Theatrical Dueling Banjos

I’ve not attended the movie “God is Not Dead” and I don’t plan to. It’s not a boycott or anything like that. I’m just not sure this is the best way to present the seriousness of the differences between belief in God and atheism, based on reviews I’ve read and reports I’ve heard.

I write this after speaking at a student ministry this past week and meeting a young man who was actually present, and considering a return to belief in God, as a result of seeing the movie. So, I don’t think my point here is that nothing good can come from the film. But my main concern is that it could contribute to caricatures of both sides of the issue.

As if the two were planned for a parallel debut, the atheistic movie “The Unbelievers” staring Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins has been making a similar impact but in the opposite direction. In a New York Times review, Jeannette Catsoulis says the film is unfortunate and that the “rational roots of atheism deserve a much better movie than this.” While the dueling movies might embolden some, it seems they aren’t convincing many outside their own camps.

We may be prone to miss the forest for the trees, and to believe that a large scale production can be more effective than a one on one conversation in a coffee shop. But it is more difficult to nurture caricatures when the person who disagrees with you is sitting at the other side of a wooden table sipping a latte. If we’re content with stereotypes then we can skip the Starbucks meeting altogether. But for people who want more, as I do, we will find better roads into a conversation that might begin in a movie theater, but certainly won’t end there.