A Look at ‘God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness’

If we are not truly honest about the world we live in, we will be looking for the wrong kind of victory.

(photo: Register Files)

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness is the third movie in the franchise that created a long string of strong emotions on all sides of the aisle. This one differs from the previous movies, since Josh Wheaton, the main character of the previous movies, makes only supporting appearances as the campus leader. So, go in with an open mind, even if you were less thrilled with the first two movies, and be glad that they did not call it God’s Not Dead 3.

Reverend Dave Hill (David A.R. White) is the pastor of St. James Church on Hadley University, where there is an increasing opposition to having a church on campus. While the congregation tries to go about their business and worship as usual, security guards are placed at the entrance of the building because of the increasingly contentious situation. Pastor Dave is saddened by the direction of the relationship between the church he grew up in and the university is going, but he holds on for the sake of his own past and for the sake of the students.

In a series of unfortunate events, a fire not only burns the church down, but also claims the life of the associate pastor whom Dave had started to regard as a brother. The fire is a turning point in the spiritual life of Dave and direction of the movie. As he tries to stoically face the challenge of having lost his church and his friend on the same day, he learns that the university board has decided to use the destruction of the church to seize the property by using the claim of eminent domain.

Pastor Dave decides to dig in his heels and reaches out to his fallen-away lawyer brother, Pearce, played by John Corbett. Then ensues a battle of wills where lawyers, destruction crews, fiery media discussion, broken windows and fisticuffs are involved.

As the fight goes, Dave questions his own place in the big picture and the soundness of his own decisions, while the estranged brother Pearce comes back to his childhood home to find some reconciliation. Dave and Pearce’s conversations about their past offers a glimpse into the different results and perceptions of the same household and same parenting, while their interaction creates the movie’s most heart-warming and relatable parts. Corbett brings the protective but skeptical brother to life wonderfully, and White is more than able to paint the picture of the loyal but conflicted younger brother.

The side story where Keaton, the student who starts to question her faith after having started college, and her agnostic boyfriend, Adam, portray the challenges of attending a secular university. In my opinion, the movie was charitable in its depiction of interaction among the students. The culture in these institutions of learning, which were first created by the Catholic Church, treat Christianity as something only lesser minds believe. The oppression is not only intellectual, but also spiritual. Keaton, played by Samantha Boscarino, is charged with showing the audience where many youths find themselves once they step out of the comfort and confines of the family.

The fight between Pastor Dave and the university gets uglier, as Keaton questions her faith, and Adam (Mike Manning) finds himself in jail. Up until the end, the plot was plausible, and mostly enjoyable, despite the clunky acting of Boscarino and Manning. When the movie was over, however, I felt like the hand of God reached down from Heaven and changed everyone’s hearts, whether they wanted it or not.

In all honesty, I tend toward pessimism, which is not an acceptable state of being for a Catholic who believes that the story does not end on Good Friday. However, when the credits started along with the feel-good music, I could not help but say aloud, “Well, that’s not gonna happen.” Forgiveness and charity will surely change some hearts, but not all. Even though I appreciate the desire of the producers to leave the audience with a sense of renewed hope and purpose, if we are not truly honest about the world we live in, we will be looking for the wrong kind of victory.

Then again, maybe that is the cynic in me talking. Maybe I have spent too many years on university campuses and have become jaded. If you see God’s not Dead: A Light in Darkness, let me know what you think about the ending. I want to believe that the tide of this culture can be changed, but the realist in my head keeps telling me that all we can do as faithful followers of Christ is to swim against the current and win one heart at a time.