the art of religious interpretation (midnight mass vs god’s not dead)

We don’t have time for an intro. “Midnight Mass” is a psychological horror show on Netflix from Michael Flanagan, who is the creator of the family trauma trigger fest “Haunting of Hill House” and the second gayest thing on Netflix, second only to “Barbie and the Dolphin Magic”, “The Haunting of Bly Manor.”

He’s known for creating, like, thought-provoking, humanistic stories that explore the horrors within ourselves as much as the horrors outside of us–blah blah blah. The whole series falls under the category of religious horror, which is like a sub-genre of horror, if you will.

So, religious horror relies on presenting things like motifs and symbols from real-life religions as fact within a given universe. It exploits and subverts the familiar rituals and concepts in order to scare the holy ghost straight out of your poor little bones.

This includes everything from, like, “Carrie” to “The Exorcist” to “Rosemary’s Baby”, “Midsommar”, and, of course… [Music] “God’s not dead, he’s surely alive…” “God’s Not Dead” follows Josh Wheaton, who, after refusing to do his homework, is instead forced to teach a college-level philosophy class that he and his fellow classmates are paying for.

He has no magical powers or skills and is forced to fight the sadistic, monstrous, maniacal professor to the death using only the powers of friendship and God. It has three sequels entitled “God’s Not Dead 2”, which stars Sabrina (the teenage witch)

Refusing to let her grandfather eat bacon, “God’s Not Dead 3: A Light in the Darkness”, where Reverend Dave reads the bible to scare off a bunch of construction workers, and “God’s Not Dead 4: We the People”, where they take it all the way to the top!

We’re gonna focus mostly on the first one and the third one–the first one because it’s the big one, the third one because I actually like it, and the other ones are… The fourth one’s a trip is all I’ll say.

We’re not gonna be breaking the films apart; we’re not gonna be fact-checking them (that has been done a million times). If you’re looking for an in-depth breakdown or, like, a very long explanation of everything that these movies get wrong, there are so many.

I will link some of them, including a really good series by Big Joel, in which he abbreviates “God’s Not Dead” to GND, which we will also be doing. So…thanks. Now, you might be asking yourself, “What does the Christian grassroots kickstarter love

Actually starring The Newsboys series have to do with the eight-episode, critically acclaimed miniseries, “Midnight Mass”? Apart from the obvious answer, which is tone, we have 19th-century existentialism, Russian literature, and the Christian Bible. Also, I have seen them both. That’s the main thing they have in common. That’s what got us here.

I saw one, and I saw the other, and I was like, “Hmm, I’ve got nothing else to do for six months.” “Seriously, you’ve got to get a life.” “Yeah, tell me about it.” In September of 2021, the man behind the mass, Michael Flanagan himself, said of using the

Bible as a kind of source material, that he was shocked for the first time comprehending what a really strange book it is. He said, “There are so many ideas I’d never heard before in church, and the violence of the Old Testament God is terrifying–slaughtering babies and drowning the earth.

It really struck me that I didn’t know my faith at that point.” And I am not here to give you a cliff notes of the Bible, but he’s right. He’s not NOT right. Like, Revelations, which is technically New Testament, sits somewhere between, like, season

Three of “Game of Thrones” and “Saving Private Ryan” on the gore scale, okay? The seas are turning to blood. The rain is turning to blood. The sun is scorching the earth, and there are evil demon creatures rising up from the

Bowels of the cosmos to dump, like, literal bowls of hellfire onto a decaying planet, ravaging its way through every molecule of joy and life left on its dry, cracked surface like Elon Musk running through Silicon Valley! Full disclosure: I was kicked out of CCD before I could make my confirmation.

