God’s Not Dead: Thoughts on Christianity and Romance

God’s Not Dead: Thoughts on Christianity and Romance April 16, 2014

by Mari cross posted from her blog Mari’s Musings

The other day, my Bible study group and I went to see God’s Not Dead.

I enjoyed that the movie was one that made me think. If I have to sit and stare at a screen for longer than 5 minutes, it has to keep my mind engaged. This movie did that, and I enjoyed it.

I’d have to watch the movie a few more times in order to be able to comment on the arguments for and against the existence of God. I might need to take notes or something — which is hard to do in a theater, so we won’t get into those arguments.

There is another interesting elements of the movie that I’d like to comment on — you know, the softer, less logical, more emotional part. Those things are (sometimes) easier to understand….

Aside from the main theme of the movie (God’s not dead), the other blaring theme is that of relationships.

Here is a brief synopsis of the relationships in this film:

Reverend Dave and Reverend Jude: According to this movie, if you’re a white, single male pastor, it’s appropriate for you to be close friends, go on vacation and do ministry with a single black male missionary. This relationship was intact at the end of the movie.

Ayisha and her father: Ayisha’s father is a strict Muslim, who puts Ayisha on the streets when he discovers that she has a relationship with Jesus. This is a tragic cultural and spiritual issue, but I’m not sure why it’s part of the plot. It has nothing to do with the main premise of the movie (God’s not dead), and the only thing it proves is that if your family is Muslim and you are a Christian, you will lose everything if they find out.

Willie and Korie Robertson: There isn’t really anything interesting to say about this. This is the only romantic relationship that is intact at the end of the movie.

Josh and Kara: They’ve been together for 6 years, but as soon as Josh does something that Kara doesn’t agree with, she dumps him. How is it possible that they lasted 6 years without having any disagreements? This doesn’t make any sense to me because as one gets older, he/she (should) be growing in maturity, not the other way around. Kara makes a hasty exit about 1/3 of the way through the movie. Josh is left to fight his battles alone. This is (unfortunately) realistic, but very dissatisfying. Josh finds inspiration in his relationship with Reverend Dave and this relationship is intact at the end of the movie.

Amy and the Jerk: They are a non-spiritual, career-oritented couple. And as soon as he finds out that she has cancer, he dumps her. Amy’s cancer diagnosis and new single status lead her to realize (when questioned by the dcTalk dude who is now a Newsboys dude <Ed. Note: Michael Tait>) that she has no hope.

Professor Radisson and Mina: As soon as Mina starts to stand up for herself (and her faith), the relationship implodes. Mina seeks comfort from Reverend Dave.

If you think about this movie from a relational standpoint, you will find that romantic relationships are incompatible with belief in God, unless you are a Robertson, in which case, your redneck awesomeness trumps your belief in God (at least in the romance department) and your marriage is impenetrable. Oh, if we could all be part of the Robertson clan….

As far as platonic relationships go, apparently only single white pastors get to have them. They get to (attempt to) go on vacation with their buddies. They text it up with young male college students. They counsel beautiful (but broken) women. They get to do relationship with all kinds of different people, and in the end, they pray with dying ex-athiest professors and they live happily ever after, knowing they’ve made a difference. But…. they are still (sadly) romantically unattached.

(On another note, Josh develops a friendship at the very end of the movie with the Chinese student from his class. So perhaps they are saying the only appropriate relationships between men are either with clergy or with someone from another culture?)

At any rate, the way relationships are portrayed in this movie is disturbing to me because I’ve noticed a strange trend in most of the Christian circles I’ve been part of, where romance just doesn’t happen. Let me describe briefly what I’ve noticed:

I went to a church for a while where there weren’t very many single men, but the few single men who were there made it clear that they were not “available.” I’m not sure what the reasons for this were — they were so “unavailable” that they wouldn’t even talk to me. And it wasn’t for lack of trying on my part.

I had a situation in this particular church where someone saw me speaking with a single young man twice after church. She asked a mutual male friend to tell this young man to stop talking to me because I “wasn’t ready for a relationship.”

I went to a church where the pastor made it his business who my friends were. His rule was that people who were involved in ministry (me) weren’t allowed to have friends of the opposite gender, unless all parties were involved in ministry, and then it was only appropriate if one or both of the people were married. Two single people were not allowed to spend time together unless it was chaperoned. There were specific rules stating that people involved in ministry were not allowed to date each other, but they also weren’t allowed to talk to anyone who wasn’t involved in ministry, except for very short, very generic conversations. So basically, there was no interaction between single people. Consequently, there were no sweet little romances going on at that church.

I had a group of friends who decided that I was “boy crazy” (and this was a problem) because I spoke with a male friend from church on the phone twice and mentioned it to them once. Shortly after talking with these friends, the male friend in question took me to Perkins to tell me that he wasn’t interested in me. Um? Ok? Did I say I thought you were? Can’t we be friends? I like having friends…. No? Well, this is awkward….

On a happier note, I got a free meal out of the deal. And I haven’t had a conversation with the person in question since.

His loss.

I had a male friend during that time that I only got to see or talk to when I was around the girls who accused me of being “boy crazy.” He told me I was hot once. And my entire life imploded. Literally. The girls in question just couldn’t handle it. Including myself. It was a lose-lose situation for me. If I had responded to it, I would have lost my entire life outside of him. I knew that, so I chose to not respond to it. It turned out that I lost it all anyway, because my “friends” couldn’t deal with the idea that my friend found me attractive.

