The Unwashed Heathens and Foreigners of “God’s Not Dead.”

(ZOMFG, SO MANY SPOILERS. Also: Racism, domestic violence, religious idiocy.)

We’ve been talking lately about the shitball movie God’s Not Dead. We started with a review of the movie itself, then a summary of why I hate this movie so much, an overview of the four romantic relationships in the movie, and most recently a close look at the female characters in the movie.

For some reason this movie makes me think of sharks on a beach. (Candiche, Flickr, CC license.)

For some reason this movie makes me think of sharks on a beach. (Candiche, Flickr, CC license.)

By the way, if you didn’t notice already, one of this movie’s serious shortcomings is that it crams entirely too many characters and subplots into one little space. I can tell they were shooting for a Magnolia or more probably a Love, Actually, where tons of characters and subplots that seem completely unrelated collide at the end and tangle together. There aren’t many movies that do that very well–Pulp Fiction to an extent is probably the best example of the type–and those movies are tighter than a hummingbird’s tweet. This movie is not made by people anywhere near that competent. If Christian creeper Nicholas Sparks tried to write Crash, God’s Not Dead is exactly what would spew out of his word processor. And this movie is as stuffed full of pride and hubris as Sparks is, so there’s that. And one character gets cancer and another dies in a car accident, plus the two central couples in it both break up because of the unstoppable force of religion, so yeah, I’m just going to leave this here.

In the same way, the person who wrote the script for this movie seems like one of those folks who doesn’t understand why a particular comedy routine is very funny and thinks if he says the exact same things that he too will be very funny, but lacks the nuance and self-awareness to make the routine work so he comes off as weird and offensive instead. This movie tries to do so many things, but it fails every one of them so grandly and roundly that one almost feels bad hating it so much. It’s like criticizing a seven-year-old putting on a show in the living room for not emoting enough.

But I said “almost” there, and I want you to remember that.

Today I want to talk about how this movie presents non-white and/or non-Christian characters. As you might expect of a movie that is made up 100% of wish fulfillment fantasies, fundagelical/Fox News talking points, and the sort of memes your racist cousin keeps chain-emailing everybody, we’re not talking about nuanced, sensitive, sophisticated portrayals. We’re talking about the kind of situations and characters that you’d expect out of a movie aimed squarely at a crowd furious about having to “press 1 for English.”

This movie perpetuates stereotypes, and moreover it finds the worst possible stereotypes to perpetuate. This movie hates everybody who ain’t a nice white evangelical TRUE CHRISTIAN™. It’s not just atheists it rags on.

1. The Weirdly-Upbeat African Guy.
There’s a major streak of racism in evangelical Christianity, largely because of its adherents’ belief that societies work best if everybody in them knows his or her place and doesn’t try to buck the system or change it–and their naked longing for “the good ole days,” which includes a hefty dose of sexism, racism, homophobia, classism, and pretty much every other -ism and structural bias available, is one thing that baffles outsiders considerably but which makes perfect sense to them (“structural” means that society is built around the -ism and is largely blind to the -ism’s existence; it isn’t so much a person vs. person thing like personal race-based prejudice). So when evangelicals–like Franklin Graham, one of the religion’s Big Name Fans, did recently–decide to tackle race, generally the situation blows up in their faces–and their reaction is usually total indignation and astonishment. By the way, remember this reference because we’ll be coming back to this blithe racist coot soon.

And, too, when it comes to missionary work there’s also a major streak of colonialism and imperialism in how it’s done. By that I mean that when a missionary comes into a foreign culture it is with religion tucked under one arm to civilize and tame the savages there, and makes them into a mini-me of the originating culture. As it is, modern evangelical kids go off on these “poor-ism” tours that are now a USD$1.6 billion enterprise from just our country alone. It’s downright weird to consider how often missionaries come here from other countries considering how deeply religious this country already is. But if they didn’t, then we wouldn’t have the African caricature character in this movie, now would we?

The African missionary (AM) reminds me a lot of the character Pangloss from Voltaire’s Candide. Did you have to read that in high school too? Pangloss always thinks that whatever happens is the “best of all possible worlds.” Even when he’s sick and hurt, even when he’s lost everything, Pangloss continues to maintain this overly-optimistic belief.

Out of every single person this movie’s creators could have forced into the role of Pangloss in this shitstorm, though, they chose the African guy. AM comes off as provincial and not quite human because he’s just so unrelentingly optimistic and simple-minded. All we know of him is that he is very optimistic and fervent in his faith, and that he is African. He is supposed to be a missionary I think, but we never see him doing anything missionary-like. Nor do we ever find out what country in Africa AM is from. I’ve met plenty of people from Africa and generally they’re quick to say they are from Zaire, or Nigeria, or wherever; they tend to resent the idea Americans have that Africa’s all one big nation. But we never find out where AM is from, what church he’s with, or anything else specific about him.

