Way back in 2014, in ye olde times of yore, before Bruce formally became Caitlyn and people still believed Paul Ryan possessed integrity, many of us were concerned about one thing: God. Specifically—did He exist? Think back to how many nights you were sleeplessly despondent, your mind fretting about whether God was still alive, and if so, what did He think about Brad and Angelina’s secret wedding??
Thankfully, a film was made that addressed the concerns of His existence.1 In a triumph of titular literalism, the movie was called, God’s Not Dead, and proved to be a brief and simple documentary in which the filmmakers’s, after years of petitioning prayers and intercessions, were finally granted an interview with God Himself. Fronted by Dean Cain, who, due to his time serving as Superman was presumed to possess a unique insight into and understanding of superhuman powers, the documentarians finally spoke with God, who assured them that No, He was not, in fact, dead. God also expressed a desire that we stop shooting one another, eat more vegetables and generally try to be a little nicer to everyone on the planet, but after several screen tests those clips were considered too cumbersome for general audiences, and summarily removed.
Nevertheless, those of us who’d been worried about God’s existence finally breathed a deep sigh of relief, contented to know that He was still out there, going strong as ever.
The years since 2014 have been challenging. We’ve seen all too much of terrorism, bombings, mass shootings, and Donald Trump, and many of us are once again wondering, Has God finally died? If He has, will there be an open casket, and who’ll do the makeup? Will the reception be buffet or pot-luck?
Behold all your worriers and anxious fretters, for I bring you good tidings of great joy: the fine folks who brought us the first film returned earlier this year with yet another resounding answer to this thorniest of questions.
In yet another thuddingly heavy-footed feat of nomenclature, God’s Not Dead 2, was released to theaters this spring and has recently arrived for purchase in your household or place of insomnia. In case the title didn’t tip you off, let me just say that — SPOILER ALERT! — God’s still not dead; Dean Cain, however, is nowhere to be found. Readers can decide which piece of information is more significant.
The biggest difference in the updated version involves God Himself, with many critics noting that instead of the generous, kind-hearted Santa Claus figure depicted in the first film, 2016-God appears increasingly cantankerous, sullen, and sleep-deprived. In one significant scene, shot at a palatial golf course, God is seen berating a cameraman who had the nerve to ask about His existence during God’s backswing. The Almighty is shown throwing a seven-iron and screaming: “Obviously, I’m still alive, aren’t I? You’re looking at me, aren’t you? It’s been—what?—two years since you were here pestering me about this same shit? Jesus, give it a rest, would you?!” He then went off on an expletive laden tirade pertaining to Dean Cain’s absence from the cast.
I suppose that now is the time for me to put my cards on the table: I haven’t seen the original God’s Not Dead. I also haven’t seen God’s Not Dead 2. In both cases this is because I haven’t really been worried about God’s existence, trusting, as I do, that He can take care of Himself. Secondarily, and more importantly, life’s short, and though I’ve arguably wasted far too much time (re-)watching The Big Lebowski, I just can’t spare two hours on what appears to be, after having watched a two-minute trailer, unmitigated garbage.
Except as a vehicle to resuscitate Dean Cain’s career, I also can’t explain why anyone would have felt the need to make such a movie in the fist place. That life is challenging and most of us want certainty and stability are things I can comprehend; that we want to feel justified that our beliefs have a solid enough tread to guide us on our walks through life seems plenty reasonable; that people turn to movies for answers to such deep existential concerns carves more than a little smirk across my face2; that many of us continue to misunderstand the difference between faith and knowledge isn’t surprising either, although the inglorious outcomes of such confusions increasingly make me sad and angry.
I do believe that anyone with a brain should be wondering about filmmakers’ obvious anxiety around the subject of God’s existence. After all, roughly 9 out of every 10 of Americans believe in God, there’s a church on almost every corner of this country, His benediction is invoked by every President and states-person, His name is on our money, and it’s only been two years since you last assured us He was still alive. So why these ham-handed attempts (plural) to prove the unprovable?3 For God’s sake, what are you all so concerned about??
