Is “God’s Not Dead” The First Movie Based On A Facebook Meme?

You may have seen this trailer pop up in your Facebook newsfeed recently. It’s for a movie called God’s Not Dead which stars Superman, Hercules, and the Newsboys.

Real talk – if Dean Cain and Kevin Sorbo actually played Superman and Hercules in this movie and battled the Newsboys that would be beyond incredible.

I would pay to see that move in heartbeat.

And if it was in IMAX 3D?!?!

Oh my. That would be too amazing for words.

Anyway, here’s the preview…

If the premise of this movie sounds familiar, it should. And I don’t just mean the cliche academy vs. religion battle.

I’m talking about this…

Screen Shot 2013-10-24 at 10.30.13 AM

Look familiar?

If you’ve got Christian Facebook friends, then you’ve probably seen this story many, many times before. (But here’s the whole thing if you need a trip down memory lane)

It’s the beginning of a meme that was spreading like wildfire in Christian circles a while back in which a young Christian college student supposedly embarrassed his atheist professor by beating him at his own philosophical game.

And who was this student you may ask?

None other than Albert Einstein!

Of course, like virtually every other “oh my gosh that’s so crazy!” meme that’s floating around Facebook, this story is not true.

But apparently that didn’t stop the folks behind God’s Not Dead from turning it into the first movie based on a Facebook meme.

A groundbreaking achievement to be sure.

Ok, look, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt that they weren’t cruising around Facebook, stumbled upon this meme, and thought “This should be a movie!”

But even if they didn’t, even if this is just playing up the old “the academy hates God” stereotype, one thing seems pretty clear to me.

God may not be dead.

But apparently Christian creativity is.

  • Juanita Dueck

    I wasn’t sure if I should even bother commenting because I don’t know if what I want to say will really be understood but here goes…. I have often thought that there is a “typical” way of doing a “Christianese” movie. But it never has really bothered me because Hollywood does the same thing. Look at all the Nicholas Sparks movies that are wildly successful. I can’t bear to watch another because they are all the same: Guy meets girl, falls in love, some tragedy separates them, they cry, someone runs away and then by the end of the movie they’re back in each other’s arms. We all know this to NOT be the way real life happens. And yet, people go back and lap it up. I’m a mom of 4 teens. My kids have watched a wide array of movies. Some of the stuff they watch is trash just like some of the stuff I watched as a teen is trash. But they love it. Target audience. What if the Christian type movies are there for a specific target audience and not the masses? I hear a LOT of Christian bloggers trashing everything from Facing the Giants to Courageous to Fireproof. And yet, thousands upon thousands upon thousands of people have watched and are still watching those movies. When I was a kid, we would go to the local theatre once every couple years to watch a Billy Graham movie. The Prodigal was profound for me at that time. Would I think it’s a good movie now? I don’t know. But then it was. I get what you’re saying but I’m going to disagree with you. Every movie is made with an element of glossing over and fantasy. That’s why The Avengers are so popular. That’s why people love movies like the Matrix and Avatar. But in every movie there is an element of truth that we seek and we desire for our lives. A lot of these “low budget” Christian movies are not there for special effects, they’re there for that voice inside of us that just wishes we had a school like that, a friend like that, a family like that, a platform like that to say what we want to say and not be afraid. To be bold for our faith and have the support of others around us. Is it realistic? Maybe not. But neither are any of the other movies I mentioned. My 19 year old, tech guru of a son is so picky about movies. He goes and spends money nearly every weekend to watch the latest action, sci-fi, adventure movies and he is a harsh critic. But he LOVES Facing the Giants fiercely and often rewatches it by himself. Clearly there’s a message there that speaks to him.

    • ZackHunt

      I don’t disagree that we all have different tastes and like what we like. But I also think it’s possible to recognize and acknowledge good storytelling, good acting, good writing, and good filmmaking across genres as well as bad storytelling, bad acting, bad writing, and bad filmmaking.