When AM arrives in the States, he just wants to go to Disneyland to ride the roller coasters there, and his entire subplot revolves around his childlike goal. Whenever he’s thwarted, he has a mantra he repeats: “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good” to stop all thought. When told that the roller-coaster at Disneyland isn’t anywhere near the tallest, he says that in his mind, when he is on it then it will be–because what he feels and believes matters more than what is true and real.

When Professor Radisson is hit by a hit-and-run driver and is dying in the street, AM magically knows where Radisson got hurt and that it’s not fixable. And he doesn’t seem fazed at all by Radisson’s death, a particularly grotesque and creepy reaction. Hell, he’s happy about it. Hooray! Radisson is going to meet Jesus now! Let’s be happy!

I’m a white American and I’m already downright offended by AM. It’s mortifying just to think about what black people must think of him. Indeed, it wasn’t hard to turn up bloggers who were also offended by AM’s characterization–and that first particular blogger is also Christian. As he put it,

To say that this movie was over-the-top is a puerile understatement. Not only was this a propagation of bad theology, but it gave credence to bad social norms that the mostly white evangelical movement supports ad nauseum.

And nobody involved in the entire movie seems to have any kind of problem with this vague whiff of racism, and we’re expected not to either.

2. The Chinese Guy and His Father.
The second racist caricature is of Asians. Not content to have Sambo-ed up the African missionary, they go after Asians next.

You know who the Chinese guy really reminded me of? Takashi from Revenge of the Nerds. Like the Chinese guy in this movie and many others, Takashi was simple, childlike, overly-studious, and utterly naive–but shockingly competent at his chosen field. There was no nuance to Takashi; like his fellow nerds, he was a one-note character played for laughs. Exhibit A:

(The song is a Japanese rendition of “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two)”, if you were wondering.

In the same way, the Chinese Guy (CG) is studious, quiet, disciplined, intelligent, and completely awkward socially. He has to explain in some annoyance to a registration lackey in the movie’s first few minutes that he’s from China, and that’s the last time we see him display any sort of humanity or three-dimensionality.

His father is a stereotypical super-duper-wealthy tycoon who has a chauffeur driving him around for most of his scenes. The two communicate via cell phones and apparently international calls are covered by their plan, because Junior calls Daddy several times in the movie. This movie seems to represent the first time CG has ever been away from home, which I question because I know how many Chinese kids go to boarding schools in their country. CG is intellectually advanced, we infer because of his studiousness, but emotionally he is a child; his worried father warns him to quit fussing about all that god stuff because eavesdroppers might report them to the Chinese government (oh those evil evil Communists! Boo! Hiss! Grrr!), but is otherwise not terribly paternal toward his son.

CG ends up in Josh’s philosophy class, so he hears about and is is appropriately convinced of “God’s” existence by the movie’s central debate. All that analytical power of his goes right out the window because of the power of Josh’s sincerity. CG has never heard about Christianity before heading to college, you see. When the class finally votes on who won the debate, CG is the first to stand and utter the words “God is not dead.” But weirdly, Josh doesn’t pounce on the guy at the first opportunity. This would likely be the very first time an evangelical hellbent on proselytizing hasn’t done so; it’s a strange oversight, but then, Josh is perceptive and opportunistic when the movie needs him to be so, and dense and lackadaisical when it doesn’t.

CG represents the godless heathens in countries that have never heard about the Good News, which is funny because Chinese Christian churches send quite a few missionaries around the world, including to godless America. He is overwhelmed and converted by the superior Romulan weaponry of the white guy and folds immediately.

One of the last things we see CG doing is bouncing around at the Newsboys concert as a brand-new Christian. When the folks there tell the audience to text “God’s not dead” to everybody, CG texts his father. Hooray! That’ll show the uptight old fart, right? The father gets the text and stares at it in irritated befuddlement. And that’s that.

3. The Muslim Girl and Her Family.
If you’re not already pissed off by the other two stereotypes this movie offers, this is likely going to do the trick.

Ayisha is an Arabic-looking Muslim girl (not all Muslims are Arabic; I kept wondering what would have happened in this movie if this character had been a blonde, blue-eyed white girl rather than a POC). I am guessing she was raised in the United States. She lives with her father and young brother in a walkup apartment; she has her own room. She somehow talked her very strict Muslim dad into letting her attend college and get a job on-campus in the cafeteria. That’s basically what we know about her for the entire movie.

