• John G. Stackhouse, Jr.

Filmmakers Pull “God’s Not Dead 2” on First Day

SCOTTSDALE, AZ  (Associated Press)  In a move that has startled Hollywood veterans and disappointed hopeful fans from coast to coast, Pure Flix Productions has pulled the movie “God Isn’t Dead 2” from international wide release.

Pure Flix spokesperson Prudence Kandor addressed a hastily called news conference at the company’s headquarters in Scottsdale, Arizona. She read from a prepared text the following announcement:

Pure Flix Productions has read early reviews of its movie, “God’s Not Dead 2” and has regretfully come to the conclusion that the critics are right. This film is truly terrible. We believe its production values are responsible enough, and we commend our actors for doing their professional best with the material they had. But having read criticism after criticism about the stereotypical characters, implausible legal situation, unfair depiction of anyone not clearly Christian, and dubious—indeed, sometimes simply irrelevant—arguments offered by the apologists in the film, Pure Flix has realized that this movie must not be shown. In these fractious times, when serious argument about serious issues is so rare, much less respectful depiction of those with whom one disagrees, Pure Flix does not want to pour gas on an already blazing fire. So the movie will not be shown any more and we will use the profits from our previous terrible film to reimburse all those injured and inconvenienced by this belated, but necessary, act of conscience.

Shortly after this announcement, Alex and Stephen Kendrick, producers of another line of popular Christian films, including “Fireproof” and “Courageous,” released the following statement:

We have been deeply convicted by the humility and integrity of our brothers and sisters at Pure Flix. We have come to recognize that Hollywood is full of talented and skilled actors, screenwriters, and other creative people who could make excellent films if only given the chance. Rather than continuing our practice, therefore, of using third-rate “stars” plus whoever in our church happens to want to act in a movie, thereby depriving capable professionals of a job and the film-going public of a proper movie experience, we pledge ourselves now to work only with the highest quality personnel available. We promise to do better. We must.

Canadian film critic Peter Chattaway’s devastating reviews of both “God’s Not Dead” movies on the Patheos website were cited specifically as contributing to Pure Flix’s decision. “He was just, well, you know, right about how crappy our movies are,” said director Harold Cronk. “I mean, I don’t normally read reviews. I much prefer to listen to adoring fans. Who wouldn’t? But my daughter told me I had to read what Chattaway wrote, and doggone it, the guy nailed us. I mean, the films really are pretty bad, and even though we could keep making piles of money on them, at some point one just has to have the common decency to use one’s talents for something other than pandering propaganda.”

The brave and expensive decision by Pure Flix seems to have set off something of a ripple effect among public figures identified with controversy over religion.

“I’m certainly going to be more careful with my arguments and more respectful of my interlocutors from now on,” said Richard Dawkins to the BBC from his home outside Oxford, England.

“No more caricaturing conservative Christians just because I’m no longer one myself,” said Toronto broadcaster Michael Coren to The National Post.

“I’m going to think hard and long before I ever open my mouth again about a controversial subject,” said Franklin Graham to an astounded reporter for the Charlotte Observer.

“I want now to retract pretty much everything I’ve ever written. I hope everyone, everywhere, who has ever had anything to do with evangelicalism will forgive me. I’ll turn over a new leaf this afternoon,” wrote Frank Schaeffer on his own Patheos weblog.

GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump, however, could not be reached for comment.