Radison was Josh's antagonist, not a human being; he was given the lines of Lord Business from The LEGO Movie and made to play Sauron to Josh's Aragorn, someone to beat and not to love. His dying-breath conversation meant nothing. If Sauron had pledged himself to Aragorn's service as he fell from his tower, nobody would care; it would mean nothing. It was the final disservice to Radison's character that he was objectified at his end, turned into a strawman for a sermon, killed for nothing but emotional manipulation or lazy, uninspired writing or both.

Meanwhile, Josh is hailed as a hero, having defeated the dragon on its own hoard; he's patted on the back for making Powerpoints and shouting at his professor. It's a happily-ever-after for everyone involved.

God isn't dead, but he is easy.

This is cotton-candy religion. It's pretty; it tastes good; take a chunk from God's cone and you'll be happy. It'll also rot your bones and stop your heart, and if you live off of it, you'll die. You'll be dry skin and bones as you shove sticky, wilting cotton candy in people's faces, and you'll wonder why nobody wants to take it.

The dying god I believe in and love and consistently doubt and fail offers a feast. The bloody god whose nature I will never understand laughs at evolution and creationism and human science and mortal philosophy; he growls under his breath when the cotton-candy eaters pretend that they have sure answers, just as he growls when the hungry pretend they're higher than god. The god who sweat blood for love doesn't care if his children are right; he cares if they love as he loved when he drove nails through the bones and tissue and muscles of his wrists.

God is not dead, but his followers are starving themselves on cotton candy and self-righteousness.