Before we go further let me mention this: the super-pretty white girls in this movie don’t seem to have jobs at all (Mina, Josh’s girlfriend). One of the not-so-pretty white girls has a job in the library on-campus. But the person of color gets a job in the goddamned cafeteria?? And nobody saw anything wrong with this? Why didn’t they just make her a hotel maid and have done with it? That’s not even taking into account why Ayisha’s dad allowed his daughter to have a job at all. He’s incredibly controlling and over-protective, which this movie goes to pains to demonstrate. But the plot needs Ayisha to be in a position to eavesdrop on Josh as he’s talking about his debate, and the script’s writers couldn’t think of anything else besides making her a menial laborer.

Ayisha is, however, secretly subversive. Her father makes her wear a hijab and demands she cover her nose and mouth with the headscarf, but doesn’t seem to care about her wearing otherwise totally-Western clothes. She considers the headgear “old-fashioned” and clearly resents her father’s control over her, but doesn’t dare defy him.

When a so-very-sad white girl tells Ayisha that she’s sorry to see her putting her headscarf back on when Ayisha’s father is due back to pick her up from school/work, Ayisha doesn’t get angry at all–in fact seems to welcome the casual racist intrusion. Privileged people have this idea in their heads that their opinions are needed, welcomed, valued, and desired every single moment of the day, and once an opinion or thought forms in their minds then those ideas must be released into the wild. You can almost hear them crying aloud to these ideas, like Mork from Ork throwing eggs into the air, “FLY! BE FREE!” Maybe the sad white girl thinks that Ayisha will gain courage or solidarity or something from the lame expression of sympathy offered. In reality, Muslim women don’t generally care what makes non-Muslim women happy or sad about their choice in clothing or hair coverings; even I could have told these filmmakers that. Whatever Western folks think of Muslim dress codes, however involuntary it looks to us, it’s not hard at all to find Muslim women fiercely defending their right to dress that way.

But in this movie’s universe, Ayisha cares very much what the sad white girl thinks and doesn’t seem to get piqued or annoyed at all about the unsolicited opinion being thrust at her. The movie’s creators think everybody cares about what white Christians think, and they want to depict a world wherein everybody actually does.

The movie asks us to see this small family as representative of Muslims. But watching their scenes, I thought often about Pentecostalism and its equally-severe control of young women’s bodies and lives. When I was Pentecostal, I knew lots of young Christian women who bristled just like Ayisha, and lots of Christian dads who were just this extremist! We’re supposed to forget that, though.

But her rebellion goes a lot deeper than just her refusal to follow dress codes.

Ayisha, you see, is a secret Christian. Not only is she tearing off her headscarf the second she escapes her father’s view, but she also listens to Christian podcasts in her bedroom! OMG! How shocking!

Of course, she’s listening to Franklin Graham podcasts. It’d be hard to imagine a preacher who’d be less appealing to a college-aged ex-Muslim convert than an elderly racist, extremist fearmonger, and political panderer. You’d sorta think she’d be looking for her spiritual direction from someone younger and more understanding of the struggles of non-white people in America. Did Mr. Graham pay for product placement in this movie? I’d like to know that, seriously, because his mention in this honker makes about as much sense, coherence-wise, as that of the Duck Dynasty stars. It’s done to pander to the movie’s audience, not because it makes sense.

While Ayisha is blissed-out listening to her guru with her headphones on, her little brother sneaks into the room, spies on her, and sees what she’s listening to because it’s got a picture of Jesus praying on the screen, and Ayisha freaks out and shakes him, telling him he can’t tell their father. She doesn’t say why or what will happen; the boy doesn’t quite promise, but she releases him. Now, it’s kind of a stretch to imagine a boy that young and that far outside Christian evangelical culture would know who Franklin Graham was, though he might know about painted representations of Jesus. I don’t know why he’d leap from that to “OMG my sister is a Christian now!” But the movie needs us to think he’s figured it out.

By the way, as one of our commenters, Glandu, has mentioned, Ayisha is also kind of an idiot because she is clearly technology-savvy but hasn’t researched how to deconvert from Islam safely. Many young women in her situation face similar risks in leaving their religion (so much for no compulsion in Islam), but they keep it on the down-low till they can get out of their houses. I’ve been reading up on this topic as well and it sure looks like people who leave Islam tend to be very careful about expressing their doubts at all. That Ayisha is so obviously contemptuous of her father’s demands and listening to Christian sermons in the family home makes her seem desperate get caught.