      As someone who loves films and the art of filmmaking and who is also a Christian, I get really frustrated by most Christian films, not because they are low budget (there are plenty of great low budget indie films) but because they’re unnecessarily cheesy, poorly written, and poorly acted. Not all, but many. To me, and I think many of the other bloggers you’re referencing, it seems like pushing a particular message is more important than the film itself and as a result the film suffers before that message is being forced into dialogue and story lines where it’s not necessary (or realistic) apparently out of some sense of obligation that if Jesus isn’t mentioned or a salvation pitch isn’t given in every other scene, then it’s not a Christian movie or the film is someone failing to do its job.

      For me, my frustration has nothing to do with a lack of special effects or the targeting of a specific audience. It’s a lack of creativity in story telling and script writing and the way these films pander to their audience as if Christians aren’t capable of discerning faith themes/messages unless they’re clearly spelled out that annoys me and leaves me with absolutely no desire to watch these kinds of movies.

      We can be bold in our faith without being unbearably cheesy and inexcusably uncreative. They did it throughout the Renaissance, there’s no reason we can’t do the same today.

      • Juanita Dueck

        Thanks for your response Zack. I’m with you on the story telling and script part. And I also want to say that Avengers meme you threw up this morning was awesome. ;)

      • prop_joe

        It is the difference b/t the Pieta and Precious Moments. It is the difference b/t the Soul Stirrers and the Newsboys.

      • Neil Fix

        You may be right about that, but this post isn’t a good way of expressing it. A meme is very different from a movie, and there would have been a LOT of creativity to start from the idea to get to the finished product. Or at least could. So how does that idea show that creativity is dead?

    • Cindy

      I think perhaps a lot of Christian bloggers object to these movies because we are tired of the narrative which says Christ can only be glorified through explicitly Christian language. Also, the message Christian movies project to their audience are often confined to a rather narrow perspective of what the Gospel is about.

      Good writing and story telling don’t state the message – it shows it. The mastery of great literature and film making is conveying truths without prescribing a preconceived statement upon it. This is what Christian films often fail to do.

      • Dawn Lawrey

        I wholeheartedly agree with you about good writing and story telling…but having worked in “Christian” media in the past…the reason too many of these types of movies are made over and over again is too many “Christians” actively refuse to support or accept anything “Christian” which isn’t like what is being produced. Too bad this is the reality of the situation..rather than something which rarely occurs.

        • Cindy

          Another related issue is Christians not being able to see Truth outside of the evangelical subcultural script. I often hear Christian friends ask of a movie, song, curriculum, program, “is it Christian?” As if unless it was explicitly Christian, it can’t be of certain value. It is unfortunately, because they are missing out on some seriously profound Christian truths found outside of church.

    • Eric Boersma

      It is possible to enjoy a movie without that movie being good, in much the same way it is possible to not enjoy films that are explicitly good.

      For instance: I don’t really enjoy Apocalypse Now. I find it overly long for my tastes, and I felt like there were significant sections of the film that could have been cut without impacting the gravity of the final resolution. I also didn’t enjoy Full Metal Jacket all that much; if the film had ended when Pyle shot the Drill Sergeant, I feel like it would have been a much better film. Perhaps the problem is just that I don’t enjoy Vietnam War movies all that much. Still, I can recognize the great leaps forward in things like writing and acting and cinematography that accompanied those films.

      The last Christian Movie that I watched was Courageous, and I can remember the exact moment where I could see the potential in the film get washed away. It was just after the main character’s son had died (in a car accident or whatever, I don’t remember the exact detail). His family was ripped apart with grief. For a brief moment, it looked like the film was going to go somewhere that Christian Movies rarely do — into the depth of real difficulty and trial. Instead, after that brief moment, the movie became about a pledge. A series of magic words that the main character said that all of the sudden made him a Read Dad. It stopped being about people and started being all about how You Too Can Make The Relationship With Your Family Perfect If You Will Just Say These Magic Words. The characters basically disappear from the film (and the entirely stop progressing as actual characters, and turn into caricatures) in that one moment. That’s what makes it a bad movie. The emotional payoff from investing in the characters that to that point had been written (and to that point, they hard largely been fairly decently written) was nothing; you got to see their happy ending, but at the expense of everything that made them human.

