“I’d rather stand with God and be judged by the world, than stand with the world and be judged by God” – Grace Wesley
God’s Not Dead 2 introduces us to Grace Wesley, (played by Melissa Joan Hart), a high school teacher, who refuses to apologize for her faith, even when the school board takes her to court after what they consider to be be proselytizing.
The incident that started it all was her response to a question from a student, Brooke Thawley, (played by Hayley Orrantia), in regards to how Martin Luther King and Gandhi’s non-violent approach to peace can compare to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Much like God’s Not Dead, (which I reviewed here), this sequel revolves around the theme of standing strong for one’s faith and convictions. This time, instead of the teacher as the antagonist, the teacher is the persecuted. Instead of the class as jury, there is a real jury.
As we hear the arguments from both the plaintiff’s attorney (played by Ray Wise), and Grace’s attorney (Jesse Metcalfe), we are asked to consider one question: Is it faith at trial, or is our heroine?
Takeaways from the movie:
I think it is a timely movie with a timely message. Religious civil rights and freedoms are a big battleground right now. As such, God’s Not Dead 2 has been criticized as catering to a “persecution complex”, and in all honesty, I can see why people would say that. It is true that we as believers in the U.S. suffer very little for our faith compared to those in the Middle East. And yet, I believe that any awareness of the growing intolerance (as evidenced by 50 real life court cases at the end of the movie), is not crying wolf, but simply acknowledging written prophecy. (Matthew 10:22). It’s not as much about any present level of persecution, it’s about the gradual trend that society is taking, and recognizing it from the frame of reference of a Christ follower. Pastor Dave (played by David A.R. White) refers to this awareness when he said “If we sit by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today will mean persecution tomorrow”.
- I found the real-life witnesses used for the defense to be quite compelling, especially that of J. Warner Wallace, (Adjunct Professor of Apologetics at Biola University) who wrote “Cold Case Christianity”. In this work, he provides readers with ten principles of cold case investigations and utilizes these principles to examine the reliability of the gospel accounts. The approach of the defense was to prove the historic Jesus, logically and factually. Much was left with to audience to ponder, at least for this viewer.
- I could relate to the underlying theme of doubting one’s faith. Trisha LaFache is back to play the role of Amy Ryan, a reporter diagnosed with cancer. She is in remission now, but begins to wonder if her faith came about only because she was in crisis. There are two other characters in this film (played by Martin Yip and the aforementioned Hayley Orrantia) who are full of questions about faith. In light of the overriding courtroom drama, a parallel is drawn: Christ once asked the question, “who do you say that I am?”, and we must all answer it, both individually and as a society.
- I found the classroom conversation that brought the matter under question in the first place to be a bit far-fetched. A teacher gave a factual, historical answer to a student’s honest question. Even the scriptures quoted were done in context of a historical speech, and none of it even remotely sounded like proselytizing. It would have been more interesting to create a circumstance with more gray area, but I think we just need to take this movie as a caricature that was written to make a point; a simple sketch of real-life situations.
- At times, there were story lines that were incohesive and could have been developed more, or otherwise seemed to drop off for no reason. In one scene, Pastor David is threatened for not turning in his sermon transcript to city authorities. We never see what happens with that. God’s Not Dead 3 perhaps?
- While I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I will say that I found the closing argument to be confusing, in light of the no-nonsense approach of the previous arguments of the defense. It didn’t seem to fit into their decided strategy, and in my opinion unnecessary and probably not likely to be successfully had this been a real courtroom.
Have you ever been put in a position to defend your faith, even at the cost of your job, friends, or family?
Like many “19 Kids and Counting” viewers, I’m saddened to hear of Josh Duggar’s confession of sexual molestation of 5 girls, 4 of which were his own sisters. Over the weekend, I’ve read many articles and comments that either sweep it under the rug by saying “forgive, it was a mistake”, to downright glee at his downfall. Both are disturbing to me because they represent reactions written from emotion and bias. Yet, with as much talk about this right now, I can’t be silent not to address this issue. It’s a very public, real-life circumstance that has generated a windstorm of assumptions. It’s brought up questions concerning forgiveness and accountability, honesty and moral dilemma. How do you and I, as Christians response to such a crime committed by a professing brother in Christ? This story seems to beg the question. I’m writing today in hopes to offer a clear-headed, balanced response.
I don’t know Josh Duggar nor anyone in this family. I don’t know all the details and I never will. I can’t read anyone’s heart or mind. What I have pondered are some general thoughts and principles I believe are to be considered:
- First and foremost, Josh Duggar committed a horrific crime. It was committed deliberately and repetitively. You cannot shrug it off simply by saying “He who is without sin, cast the first stone.” Are you saying that because he professes to be a Christian? Would you say that about anyone in his shoes? He wasn’t a “child” at the time and knew exactly what he was doing, and was NOT just a “mistake”. For that, he needed (or still needs) extensive help, and needless to say, a punishment worthy of the crime. Accountability and Forgiveness are not the same thing.
- Josh Duggar is a sinner. He possesses the same origin of sin as any other child molester, any murderer, any thief. Let me ask you this—(because I see it in myself also) —have you ever noticed that our jails are full of such criminals that most Christians never evangelized, nor visit with the gospel? Yet when, and if, they show an interest in God are suddenly extended a hand of fellowship or a pat on the back? They are suddenly humanized because they have stepped over on our terms. Why aren’t we seeing the same potential of repentance in them as we think we see in Josh Duggar? Why is there such a double standard?
- Don’t trust appearances. Even the most pristine family may not always be what they seem. Now, I admire what the family and their show stood for; I share their values and I definitely rooted for their success and witness in the middle of a world waiting for them to fall. Yet, even before this came to light, I never thought it was wise to publicly hold anyone up on a pedestal. On a large or small scale, men will fail us. Whether they are reality show stars, Sunday school teachers, or family. I’m not saying to throw trust out the window, but that our standard and confidence is ultimately only One, and that is Jesus Christ.
- I’m grieved that this very public incident has hurt the body of Christ as a whole. By being so much in the public eye, this family was under a microscope. As such, their credibility is under question. I support TLC’s decision to take them off the air, at least until some restoration or restitution can be made. I cannot speculate on this point, but if the parents knew the history with Josh, I question the wisdom of the decision to have a show, knowing the damage this revelation would do in the long run.
- I believe in restoration of the sinner. I believe that if Josh Duggar is truly repentant, if he has truly mourned over his sin, if he has dealt with it in his heart and before his victims, that God has forgiven him. I believe that about anyone in his shoes. Does that mean that just because someone is repentant that there are no consequences? No. Otherwise, we might as well let everyone, even those who are truly repentant out of jail. Additionally, even if this repentance has already taken place, as someone in the limelight, he has a responsibility to his viewers to prove that repentance. I don’t know what that looks like, God does.
- Our job is to pray…pray and understand that all things work together for the good for the Christian. (Romans 8:28). Pray that their eyes would be open to any false doctrine or wrong teaching, and any dysfunction in the family would be corrected if there are any. Pray for the victims, that they have healed and will heal from this present crisis. I think it’s wishful and probably unlikely that all is well across the board, but who knows – maybe God will choose the right means of restoration to create an honest and even more transparent witness for Him. Otherwise, pray that He would use this in the individuals that were more directly effected in ways that we will never know.