Indeed, that’s exactly what happens. The brother rats her out and the father beats her and throws her bodily out of the apartment building.

Yes, you heard that right.

This movie has a father beating up his own daughter and throwing her out of the house for being a Christian, because persecution reasons.

I was revolted by this scene, but not for the reasons the filmmakers wanted me to be so. Firstly, the stereotype of the abusive, misogynistic, controlling Muslim patriarch was downright disgusting to see from the get-go, but when his control-lust turned into physical violence I couldn’t even believe my eyes. (They have him crying afterward while his daughter pounds on the outer door, screaming and begging him to let her back into the building, but that doesn’t help at all.) Though most flavors of Islam demand that apostates be given time to repent or reconsider their decision, he throws her on the street with nothing but the clothes on her back! Hell, he doesn’t even talk to her about having deconverted–he just explodes into immediate violence, because ickie Muslims do that. And we never see him again; the movie has no interest in redeeming him. At least Radisson didn’t beat the shit out of Josh or Mina or slap anybody around, but Radisson gets a redemption. Not this Muslim dad. He’s just screwed. And Muslim.

Secondly, I know way too many ex-Christians personally who have been mistreated, disinherited, dispossessed, ostracized, abused, and even hurt for their lack of belief. But ex-Christians’ stories don’t fit as well into this movie’s framework, and TRUE CHRISTIANS™ would never do that ever.

So Ayisha goes to the college’s Pastor Dude’s office in hysterics. She has nowhere to go, is barely even started in her new faith, and obviously has no money or resources at all. All she has is her new Christian family.

And what does her new Christian family do? Well, Pastor Dude has to go take the African missionary to Disneyland, so whatever he does to help her it doesn’t take long. AM is a man, after all, and roller coasters are beckoning. The secretary lady tells Ayisha that “we’re here for you,” but then we never see exactly what the secretary’s idea of help looks like either. I can tell you from experience what a “Christian church family’s” help looks like, though: bup divided by kiss. Sometimes they’re wonderfully helpful; sometimes they’re maddeningly unhelpful; one cannot count on them at all. It’s almost as if there’s no Jesus making them do anything different.

The next time we see Ayisha, she’s bouncing around at the Newsboys concert behind Josh. She talks to him briefly and there’s a hint there that they’ll be getting together romantically. There’s no sign at all of her earlier distress, and no explanation at all of where she’s going to sleep tonight or do to take care of herself, and no sign of those she’s asked for help. For all we know, the secretary dropped her off at the concert and said, “Have fun!” (How did Ayisha get tickets? Does the admissions counter have a “poor abused recent convert” scholarship fund?) Like Job, she lost everything, but that’s okay because God is giving her a new family and a boyfriend maybe! Hooray!

It’s like this movie beat the crap out of her, then forgot all about that to show how triumphant she is in praising Jesus. And of her family we see nothing at all. They just vanish. She is completely disconnected from everything in her past; the movie implies that everything is going to be peachy-keen-jelly-bean from here on out, when in reality her struggles are only just beginning.

So there you have it: three different races, three different but equally offensive and one-dimensional stereotypes.

I’m seriously pissed at this movie because of how it treats its non-white characters. How hard would it have been to have made these folks actual people instead of walking, talking Fox News fantasies? And do the movie’s creators not realize that all the bad stuff they have non-Christians doing, Christians themselves do? Do they not realize how transparently they indicate their biases and prejudices?

No, they do not.

We’re going to look at that question next, because in the grand scheme of things, how this movie treats Christians may be the most offensive stereotype of all.


* Even diehard Creationists didn’t all like this stupid movie.

About Captain Cassidy

I blog over at Roll to Disbelieve about religion, culture, cats, and tabletop RPGs.
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30 Responses to The Unwashed Heathens and Foreigners of “God’s Not Dead.”

  1. SirWill says:

    There is only one reason I am not offended on behalf of minorities here.

    It’s because I’m too busy being offended on behalf of ALL of humanity.

    The people who made this film could have spent their time doing something useful. Like….like…..well, crap. I’m not sure what, because I wouldn’t give these people the job of inflating a child’s bath toy.

    But everything they tut over a heathen doing, their own side does all the bloody time. And here’s the problem.

    They do not seem to grasp that it doesn’t matter who is doing something. If it’s wrong if I do it, it’s wrong if mom does it, it’s wrong if dad does it, it’s wrong if grandpa does it, it’s wrong if the President does it, it’s wrong if God does it.

    It’s just opportunistic ethics. It’s only wrong if the other guys does it, in their view. The exact same thing is fine if someone on my side does it, because reasons. What? The other side has reasons too? Well they don’t count, because reasons!

