I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the fact that we’re seeing so many movies about faith and Christianity these days. It seems like every month, there’s a new movie that not only entertains but also inspires. And I LOVE IT!!!
On Monday night, the STSA church family rented out a theater and watched the movie together. And it was GREAT! Two thumbs up if you ask me! What I loved about it was that it really made you think – not think to try to figure out the plot line or “whodunit” – but think about much greater issues in life and society.
Today, I want to share two questions that I walked away with and give you a chance to ask any questions you might have as well – either via the comments section below or on my weekly Periscope at 12:30 pm EST.
But before I get to my questions, a quick word about Christian movies in general.
You’ll often hear people criticize Christian movies as “cheesy” or “unrealistic” or “far-fetched” (as opposed to real-life movies such as “Star Wars” and “Batman vs Superman”).
I understand that sometimes the movies are a bit cheesy and the acting isn’t always the greatest, but I also believe that supporting Christian movies is the best way to get more Christians movies and better Christian movies as well. When Hollywood sees our interest in them, they’ll invest more into the genre and the cheesiness will go down and the quality up.
So instead of criticizing and finding deficiencies, let’s look for the positive points and “encourage one another and build each other up” as it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11.
Just my two cents. Now on to the movie and my two questions:
QUESTION 1: WHAT DOES "SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE" REALLY MEAN?
The movie did a great job highlighting a point that has been lost in modern times. So often those who reference “separation of church and state” have little understanding of where the phrase came from.
Take a look at what it says on Wikipedia:
"Separation of church and state" is a phrase used by Thomas Jefferson and others expressing an understanding of the intent and function of the Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The intent of this clause was to limit the power of the Federal Government in regard to religion thus ensuring freedom of religion in the United States of America."
In other words, we got this one totally backwards. Separation of church and state wasn’t put in place to protect the state from the church; it was created to protect the church from the state!
The founding fathers came to this country primarily for that very reason – for freedom of religion. They were fleeing a country that was attempting to impose restrictions on their ability to believe or worship freely. Their whole purpose was to make sure that the government of the United States never imposed itself upon a citizen’s right to believe or practice their belief without government interference.
So with that proper understanding and historical context, what does separation of church and state mean today? What should it mean?
QUESTION #2: HOW SHOULD WE RESPOND TO PERSECUTION/AGITATION?
I hesitate to use the word “persecution” because what we face seems so trivial compared to Christians in other parts of the world (East Asia, Middle East, etc.). In those places, belief in Jesus Christ literally puts your life in danger on a daily basis. For us, it isn’t persecution; it’s more agitation – but either way, the question is: how should we respond to it?
Every movie has to have a bad guy and this movie was no exception. The bad guy here was the prosecuting lawyer – a monster of a man who seethes with anger towards all things associated with faith, God and Jesus Christ.
Of course the movie isn’t real and neither are the characters, but it’s important for us to at least consider the point: what could make someone so angry towards someone that he’s never met (Jesus)? Why would anyone be so opposed to another person’s faith and cause them to act so spitefully towards it?
Are all non-believers monsters like this guy?
I don’t think so. In fact, this is a point that was beautifully illustrated in the first God’s Not Dead movie – where the bad guy atheist professor wasn’t really a bad guy at all. He was just someone who had been hurt in the past – either by the church or by Christians or maybe he believes that he’s been hurt by God Himself.
So when someone says to you “I don’t believe in God,” don’t open your Bible and start PREACHING; open your heart and start LISTENING.
Listen to what drove them to this point. Listen to the stories of hypocrisy that they’ve witnessed from church leaders. Listen to the judgment they’ve faced from people trying to “preach the gospel.” Feel the pain that they’ve felt when their prayers for their sick mother were not answered and they tried to reconcile the truth of a loving God with the reality of life as an orphan.
What should our response be when faced with a not-so-friendly world around us?