“God’s Not Dead 2,” the sequel to 2014’s successful “God’s Not Dead” takes a different tack than the original on the clash of faith vs. the secular state.
It’s a hot-button topic, especially as the Supreme Court is currently considering the case of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who claim that following the contraceptive mandate in Obamacare — or even the government accommodation — violates their Catholic principles.
In the new film, premiering Friday, April 1, Melissa Joan Hart plays Grace Wesley (one wonders if that’s some sort of Wesleyan/Methodist reference), an 11th-grade history teacher who gets in trouble after answering a student’s question by comparing Jesus’ words to Martin Luther King’s.
Worse yet, she speaks to a student about Jesus outside of class.
An angry representative (Ray Wise) of the ACLU makes a fuss, first getting Grace in hot water with the school board and then dragging her into court. Her lawyer (Jesse Metcalfe) is not a believer, but he’s competent and tough and agrees that her rights have been violated.
More than that, part of his defense of her includes an interesting discussion of how Christ is an actual historical figure, and why He can always be discussed in a secular way along with other historical figures.
After that, the film moves into more of a sermonizing mode, but along the way, it makes good legal and social points about how Christ and Christianity are sometimes unfairly singled out for banishment from public schools, while other faiths and founders of faiths– or religious people, like Dr. King, a Baptist pastor — can be discussed in historical and cultural contexts.
The script is a heavy-handed at times with Scriptural allusions, but the film is brisker and less polemic than some recent faith-friendly films. And, both Hart and Metcalfe — along with Wise, Ernie Hudson, Pat Boone, and, briefly, the late Fred Thompson (in fact, this was his last movie) — turn in solid performances.
“Dancing With the Stars” veteran Sadie Robertson, daughter of “Duck Dynasty” stars Willie and Korie Robertson, also appears.
Christian group Newsboys adds some music in a nearly unrelated subplot, and there’s a big “awwww” moment at the end.
“God’s Not Dead 2” is unsubtle and earnest, but it could spark good family discussions about what is and isn’t appropriate in the public square, and how Christians can preserve their basic rights to free speech and religious expression while living in a pluralistic society.
And, after all, laws that either impede or protect religious expression aren’t applied just to Christians, so this is an issue that affects a good many Americans of all faiths, and anyone who believes in the Bill of Rights and basic fairness.
Image: Courtesy PureFlix