    It’s -very- frustrating.

    I have to take affront with your comparison of this movie to shitballs. It’s an offense to shitballs everywhere. Least they can be broken down into fertilizer. This is….radioactive shit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My take is that they aren’t trying to pretend that it’s okay when they do these awful things (although they probably believe that). That’s why they very carefully never show True Christians behaving badly… they don’t want to get stuck having to justify their own bullshit because they know it will turn people off. But they recognize that Christianity is in the middle of a PR disaster, precisely because of all of the stories lately about how Christians are militant, they discriminate, they are exclusionary and, most of all, they are famous now for throwing their children out on the streets or abusing them for being gay or leaving the faith.

      This movie is some propaganda to try to distract from that, I think. It’s painting a rosy picture where all of the Christians are completely good and nice and it is in fact OTHERS who are mean and intolerant and abusive in order to try to counteract the opposite narrative. The worst part is they didn’t have the guts to actually show some of the darker sides of American Christianity. They could easily have made a movie that is still Christian while simultaneously exposing some of the nastier, abusive sides of their own religion and showing the characters navigating the bad and trying to find the good. But no, this film wasn’t meant to be honest or bring any sort of accountability or change. It’s pure propaganda, meant to shore up Christianity’s image… carefully photoshopping their image until it no longer resembles reality and then putting it on display.

      My only comfort is that they failed miserably. I’ve no doubt that Christians will think this movie is a great representation of The Way Things Are, but as far as I can tell, it just makes Christians look worse to everyone else.


      • Exactly. I’m going to be talking about that next time. I don’t think Christian culture, as it stands now, would ever tolerate anything that depicted the darker end of the religion. They’re all terrified of being accused of muzzling oxen or impeding the Kingdom or something. PR disaster is the nicest way possible to put what’s going on.


  2. davewarnock says:

    This movie was made for one reason. $$$$.
    The producers know that there is a built-in Christian base that will flock to the theaters to see ANYTHING that looks like it will reinforce their belief system. They will pay the price of admission to a terrible movie if there is even a hint that they will leave the theater with that familiar, smug feeling that their faith is the only real truth and all the other people in the world are just so so wrong. They don’t want their faith challenged; they don’t want to have to think hard questions; they don’t want to consider another alternative; they just want to be told, “you are ok, you are right”.

    Hence, the producers will keep churning them out as along as Christians pay to see them. I don’t think that is stopping any time soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You mentioned Candide, which I didn’t read until college. If i had a motto, it would be:
    “il faut cultiver notre jardin. (Let us cultivate our garden).”


  4. notleia says:

    That Creationist link has left me confused. They’re aware of the bad characterization and bad arguments, but they somehow think their arguments aren’t worse. Or at least, it is my position that the massive amounts of denial involved in “not compromising” is worse than the acknowledgement of things outside your bubble involved in “compromise.”


  5. Glandu says:

    Excellent post, as usually. Of course, I’ll always look fot the detail that went wrong, and notice that a boy, even muslim, that grows in the USA is bound to have heard about Jesus. Christians are everywhere with their preachings. So him understanding what his sister is doing is not that impossible to me.

    For the rest… you’re 110% right. If she fell in love with a christian, her first likely idea would be to try to convert him to islam, not the reverse. Maybe, later, in specific conditions, she could try something else, as long as she knows her relations with her family are damaged beyond repair(not all muslim families are oppressive – but those who are, sure fit the stereotype, unfortunately). And the normal reaction of her father would be to force-marry her to one cousin(just asked an Algerian colleague). He would never let the infidels have a grap on his precious daughter. Never. Giving up your family is not their style. Oppression, social pressure, but they don’t give up their family members. Never.


    • That’s just scary. What’s the logic? Getting her married and saddled with subsequent babies will shut her up tout de suite? Sounds like my old church.


      • Glandu says:

        it’s the same logic. It comes from the ancient times, where time was slower, and survival was forecasted generations ago. In the middle ages, many people were married even before they were born, espevially in the upper class(and lower classes often try to mimic upper class behaviour). It made sense in those times when owning the soil was everything.

        All those stupid beliefs that have such a negative impact in the modern world were useful in a medieval setting. They insured long-term survival of your offspring. As plenty of things, they’ve far outlived their usefuless. It’s obsolete in the western world since the 19th century, and everywhere else since the 20th. At least. But the habits are still there : by controlling whom your offspring marry with, you’ve got the illusion of controlling the long-term survival of your genes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Beth Caplin says:

    So far I only watched the trailer and a montage of the argument scenes between Josh and Radisson. Oh. Em. Gee. I just…I can’t even. My even has LEFT my person. First, I can’t get over a professor threatening to fail a student for having religious beliefs and still keeping his job. And second, the “Why do you hate God?!!” line just had me cringing so much I feared my face would stick that way. I’m not even an atheist and felt offended by the vicious stereotypes thrown around so carelessly. I don’t know how you were able to get through this. I know wine was involved, but I might need so much that I’d have to sacrifice the entire week’s grocery budget.