My experience has been that in Christian circles, relationships between single men and single women are not encouraged because it could lead to romance and romance is not compatible with Christian belief.

I’d like to point out that God invented romance, and He said (back in the book of Genesis) that everything He invented is good. When did this change? And how? And why? And how do we get back to the idea that it is good?

Because….. I want to love God. But I want to love a husband and children and friends (of both genders) too. And I think that is the way God wants it to be.

Comments open below

Read everything by Mari!

Mari is the middle of 5 kids — and the only girl — in a male-dominant, semi-quiverfull, rather patriarchal homeschooling family. She was raised in a patriarchal church and most of her social network as a child consisted of children of patriarchal or quiverfull families. This is the story of how she was sucked into the patriarchal/quiverfull belief system, and how she was lovingly (and in some cases, not so lovingly!) escorted out. Read her blog at: http://www.marismuses.wordpress.com

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  • I’ve definitely seen this dynamic in play. Marriage is good (sacred, even!) yet how one is supposed to go from single to married is a mystery to me. Heaven forbid a single person be open to dating someone lest they be labeled “boy crazy” or “chasing after men.”

    I still remember being 21 years old and unmarried with a baby girl. I enjoyed being social. Sometimes, while being social, I met men (shocking, I know). On occasion, one of these men wanted to date me. This was all without any particular effort on my part. Because of this, despite the fact that I did nothing but hold and care for my baby girl the rest of the time, I was accused by my mother of “spending all my time chasing after men.” So glad I never bothered to take her seriously.

  • Mel

    I haven’t seen the movie and have no plans to see the movie.

    As a 32 year-old Catholic, I’ve had female friends, male friends, boyfriends and a husband AND a relationship with God. It’s not nearly as hard as the movie makes it sounds……

  • JeanPing

    Goodness. IME friendships and romance are both encouraged at church. How else would we get married and all? That sounds incredibly unhealthy.

  • Nea

    How else would we get married and all

    Parental arrangement, like the patriarchy keeps promoting.

  • Allison the Great

    It must be incredibly awkward for these people trying to have conversations with their new husbands/wives when they were always forbidden to socialize with each other before marriage without earning some degrading label from their so-called friends. Plus they have absolutely nothing in common! The men do their thing, the women stay home and care for the children, what could they possibly have to talk about?

    I have male friends, I have female friends. It’s awesome. If there is a connection between myself and a man that started out as my friend, then like normal people we explore what comes next, but it’s not something that happens with every male friend, so I don’t understand the fear… but wait a minute, these people are afraid of sex unless their patriarchs molesting vulnerable women or having disgusting emotional incest with their daughters, so they can’t be THAT afraid of sex, right? They only like relationships if the male is in control. If both parties are pursuing the relationship it’s scandalous because that means the woman has a say too and we can’t have that. Those boy crazy harlots.

  • I guess one’s father is supposed to arrange it or something? At least that seems to be the Christian Patriarchy’s position. Never made sense to me.

    ETA: It strikes me that both the OP and you feel the need to emphasize that you were not seeking romantic relationships. Would the shaming have been justified if you were indeed chasing after men?

  • The men do their thing, the women stay home and care for the children, what could they possibly have to talk about?

    Intellectual pursuits? Except I’m pretty sure this movement doesn’t encourage such pursuits in women, nor are they likely to have time with all that’s demanded of them.

    This distance between the sexes was in fact a barrier for couples in the Victorian age, which the Christian Patriarchy loves to rip off. In Marriage: A History, family historian Stephanie Coontz describes how the complementarian ideal that women and men are totally alien beings caused many to feel more intensely toward same-sex friends than toward members of the other sex. Women were totes jealous of other women for being too close to their BFFs and wrote things like “The expectation once more to see your face again, makes me feel hot and feverish” to each other. I’m pretty sure the Christian Patriarchy doesn’t like that, either.

  • Trollface McGee

    From what I’ve read about this movie, it’s like a montage of bad stereotypes catered to people who have never known anyone atheist, liberal, Muslim, etc. It also sounds like they have no idea what relationships are like – which, given how dating, sex and marriage are treated by fundies, I am not surprised. Saddened but not surprised.
    Going to wait until it comes out on telly so I can add it to my so-bad-it’s-good movie list, no intent to give them the profits they so don’t deserve.

  • gimpi1

    How is one supposed to marry if all contact with single people of the opposite gender is so controlled that it’s virtually impossible to get to know anyone? My husband and I were best friends long before any romance bloomed, and as we age, we find romance taking a back-seat to our long-standing friendship.

    It’s weird for a group that puts so much emphasis on marriage to put so much effort into making it hard to marry. Oh, wait, courtship. Betrothal. Arranged marriages. I see, never mind.

  • Astrin Ymris

    In fact, the movie’s premise makes no sense to anyone who attended a secular university. And professor who tried to coerce students into signing a declaration saying “God is dead” by using the threat of flunking them would be subjected to severe administrative sanctions, if not fired.

    It’s just that a movie complaining that secular professors challenge fundgelical students to defend their beliefs logically, which results in the youth themselves seeing the paradoxes, wouldn’t play well with the movie’s target audience. Still less would admitting that college instructors don’t even do that much UNLESS the students opened the topic themselves by inserting religious fact claims into class discussions.

    Nor does anyone want to admit that many fundgelical kids renounce– or moderate– their childhood doctrinal programming on their own, simply from getting a fact-based education. No, it’s better to make a slanderously-inaccurate movie based on a ludicrous premise to scare homeschooling parents away from sending their kids to anyplace BUT an approved “Bible College”.