leans strongly toward a biblical worldview
|Faith and/or Biblical Relevance|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships|
|Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations|
|Family Viewing Suitability|
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As Bible-believing Christians see their First Amendment right to religious liberty under attack in an increasingly secular America, GOD’S NOT DEAD 2 (GND2) arrives in theaters on Friday, April 1, 2016—shining the spotlight on the hot topic of freedom of religion in schools. Produced by Pure Flix Entertainment in association with 10 West Studios, GND2 is directed by Harold Cronk (GOD’S NOT DEAD) and written by the team of Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (DO YOU BELIEVE?). It features many of the cast in the original 2014 hit GOD’S NOT DEAD, including David A.R. White as Reverend Dave, Benjamin Onyango as Reverend Jude, Paul Kwo as international student Martin Yip, and Trisha LaFache as cancer-survivor journalist Amy Ryan.
Beyond these familiar faces, GND2 introduces a host of new cast members, including Melissa Joan Hart (“Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”) as embattled teacher Grace Wesley, Jesse Metcalfe (“Desperate Housewives”) as her attorney Tom Endler, Ray Wise (“Twin Peaks”) as ACLU lawyer Pete Kane, Robin Givens (“Head of the Class”) as Principal McKinney, Hayley Orrantia (“The Goldbergs”) as student Brooke Thawley, Sadie Robertson (“Duck Dynasty”) as best friend Marlene, singer Pat Boone as Grace’s grandfather Walter, and the late Sen. Fred Thompson (“Law and Order”) as a senior church pastor. In addition, music by Christian pop band, the Newsboys, is featured.
Picking up where GOD’S NOT DEAD left off, GND2 shifts scene from the university setting to a public high school where a worldview clash is sparked when Grace answers a student question about Jesus in the context of a lesson on Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and peaceful, non-violent resistance. As the drama unfolds, the characters are challenged to decide whether they will stand for their faith in the face of persecution.
Overall Faith and/or Biblical Relevance
With new cases of discrimination and persecution of biblically orthodox Christians unfolding with increasing frequency across America in recent years, GND2’s religious freedom subject matter is very relevant and will likely resonate with faith-driven audiences. Built around the biblical call for Christians to always be prepared to give an answer for their faith found in 1 Peter 3:15, GND2’s story line is largely believable and plucked from current court cases—inspiring Christians to stand up for their faith no matter what the cost.
While some real-life events like a subpoena of pastoral sermons and the silencing of team prayer on the football field are clumsily included and bring little value to the story, GND2 does a good job of presenting situations in which characters have the opportunity to share the Gospel and declare that “the most basic human right of all is the right to know Jesus.” By including former skeptics like leading Christian apologist Lee Strobel, a strong case is made for the historicity of Jesus, and an important and timely point is made about the limitations of atheism as a worldview.
Faith-compatible Depiction of Characters and Character Relationships
GND2 offers a diversity of characters and subplots that mostly depict realistic and faith-compatible relationships—some carrying over from GOD’S NOT DEAD. Returning characters Reverend Dave and Reverend Jude continue to offer each other brotherly support in their pastoral roles, and international student Martin gives Dave a list of questions about the Christian faith—paving the way for him to accept Christ, and resulting in a powerful cross-cultural scene in which his father disowns him for disgracing the family. Also back is journalist Amy, who gets word that she’s cancer-free—sparking doubts about her new faith.
New to the GND2 story is Grace, a public high school teacher. Despite working with some jaded colleagues, she remains optimistic in her job and the teaching profession is portrayed positively. Here, Grace cares about her students and reaches out to Brooke, who is struggling with the recent death of her brother. When Brooke asks Grace about how she copes with life, Grace points to Jesus as her hope. At home, Grace lovingly cares for her faith-driven grandfather, Walter, who encourages her to stand for her faith when the going gets tough. In one very poignant scene, Walter encourages Grace—who is struggling with God’s silence in the midst of her trials—with these words of wisdom: “The teacher is always quiet during the test.”
Faith-compatible Depiction of Situations
While most situations in GND2 are depicted respectfully, some make take issue with the caricatured portrayal of those who stand in opposition to religious liberty. ACLU lawyer, Pete Kane, and his team are depicted as condescending and evil, while atheist protesters are shown as angry and raging. And with its many characters and intersecting plot lines, there are times that GND2 suffers from an unevenness that is both strained and unfocused.
Specifically, even though their son has recently died, Brooke’s nonbelieving parents are depicted as being focused on career and success. Not only are they callous to Brooke as she mourns her brother, they are portrayed as cold and calculating “free thinkers” who completely disregard her views and jump at the chance to be part of the ACLU’s precedent-setting religious freedom case against Grace—all in the hope that it will increase Brooke’s chance of being accepted to a top-tier college.
In one poignant scene, however, a charity worker who has come to take away her brother’s belongings gives Brooke a copy of his Bible. Soon, Brooke discovers that he had recently become a Christian—paving the way for Brooke to eventually accept Christ in a scene with Martin in Reverend Dave’s church. Here, John 1:12 is highlighted: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God…”
Back at school, when a student reports that Grace answered Brooke’s classroom question about Jesus in a positive way, Grace is hauled before school and legal authorities and placed under disciplinary review and suspension. Her union-appointed attorney, Tom, is a non-believer who somewhat naively thinks they can win the case. Here, Grace reads from the Bible and prays to God for courage—keying in on Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” Later, when refusing a deal that would compromise her faith and integrity, Grace declares, “I’m not going to be afraid to say the name of Jesus.” She also says she’d rather be judged by the world and accepted by God than be accepted by the world and be judged by God.
As the courtroom scenes unfold, there’s a good explanation of the First Amendment’s establishment and free exercise clauses, and both sides lay out their arguments—including an artful mention of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s powerful “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” And although Brooke is allowed to testify in an unlikely twist, Tom’s surprising and last-minute strategy to put Grace on the stand ultimately proves effective.
Family Viewing Suitability
Coming in at 121 minutes—and with a PG rating—GND2 is a faith- and family-friendly film for teens and up. There is no objectionable sexual or violent content, and the film has a clean and wholesome feel to it. Most importantly, its apologetic-driven Gospel theme will appeal to faith-driven viewers concerned about the state of religious freedom in America today. And for those who aren’t particularly dialed into this topic, it’s likely that their eyes will be opened to the issue in a fresh and convicting way.
Despite a story line that starts out strong but gets sidetracked before regaining its footing, GND2 is an encouraging, edifying and hope-filled movie that clearly presents the Gospel and asks moviegoers if they are willing to stand up for their faith and religious freedom—even at great personal cost. While there is some unevenness in the large and diverse ensemble cast, Melissa Joan Hart stands out by bringing warmth, sincerity and conviction to her role as Grace. Jesse Metcalfe and Hayley Orrantia also bring depth in their respective roles as Tom and Brooke.
The other star in GND2 is the music, which includes the inspirational hymns “Nearer My God to Thee” and “How Great Thou Art”—as well as the cameo appearance by the Newsboys and their upbeat music that will leave audiences in a praise and worship mode long after the final credits roll.