    • Mr. Captain had a few things to say about that particular expense, yes. ;) Whatever you’ve seen, it doesn’t even cover how bad that last argument was. Josh hammers that whole “you just hate god” thing and Radisson visibly falls apart under the force of an 18-year-old boy’s prophetic words. When he finally concedes the point by exploding at Josh, it works exactly like how I imagine Christians want it to work–you might not have the pleasure of talking to those sorts, but most non-Christians have; they act like they’re in a courtroom and are trying to lead a witness down a primrose path toward a similar denouement so they can triumphantly shout AHA! like Josh did. And the classroom–equally full of 18-year-old kids, none of whom know much about critical thinking any better than Josh (or the movie’s target audience) does–decides that Radisson’s breakdown and defeated admission must mean that Christianity’s claims are true, because that’s how this movie’s target audience thinks the world works: if they knock down a theory or authority they don’t like, then obviously that means their pet theory is the true one because it’s the only alternative. Argument from authority, from ignorance, false dilemmas… THEREFORE JESUS. As proofs go, this one’s pretty awful, but the movie offers it up with this wide-eyed innocence because it know that its audience will agree wholeheartedly. Indeed, I’ve seen numerous reviews eviscerating this movie on the basis of its shoddy pseudoscience, bad arguments, and technical flaws, and the comments are filled with outraged Christians accusing the reviewers of hating their god/religion and being part of the evil conspiracy to persecute and oppress people of faith.

      Vicious really does cover this movie’s treatment of atheists–and a variety of others. But it also describes its target’s audience’s attitudes toward those groups–and “delusional,” and “cruel,” and “distorted”… and and and…


      • Beth Caplin says:

        That is the scene I’m talking about! “Why. Do. You. Hate. God?!” To be perfectly honest, I kind of think it’s immature to give up on belief because bad things happen to you. Most people who believe already know the world isn’t fair, until something bad happens to *them* personally, and then God must a) not be good, or b) not be real. Radisson’s reason for disbelieving, if you’re going to pick any reason at all, was so cliche at best, I wanted to throw something at my computer.

        I love how your husband is Mr. Captain, by the way.


        • Exactly; it’s ridiculous. I don’t think anybody stops believing because something bad happens to them. Most often that event shocks them into realizing that there isn’t a god protecting anybody at all, and spurs them to go find out what evidence there is for their belief, but Radisson’s disbelief–as stated, as described–doesn’t fit the general pattern at all. I’ve never met anybody who deconverted solely because of some misfortune. Most Christians think that the afterlife is forever while a lifetime is finite, so as long as belief persists, they’re not going anywhere no matter what happens; the religion’s evolved dozens if not hundreds of rationalizations to cover why Christians seem to face exactly as many misfortunes as non-Christians do, and why their prayers never seem to do anything tangible.

          But many people figure out there’s no evidence supporting Christianity’s claims without bad events happening to them at all. Not everybody needs that spur. If anything, I’d have expected Radisson to have disengaged from Christianity–meaning to have withdrawn from it while not formally dissociating from it, which a great many Christians do in the wake of a terrible event. They still believe; they’re just not attending church (maybe they’re kinda looking for another church at the time? or another denomination?), or not wanting to use a label they perceive as more and more hostile to human progress and genuine love.

          And thanks, think I got the idea from the Jezebel forums, where posters’ spouses are Mr. or Ms. (whatever the username is) and it just tickles me pink. :)


  7. sjl1701 says:

    With Franklin Graham you forgot misogynist and homophobe. You’re right on him being a poor option on what they think they are showing as a “smart” Muslim.

    Thanks again for the analysis. I also enjoy taking stories apart, however it’s never quite as much as when it’s showing how badly something was put together and showing the cluelessness of the other side thinking they hit a home run, when they merely struck out.