When I first stumbled across this updated version online I scratched my head and wondered the all-too-obvious: If you did your job right the first time around then why in God’s name would you need to make a second one? I did a little digging and found what seems to be a very likely and reasonable explanation, though I’m afraid it has very little to do with God. The first movie grossed over $64-million in theaters and upwards of $140-million after video sales. Now, those numbers ain’t necessarily Yukon-gold by Hollywood standards, but they’re also not small potatoes4. However, the kicker is that the first movie cost only $2-million to make. And thus, using the very simple Return-On-Investment formula of Gains—Cost/Cost, we begin to comprehend what likely prompted this re-do.5
Now, if you’re the sort of person who’s shocked that someone wanted to turn a buck by creating a piece of schlocky, saccharine, reactionary propaganda, all I can say is—Hey baby, welcome to Hollywood! What else do you think all those Jews were up to when they founded this business a hundred years ago??6
Further, if you’re the sort of person who’s wondering what sort of bonehead wouldn’t re-cast Dean Cain in a sequel: I have to agree. In fact, I’d say that you seem like a very intelligent and reasonable person. Your vote this November should count at 1.27x the norm.
Lastly, and this is intended more as an observation than a provocation, though I have limited belief in that caveat’s success with certain people: if you’re the sort of Christian who believes that Jesus has called you to live a life different from the world around you, one that is neither enthralled by or in thrall to that insatiable Moloch called Money (if I recall correctly Jesus had a thing two to say about that), well then…, my eyebrows are arched as it seems to me that making shitty movies so you can pad your pockets by providing pablum to chowderheads ain’t all that different than what anyone else is doing. And with that in mind, it’s pretty hard not to think that maybe this one missed the mark.7
But take heart, friends, because come November 9th, when the dust settles and we refocus our eyes on the reality that our next President will be either Hillary or Donald, a lot of us are going to be wondering all over again if God really is still alive.
- To date far too little is know about The Almighty’s opinion(s) on Brangelina, though sources indicate that God, who considered Himself more than a little responsible for the meeting of the two, was quite perturbed to learn the news from the cover of a People magazine He read while standing in line at the grocer’s. [↩]
- It’s noteworthy that some of the finest thinkers in humanity have dedicated their entire lives to just such questions, with limited progress. But such facts needn’t limit movies such as this… [↩]
- Everyone is welcome to believe what they want, and I sincerely hope (though I’m not naive enough to trust) that each of us genuinely strives to base those beliefs in substantive reality; however, let’s not take the leap into deluding ourselves that any of us can know if God exists any more than we can know which direction the wind will blow from tomorrow or what’s going to happen to Dean Cain’s acting career. [↩]
- This essay is written on the presumption that at least $61 of the $64-million in box-office revenue can be traced directly Dean Cain’s presence in the first film; additionally, and in case you missed it, that sentence contains a noteworthy word play. Go back. Read it again. Enjoy that we’re all alive. [↩]
- It’s worth noting that the producers of the first film have since been sued for plagiarism to the tune of $100-million. It’s also worth noting that this is not the first time these folks have been sued over allegations of stealing stories. Naughty little monkeys! [↩]
- The official studio motto of MGM is Ars Gratia Artis — art for art’s sake — but even the most naive of us knows that when it comes to the ABC’s of movies, Commerce comes before Art 11 out of 10 times. [↩]
- I’m not bothered that the filmmakers’ made what appears to be a couple of piece-of-shit movies: no one’s forcing me to watch them. I’m also not upset that they likely made these movies to make money: I also do stuff for money. I’m generally more than a little weirded out when God and money are braided together, I’m confused at the thinking involved in believing God needed such a “conclusive” defense, and if I stop and think long enough about it I’ll probably get awfully pissed at the whitewashing of all those concerns under some high-pressure Christian shower-head spouting out rust-stained platitudes about His glory and etc. (Which is, sadly, more or less exactly what I found when I Googled the subject.) All this anxiety surrounding God’s existence makes my head feel like I ate a tub of ice cream way too fast, and I think it’s quite reasonable to wonder the following: What does your faith become when it turns from belief into knowledge? It seems to me that when the grammar of your faith moves from ? into ! you’ve likely stepped backward from faith into something far more ossified and deleterious, the sum of which makes me want to scream: For God’s sake, let it go! In the end I’ve come to think that maybe we should all lay off God for a bit. Give Him a little break. I mean, after all this crap, Lord knows He’s earned it. [↩]