Melissa Joan Hart plays Grace Wesley, an American teacher whose career is threatened for answering a student's question about Jesus, in 'God's Not Dead 2' in theatres April 1. Photo courtesy Pure Flix Entertainment

Sequel mirrors reality of faith's place in secular world

By 
  • March 30, 2016

God’s Not Dead 2 is more of art reflecting life when faith is put on trial again in the sequel to the 2014 surprise blockbuster, God's Not Dead.

In theatres April 1, the film follows the story of a high school teacher who finds her career in jeopardy for answering a student’s question about Jesus. 

Melissa Joan Hart, known for her television roles in ABC's Melissa and Joey and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, plays history teacher Grace Wesley who is being sued by members of the American Civil Liberties Union for answering a question from student Brooke Thawley (Hayley Orrantia) about Jesus.

Expanding from the classroom setting, this film moves the debate to the courtrooms this time around and right into the middle of the public square. David A.R. White, co-founder of PureFlix Entertainment and producer of the film, said the sequel takes its cue from many real court cases on religious freedom that have gone to the courts across the United States.

“Because it takes it into the public square… It’s literally about your ability to believe what you want and be open about it anywhere and not being shut down for what you believe,” said White. 

White said PureFlix entertainment hopes to use the God’s Not Dead film series to educate people on these issues in an entertaining way. Like the first film, it makes the case for the defence of religious freedoms.

“I think what played so well in the first one is that people felt they were entertained, they bought in to the story… and at the same time, they walked out feeling like they learned something,” said White. 

White reprises his original role as Rev. Dave who finds himself being summoned for jury duty for Wesley’s trial. Rev. Dave again finds himself at the right place, at the right time as a silent ally in court. 

Other characters returning from the first film  include Martin Yip, played by Pacific Rim actor Paul Kwo, a student in the first film whose growing curiosity for the Bible has led him to become a voice of guidance for Brooke. And veteran actor Ray Wise, known for his role television roles in Reaper, 24 and Mad Men, is the head of the American Civil Liberties Union, determined to set a precedent with Wesley’s case to ban the mention of Jesus in the classroom.

The Christian rock band Newsboys also return to provide the main soundtrack for the film.

The film, along with its 2014 predecessor, has been criticized for its portrayal of its antagonists’ characters as unrealistic, anti-religious villains. But White said there is some reality to these storylines, as evidenced by the 25 court cases in the United States cited in the film’s credits.  

White said the current fight for religious freedom in the United States is not unique, which is why the God’s Not Dead films are garnering so much attention. It’s a fight that crosses borders as well. Canada faces its own issues, witnessed by the ongoing fight for conscience rights for doctors and health care professionals on assisted suicide laws. More recently, Canada has just lost its Office of Religious Freedom after the Liberal government chose not to extend its mandate.

Several apologists and Christian writers make cameos in the film as expert witnesses to defend Jesus on the stand. J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity, appears as himself and presents the findings he published that proves Jesus’ existence using historical witness accounts. 

The film can sometimes dance on the line of book endorsements and promotions, but it accomplishes its aim to raise discussion outside the theatre. The film has already garnered plenty of attention. Its Facebook page was trending as the most viewed page in the world in early March.

“The excitement is out there and we’re just excited to bring it to people,” said White. “It’s such an important thing to go out on opening weekend because it’s truly casting your vote to support these types of movies.”

White remained tight-lipped about the possibility of a third instalment, but he does tease to keep an eye out when the credits are rolling where you can see hints at the next film.

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