    • Thanks, and you’re totally right about Franklin Graham. If it wasn’t for his daddy, I don’t think even his target demographic would give him as much credit as they do. I don’t even know who would appeal to someone like Ayisha; I just know he wouldn’t! And there really isn’t much that so blatantly displays the utter tone-deafness and self-delusion of toxic Christians as their bizarro-world reception of Christian media like this–CCM, movies. It’s not just that they struck out; it’s more like a Pee-Wee baseball team showed up in baseball uniforms for a pro NFL football game, lost 500-0, peed on the umpires, and still left celebrating their total victory. No matter how horrific the blunder or how complete the failure, they still think they did great. It’s astonishing–and I include my own self in that equation; when I was Christian I didn’t know that the music I listened to was horrible or that the writing I liked was beyond silly and amateurish. Learning to objectively criticize art is not a priority in that crowd. I had to learn much later how to do that.


    • Mau de Katt says:

      However, Franklin Graham isn’t elderly; that’s his father Billy (if Billy is even still alive, that is). Franklin is only 62, and looks pretty hale-n-hearty is his pictures. In this country at this time (and with his money), 62 isn’t elderly by any stretch.

      But yeah — he’d hardly be the prime choice for a newly ex-Muslim late-teen female convert to listen to…. :P


  8. sjl1701 says:

    Argh. Proofreading is not my strong suit. “Never quite as much FUN. . “


  9. SirWill says:

    Just checked the review of it on that creationist site.

    It’s somewhat amusing when you find someone being right on a topic, but for all the wrong reasons. Like taking issue with Josh’s apologetics in the film about the universe needing a creator based on the Big Bang event, but only because it happened billions of years ago instead of thousands.

    The comments are rather discouraging, though. No, we do not have the same evidence and interpret it differently. Scientists and interested laymen follow the evidence to wherever it goes. Creationists ignore 99% of the evidence to try and smash that last 1% into something that fits their precious narrative. And even that fails miserably.

    I get that it’s difficult to think completely differently from how one normally does, but it isn’t impossible.

    Somewhat off-topic, but related. Lovecraft’s works are rather widespread and the mythos just about everyone’s at least heard of. He…well, had serious issues, but one of his biggest fears was based on the knowledge on how insignificant he was on a cosmic level. A lot of the mythos that’s built up around it is based on that, that if mankind really realized how tiny we were, we’d be driven mad by the revelation.

    Creationists strike me as coming from that angle, hence a lot of the whinging about how if we all believe in evolution, and billions of years, and that we’re related to all life on Earth, we’ll all go mad and act like monkeys. Both Lovecraft and creationists can’t seem to grasp those of us who DO understand the big picture and not be phased by it.

    Douglas Adams had a bit of fun with the idea when he came up with the Total Perspective Vortex. The only person surviving it doing so because he was in a simulated universe made for him, and thus he was the most important thing in it.

    But where Adams uses it in jest, we can stop and consider it in truth, using the thought experiment.

    Here’s a fun link.

    This is a portion of the Andromeda galaxy. The image has 1.2 billion pixels. According to NASA, you’d need 600 HD TVs to put the whole thing up at once in its full resolution. You can zoom in and the image will adjust to the smaller portions. No matter what level you’re at when you peer at it, though, you see stars. Tons and tons and tons of stars. Each and every one is a sun, and most of them probably have planets.

    Lovecraft couldn’t handle a second in the TPV. Creationists would probably break down crying or chant ‘It’s a work of Satan!’ I, on the other hand, would come out with a goofy look of awe on my face, here. If I died inside, it would be one of the best deaths ever possible. Right up there with falling into a black hole. Sure, the dying at the end would suck, but before that happened, you’d have a chance to see the future of the universe unfold.

    Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson, on the other hand, would come out of there beaming. I know what company I’d keep. Galileo, too, I’m pretty damn sure would be shocked and awed by the majesty of the universe as it is, and celebrate it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • wayofcats says:

      That’s an incredibly good way of putting it. I know when the Hubble telescope pictures first started coming out, I was so often plunged into AWE.

      There might not be an explanation for how this made me cry with happiness; but I maintain my raw appreciation seems a much “healthier” response than the petulant whining that comes from fundamentalist Christians.

      Yet, by their own criteria, who is actually “touching god/dess” here?


  10. Aram McLean says:

    I got lost down the Nicolas Sparks rabbit hole for a while on this one. I never liked the guy’s spew, but damn, he’s even a bigger douche than I realized.

    Regarding this film, I just can’t even. It’s Christian masturbation and that’s all there is to it. (Kind of like Sparks talking about his books – and that bit where he retorts to a 17-year-old Miley Cyrus saying that she didn’t finish the Last Song before making the movie with the mature response, ‘Well, I never watched Hannah Montana!’ What a stud.)

    Sorry, the rabbit hole was a deep one.

