Ever have one of those days where you feel like your basic klutz: wake up, stub a toe, can't find your glasses, have ten thumbs, don't have any coffee or tea left for that crucial morning pick-me-up, and so stop at a coffee shop -- where someone takes your parking space and another at the dispenser spills a drink on you?
Asked what's wrong -- what happened to him, when similar contretemps plague a character in a new movie -- he says simply, "I woke up."
You know how that is! It's more or less how the day starts for a pastor in the blockbuster movie, God's Not Dead-2. The pastor, played by David White, turns out to be exemplary: He's able to brush it all off -- one mishap after another. A bit comical, that particular sequence.
But the movie is dead serious in just about every other regard -- at points daunting. Certainly, sobering. Well worth the time and money (even the cost of popcorn).
The pastor is not the main character. It's about a Christian high school history teacher, Grace Wesley, who when asked in class about Jesus, commits the horrible transgression of briefly discussing the historical inspiration of, and similarities between, Christ and men such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi. How dare she mention Jesus!
Although she was simply stating historical facts (it's a history class, after all), she's brought up for disciplinary castigation and sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the parents of the young woman who asked the question in that ill-fated classroom -- even though the student loves the teacher and has herself become a strong believer in Christ.
Oh the crime of it! A trial ensues. The pastor happens to be one of the jurors, until he takes ill and is replaced by a young tattooed woman who looks like a punk-rock groupie, boding poorly for the judicial prospects of the teacher (played by Melissa Joan Hart).
The svelte, monied attorney representing the parents -- who are big into materialism, and see this as an opportunity for publicity that would help her daughter get into the exquisitely-politically-correct Ivy League -- is named Pete Kane and very much looks the part of a Cain, if not the devil himself.
Meanwhile, the teacher's aging, staunchly Christian father is played -- and played very well -- by Pat Boone. Terrific casting.
In fact, most of the acting is very good -- extremely believable, the teacher a very sympathetic character, as are the other Christians in the movie. Isn't this amazing: that a movie would treat Christians sympathetically?
Yet, it had to fight its way to the silver screen -- and actors in this sequel as well as the original report harassments. (Ironically, Hart, a practicing Christian in real life, once starred in Sabrina the Teenage Witch).
There are prayers. There is open profession of Christ. There are Bible verses. There is an uninhibitedly Christian message -- to repeat, astonishing in this age, that it could make it, this movie to 2,300 theater screens last weekend (3/1/16). Moreover, it was the fourth biggest grossing movie of any in the U.S. last week -- already earning nearly double it's entire, modest budget of five million.
But we write about it because this is far more than a movie. Although not actually a blockbuster, in Hollywood terms (the latest Star Wars sequel opened on more than 4,000 screens and took in $248 million for its first weekend), it's a blockbuster in the way it inspires, in the way it evokes emotion, in the way it serves as a rallying cry, in the way it presents the characters, in the glory it gives God -- in the way that it is a clarion call for Christians to fight back and soon or face persecution.
The movie is based on real-life cases whereby Christian teachers have precisely faced this sort of attack for simple expressions of faith.
And it's chilling to see what could come in a big way in the very near future.
Very realistic. There is already a laundry list of cases. There are the two students at Georgia Institute of Technology who were told to discontinue holding conservative, religious events on school grounds. There are the high school athletes who can't pray before games. There is the case where a Christian student at Los Angeles Community College was called "fascist" by a teacher for simply stating his belief that marriage is between a man and a woman. There was the elementary school where a child with cerebral palsy was halted from dancing in a talent show because the song she chose was too religious! There is the Cross near San Diego that secularists fight. There are the vandalized statues (signs of the times). There are the crucifixes taken down, even at "Catholic" Georgetown.
It goes on. A pro-life activist video-tapes abortionists peddling baby parts and he's the one whose home is raided!
It has become very serious business. We all know what has happened to our schools since a bitter, hateful atheist got prayer expelled. This movie crystallizes matters.
Go and see God's Not Dead-2, not just as a movie (very engaging and entertaining though it is), but as a cause; support it; be an active cultural warrior. Critics can take issue with things like too many subplots, and perhaps too much of a play on names (with Kane), or how the movie ends (it may have been best to cap it off with the Christian band playing its truly rousing music, instead of signs and chants of "God's Not Dead," which segue a bit too cleverly into the title).
But see it. Take it in. Realize it is part of our future -- the way we are now headed. It's brave. It's compelling. There is a neat twist with the tattooed punk-rocker. It's excellent. It teaches many lessons at a personal and not just societal level.
For instance: In the midst of the persecution -- facing the loss of her job, publicly humiliated, ready to lose the court case -- Grace cries out to God and wonders why He is being silent.
She brings this up with dad, who in a memorable line tells her that as a teacher she above all should know that during a test the Teacher is silent.