      Someone with more time than me could draw some significant conclusions about the ending of that movie and the way that it relates to how the kinds of people who thought it was good see the world.

  • prop_joe
  • Tyler Francke

    According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on a *nonfiction* book by Rice Broocks, also called “God’s Not Dead.”

    • ZackHunt

      Eh, that’s nothing a little editing can’t change. :)

  • Laura Johnson

    I dunno, I think shouting down your professor is a great way to win them to Jesus… ;)

  • Ryan Robinson

    A few years ago my well-meaning mother gave me 6 or 8 really bad Christian movies (I know, “really bad” is assumed of “Christian movies). One night we had about 12 people over – all Christians – and recorded a running commentary bashing one of them called The Genius Club. One of those friends sent me this link about 2 months ago, so I’m a little tempted to reunite with him to get another commentary together for this one.

  • j.oliver

    It’s easy to criticize someone else’s artistic contribution. Let’s applaud the actors and producers for devoting what we assume are their best talents and resources to a movie where the Christian character at least isn’t a doofus. I remember Paul said that even if someone spreads the good news out of spite, he’ll rejoice that the message is at least going out. Peace.

    • Cindy

      Oooh, I really agree God can use all kinds of terrible venues to spread good news, but that doesn’t excuse us from trying to learn from our mistakes and improving on the ways of being Christian. Can’t do that unless we are allowed to criticize and accept critique.

      • j.oliver

        I’m not willing to call this a terrible venue…sure it’s probably cheesy or formulaic in places (like most films), but “cheesy and formulaic” is where I first met Jesus. In that sense, God doesn’t just “use” shaky venues – he makes them beautiful.
        All the same, I’m not suggesting party-line approval of everything with a strong Jesus rap. I’m just looking for balance. Truth in love. You know, “here’s what I’d like to see,” as opposed to, “this sucks and Christian creativity is dead.”

    • Eric Boersma

      You and I seem to have very different definitions of what constitutes a doofus. I literally cringed at the “I’ve scientifically proven the existence of God!” line.

      This looks and feels like something I would’ve written when I was 15. Complete with the Newsboys being a part of it. It’s teenaged-level martyrbatory religious fantasy.

      Maybe it’ll end up being worthwhile. But I strongly doubt it.

      • j.oliver

        Haha ok – I’m cringing too. “Scientifically proven”?? Wow.
        Yet I hope to always balance my criticism with encouragement.
        I want to criticize, but not discourage; prune, let’s say, without laying ax to root :)

  • JesseM

    I agree that many of the Christian movies out there can be really unoriginal and like you said in your response to Juanita, they can try to force a message through dialogue that isn’t very realistic. I normally have to remind myself that they’re trying to do a good thing so I’ll get through it. Although, I would have a hard time calling them evangelistic by any means, when many times I think that’s a primary point some of the movies are trying to get across. I have to admit though that I was a sucker for the movie Seven Days in Utopia and actually found it pretty entertaining through most of it.

    On a side note, did anyone else think that the preacher/guy in the church looked like Oscar Martinez from The Office??

  • Larry Marshall

    I’m a chronic benefit of the doubter, and willing to give the movie a chance (I have seen trailers that were a lot worse I suppose), so I’ll withhold judgment till I see it. If this sort of thing can create some discussion I’m all for it – but mostly I think it’s Christians doing the watching. I don’t think we should all get in the line of Lemmings just because it is supposed to be a Christian movie or feature Kirk Cameron. That’s what bugs me about Facebook posts of these trailers the most. Personally, I have been annoyed with the Newsboys version of that song, clearly inferior to the Crowder or Bashta versions :)

  • prop_joe

    Movies w/a Christian orientation that are actually good: Black Robe, The Mission, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Name of the Rose, The Messenger.

    What else?

    • Lawrence LaPointe

      The Apostle

    • The Irish Atheist

      I dunno, I thought that The Name the Rose was a great example of “Why Christianity is Utterly Terrifying.”