    Your comment about a Pee-Wee baseball team (above) sums up this film’s ‘reality’. What a simplistic, delusional, intellectually-dead worldview these people have. And yet they think we’re the ones living empty lives. Ich kann nicht mehr!


    • It’s fascinating, isn’t it? Know what you mean! Something about the look of the guy, just the way he carries himself and talks, puts me off so bad. It’s that same fake-dewey fake-innocent fake-chirpy facade I saw on so many of my peers’ faces back in my church days. I wonder if his impending divorce is going to affect his writing at all? Nothing else seems to have, for the better at least.


  11. Knoxville Freethinker says:

    Did Mr. Graham pay for product placement in this movie? I’d like to know that, seriously, because his mention in this honker makes about as much sense, coherence-wise, as that of the Duck Dynasty stars. It’s done to pander to the movie’s audience, not because it makes sense.

    …And the Newsboys, providing the grand finale and catchy CCM theme song.

    Whether paid product placement or CCM pop culture pandering, it certainly does nothing to help what is already a pitiful attempt at storytelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Newsboys most of all. I didn’t even realize they were that popular in the first place, let alone having a movie that’s pretty much The Newsboys: Two Hours of Fanservice. I seriously would have been less jarred if the movie writers would have had “Murph and the Magic-Tones” in full frilly leisure suits be the focus of everybody’s obsession. It’s another sign that this movie isn’t meant for folks like me who’ve barely even ever heard of CCM’s big names.


  12. Mau de Katt says:

    “…tighter than a hummingbird’s tweet.”

    I see what you did there. ;-D

    “It’s downright weird to consider how often missionaries come here from other countries considering how deeply religious this country already is.”

    Back in my own fundagelical days, this was used for guilt-trip reasons, to show how much “We aMurrican Christians” had fallen down in the faith, and how we were now “So Lukewarm That God Was Sending Other Country’s Missionaries To Us OMGZeleven!!!!!” It was a guilt-trip along the same lines as those movies that have RTCs (usually teens) boarding the Heaven Plane, looking back in sadness and lost-opportunity regret at their unsaved family members kept behind the fence, or that “Letter From A Lost Soul” meme/Chick Tract – “Why didn’t you tell me about Jesus before it was too late?!?!?!?!?”

    “(African Missionary) Hell, he’s happy about it. Hooray! Radisson is going to meet Jesus now! Let’s be happy!”

    Near as I can tell, African Missionary and his related “heathen country” missionaries have become the Evangelical version of “the Magical Negro” — they exist as a Shining Ideal and Supernatural-Assistance-Provider to the white protagonist (in this case, as indirect backup and assistance to the White Male Lead’s “witness of the Truth,” as well as Bringing Salvation To The Lost White Antagonist). The whole “Hooray, Radisson’s going to meet Jesus now!” attitude fits into both — it provides Magical Negro prop-up support for the inhuman, un-loving, Dominant Culture attitude of “we’re depriving you of property/liberty/civil rights For Your Own Good,” as well as falling back into the previous example of being the Shining Ideal of what we backslidden aMurrican Christians should aspire to as Real True Believers In Christ.

    The [Magical Negro] doesn’t really drive the story, but is a glorified hood ornament attached to the end of a car that’s being driven by white society, vigorously turning a little steering wheel that’s not attached to anything.”

    “[Chinese Guy] ends up in Josh’s philosophy class, so he hears about and is is appropriately convinced of “God’s” existence by the movie’s central debate.”

    I see this portrayal of Asian characters as an insecure dominant culture’s way of “taking those uppity (whatever)s down a peg,” and propping up their own faltering belief in their inherent superiority as a result. Asians have the stereotypical image of being mathematical & technological superhumans… so, they must also be naive and unable to navigate American Culture as a result. In non-Christian movies, they’re usually introduced to pretty girls, wild parties, booze, and sex by the Lead Character, thus showing that while those smartypants Asians may be so Smartypants, they still need us to show them what Real Life is like! In this movie, Chinese Guy may be rich and super smart, but he still needs White Jesus Guy to show him the Real Meaning Of Life (and to bring him Eternal Salvation) in the form of JesusChristAmen. Thus, restoring aMurrican Fundagelical White Male Dominance to its proper position as Best Of All Things In This World And The Next.

    “Indeed, that’s exactly what happens. The brother rats her out and the father beats her and throws her bodily out of the apartment building.”

    What — she came out as a lesbian to her Fundagelical Christian father? /snark

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amazing summary! Think you’re right about this matter as well, especially the Chinese guy. I’m suddenly taking a second look at other movies that do similar things to Asian characters. Fundagelicals really don’t like how smartypants and taking-over-everything Asians seem to be of late.


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