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"God Isn't Dead" Movie--Poisoning the Well of Academia

Well, the conflict resolution came and went and it was not nearly as painful as I feared; though it seems the story has changed yet again, that the matter was not taken out to the church at large by a certain person (who did not attend), but only to the pastor. This surprised me as the group leader and I had spent a great deal of time on the phone hammering out my statement so that there would be no further surprises or anything inappropriate said. I had mentioned as part of my statement my distress in hearing that the matter had gone out into the general congregation in violation of group rules, and this sentence was allowed to stand at the time of the phone conversation. So I started to say my piece only to have her interrupt and say that it did not happen that way. I said, Ok, I must have misunderstood, and let it go. It's part of the game called "damage control." You know and I know what really happened but we'll pretend otherwise for the sake of peace.

Anyway, afterwards they were talking about a wonderful new movie called "God Isn't Dead." I hadn't heard of it. Apparently it is about an atheistic college professor who makes his students sign a paper saying "God is Dead" or he will flunk them, and the brave Christian student who stands up to him. I googled it and most of the reviews seem to think it is as dreadful as it sounds. I have no desire to go see it.

Having attended both a four-year state university and a two-year community college, plus having a sister who is a tenured Ph.D. university professor, I like to think that I know something about how the secular academic world operates. Making students sign papers saying "God Is Dead" or they will flunk isn't. As one of my classmates said when we were talking about the movie, "That would be an invitation for that professor to be fired on the spot!" I'm sorry, but that just isn't going to happen in a public university. Private school, maybe.

Now, from what the reviews said, it sounds like this takes place in a philosophy class. Apart from having trouble imagining why any professor would do such a thing, my experience is that most professors have a set amount of material that they want to cover in any given class period and while they do like to have a certain level of student participation (to see that students aren't sleeping or texting) they like to keep it short. It is not likely that a professor is going to allow a student to hijack the day's lesson plan and monopolize the discussion in favor of that student's chosen faith. And, as I've learned at my school, they have another incentive to keep things short and sweet: these kinds of things can lead to disruption and even physical brawls. Which is one thing I bet the movie-makers leave out. Anyway, the idea behind a philosophy class is not to promote a certain ideology but to present students with different concepts so they can learn to think for themselves, just as the point of studying different governmental systems is not to prove the superiority of Marxism over capitalism, but to say, these are different ways people have come up with to govern themselves. Apparently some people outside academia are threatened by this idea, hence this movie.

If the tables were turned and some scriptwriter had the prof tell his or her students that unless they signed a paper saying that they accepted Jesus as their personal savior they would flunk only to be confronted by the brave atheist, I am sure many of the people who applaud this movie would rise up in arms at how Christians are depicted as bullying people to join their faith. They would be outraged at the stereotyping. But when the shoe is on the other foot it is all right to paint nonbelievers as persecuting bad guys. This movie is nothing more than propaganda poisoning the well of academia. And there are people who have never set foot nor will ever set foot on a college campus who will go see it and believe every word of it as gospel. These are the same kind of people who ask me if my political science professor is a liberal. So what if he or she is? What difference does it make?

Wait--wait, I think I know. We have had to watch a set of selected documentaries and report on them, and many of these videos are critical of United States' foreign policy, especially its habit of meddling in and even invading other countries that don't toe the line. It is not good to have an electorate which is aware of such things, makes it harder to conduct business as usual. Better to paint the teacher and the school as anti-American. Hey, maybe that can be the sequel to "God Isn't Dead".


It sounds like the makers of the movie don't even have a very clear understanding of what Nietzsche meant by "God is dead," as one of my English professors (who was married to a female Episcopalian priest, was not an atheist, and did not require me to share his religious views) always hastened to point out, there's a lot more of that quote that is usually left out and that "God is dead" is actually a statement of profound grief and hardly the simplistic atheist slogan it may sound like when taken out of context:

"God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. Yet his shadow still looms. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?"

Perhaps not too surprising since the plot of the movie has similarities to several popular "urban legends," sometimes even involving Albert Einstein:

snopes.com: Albert Einstein Humiliates Atheist

This is a quote I've had rolling around in my head a lot lately, for various reasons:

"There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'"

-Isaac Asimov, from a column in Newsweek (21st January 1980)
Yeah, I suspected something like that, that it wasn't an original idea. I totally agree with the Asimov statement.

The funny thing is I don't mind so much when my neighbors in the trailer park say to me, "What do you need a college degree for, especially at your age?" These are people who don't pretend to intellectualism or anything higher in life than a case of Bud Light. They aren't trying to poison the well of higher education; they just don't see any use for it, since they've all gotten by without it. So I laugh and joke with them and say because the boss thinks its a good idea, which they can all understand, because when the boss says something's a good idea then it's not a good idea to say no, even if it does seem foolish on the surface.

What I do object to is those who claim to be in favor of higher education yet at the same time are actively sowing the seeds of prejudice against it. Oh, they don't think that that is what they are doing; but it's a lot of little things--what are called microaggressions--that cast doubt, that cast suspicion ("Is your professor a liberal?"). I feel uncomfortable around such people in a way that I am not uncomfortable around my neighbors. Like somehow I am going to the wrong kind of school. Maybe even pity that I am going to the wrong kind of school. That the kind of education offered there is dangerous to my soul and I should be on guard. I have no answer to that kind of attitude.

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Spinning Compass
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