    • Justin Mitchell

      I liked Blue Like Jazz, even though it wasn’t exactly what I was hoping it would be :)

    • RWRMJ

      Chronicles of Narnia, Chariots of Fire, Ben Hur, Passion of the Christ, Noah (soon to be released), The Bible Mini-series, I could go on..

  • Bart Massey

    I love that blackboard shot. As a college professor, I wish I could magically grow to 14 feet tall as needed so I could write on the top of that board in letters 2 inches high!

    This movie certainly will be no match for “The Gospel Blimp”.

  • The Irish Atheist

    Oh great. Another example of Christians creating a work of fiction to show how wise and witty and enlightened they are instead of, you know, engaging in honest dialogue with those they disagree with.

    • RWRMJ

      Honest dialogue? I spent 18 years in academia at three different institutions and leftists and atheists today, at least at the three schools where I taught, with almost no exceptions, are petrified of honest dialogue and debate. All they can do is name call and intimidate. They are afraid of entertaining ideas contrary to their own. That’s that the professor does in this film. He shuts down classroom debate, like so many other modern professors do. I’ve seen it over and over and over and over. If you want to see debate on this issue or others like ID, look online. There is a lot of it going on. Very little of it is n academia, but it’s out there.

      • The Irish Atheist

        Telling people to keep religion out of a science class and keep it to philosophy, theology, and ethics isn’t shutting down debate. It’s doing the job they are paid to teach.

        I know that Christians make their religion the focal point of their lives, but just because a professor is unwilling to make your goat-herders idol the subject of his class doesn’t mean he’s resorting to fear and name-calling.

  • Kaylakaze

    Any philosophy professor that couldn’t utterly destroy such a student in under 5 minutes doesn’t deserve their job.

    • RWRMJ

      So now that’s what a university is about now, ‘utterly destroying’ those with whom you disagree. in stead of engaging in civil debate? Of course you’re right. That is the environment on campuses today. Intimidate, Belittle. Ridicule. It’s right out of the Alinsky playbook. But I almost never see those same professors with the balls to tell Muslim students the same thing. They are in the protected group that has to be treated with tolerance and sensitivity, unlike Christians. A little consistency would be nice.

      • The Irish Atheist

        I’ve seen plenty of atheist, agnostic, deist, theist, and religious professors and academics take on Islam with as much fervour as they do Christianity, and yes I’ve spent a lot of time in an academic setting as well, both here and in Europe. I do it myself. I’ve been called an Islamaphobe plenty of times.

        The Christian ‘Why do you only pick on me?!’ schtick is one reason we don’t take you that seriously.

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  • duckz

    This movie sounds absolutely awful and is a huge misrepresentation of the atheist community but the preposterousness of the premise will make it funny to watch.

    • Kerricus

      Say what? This movie is a huge misrepresentation of the atheist community – sounds like? You haven’t seen it, but you’ve already judged it. Bottom line: God is alive and very real, and plenty of very well educated and intelligent people agree – even many practicing scientists. Christians aren’t called to be creative, but to love and follow our God, who is the Creator.

      • duckz

        No it IS a huge misrepresentation of the atheist community.
        1) A college professor would NEVER walk into a classroom and say that if they value their job. Personal beliefs are to be checked at the door due to the fact that one often teaches multi-denominational students in college.
        2) Atheists don’t hate god. Some atheists hate religion (like me) due to its political and social influence in peoples’ lives, others adopt a live and let live attitude.

        There are more but rewatching the video just frustrates me and makes me dislike humanity so that’s not going to happen.

        Only about a third of scientists worldwide hold any form of religious belief. And that’s not just Christianity. That’s including Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, etc. 97% of scientists in the National Academy of Science in America hold no religious beliefs. So I wouldn’t say “many” practicing scientists agree.

  • jimmy

    Safety Not Guaranteed is based off a meme.

  • emily

    Lol the movie was based on a novel of the same name. not a meme.

  • BJ

    This post lacks integrity, creative insight. I wouldn’t trust a single thing posted by Zack Hunt. I will be looking elsewhere.