Robert Gerous, a political science professor at Depauw University, has an essay in Commonweal, the long-running liberal Catholic magazine, about the movie God’s Not Dead and the modern conservative impulse to frame everything as grievance and persecution.
I haven’t yet seen the movie – I expect to go later this week – but I expect the same feeling of dread and embarrassment that I felt when I visited the Creation Museum years ago. What I found during that experience was a series of tableaux in which established scientific theories were attacked with the most specious of arguments, suggestion and innuendo replaced reason, and academic culture was pilloried. From everything I’ve read, “God’s Not Dead” touches all these bases and more.
I have a theory about contemporary conservatism generally, and the religious right more specifically. They’ve studied the post-68 playbook of the center-left. They’ve appropriated the language of civil rights, the student movement and identity politics and turned it in a new direction: targeting “religious discrimination,” cultural indifference and even aggression (the “War on Christmas”), and so on…What parades as a liberating experience of “speaking truth to power” is in fact profoundly disingenuous. The position and situation of the young man in the film is merely one of nothing more than a mobilized series of stale tropes, tableaux that support a worldview in which evangelical Christians are an oppressed minority. That we know this isn’t true is beside the point. Films like God’s Not Dead are the ideological expression of this stance, of a piece with the Creation Museum and Fox News histrionics around the holiday season. What we see in films like this is the elaboration of a closed circuit, a symbolic gated community in which to live.
Yep, he nailed it.