CCD, if you don’t know — if you grow up Catholic, but you’re too poor to go to Catholic school — is what you do, like, a couple nights a week in addition to, like, Sunday School so

You can get your communion and your confirmation and, like, be holy in the eyes of the Lord, okay? It’s a requirement. I hated it. For reasons I will not disclose, I was not allowed to complete my studies and make my

Confirmation, so I don’t know if, in those last three months of eighth grade, they teach revelations, but I was never taught Revelations. I don’t know if they teach it in Catholic school; I would ask my mom, but it’s 1 AM, so…no.

Anyway, it is absolutely terrifying, which makes it perfect for filmmakers who are looking to, like, twist some religion into their horror. “Revelation.” The 1973 cult classic “The Exorcist” takes the concept of demons and devils and possession from intangible fears to absolute fact when 12-year-old Regan becomes possessed by an

Entity claiming to be the devil itself. That possession and following exorcism result in very real physical damage for the characters and the people around them within the universe of the film. Other films, like “Midsommar”, utilize religious structures and emphasize, like, the dangers

Of groupthink, blind faith, and what can happen when a simple religious belief falls into the wrong, twisted train of thought and barrels off the track. 2014 cinematic masterpiece “Left Behind”, which arguably religious horror for religious people, with its coordinating book series, is also a decent-ish example of this.

Relative unknown Nicolas Cage stars in his breakout role as a pilot who is flying a plane (as they do) when suddenly, boom, half the people in the world are gone because it’s the rapture…and he got left behind. So, then it’s just him and Chad Michael Murray in a very weird rendition of “Speed”…?

But with a plane? Because they can’t land? Because all of the TSA workers evidently were great Christians and went up to heaven, so there’s no one to, like, coordinate a landing, and the world is falling into just sheer chaos below them.

So, they’re just driving around until they run out of fuel, and, luckily, his daughter–his godless daughter–also got left behind. And she’s, like, about to but she stops and calls her dad, and she commandeers a truck and, like, moves shit around and makes a runway so they could land the plane just in time

For the whole world to catch fire. It’s a hoot. Highly recommend watching it. Anyway, so, “Midnight Mass” does something similar, creating a very unique monster element by looking at the darker, more graphic imagery of the biblical texts like Revelation and stories like the Old Testament stories and taking it at face value.

The story is set mostly between the holy days of Ash Wednesday and Easter. It’s initially following Riley as he returns to his hometown of Crockett Island. Crockett is a strongly Catholic community, very isolated, and they become increasingly violent after a new priest rolls into town and starts performing some miracles.

So, we have these two worlds: the “God’s Not Dead” universe–a high-concept fantasy world in which the American education system functions as a tool for an oppressive regime designed specifically to smoke out and crush any and all faith in Jesus Christ as the savior per

Satan’s bidding–and we have “Midnight Mass”–an introspective horror series that takes place on a remote island where Catholicism dominates the social climate and lulls individuals into a twisted sense of righteousness and moral superiority. Two pieces of media coming from wildly different perspectives, serving wildly different agendas,

Both relying heavily on religion (specifically Christianity) as not only a theme and, like, motivator behind production but as the backbone for everything from the plot to the characters to the dialogue itself, takes notes from traditional religious structures and texts and utilizes scripture and its many interpretations.

Both “Midnight Mass” and “God’s Not Dead” offer prime examples of how religious interpretation and representation exists in our current media landscape. Also, it has vampires. Nietzsche (bless you) – Part two. There are not many things that myself and the creators of the “God’s Not Dead” franchise

See eye to eye on, but, on one front, we are united. And that is that any man who likes Ayn Rand is not to be trusted under any circumstances. I do not care who you are; I do not care if you wrote your thesis on it; I don’t want to hear it.

Ayn Rand is a red flag so bright it’s on fire. A burning red flag. Several, several burning red flags, in fact, lit up and lined up, spelling out the word “run” like an SOS on a remote island. And the “Gods Not Dead” crew absolutely knew this.

They had to know this because there is absolutely no other reason for Ayn Rand to be on this board unless they were trying to signal to the audience: “This guy = bad fucking dude.” This board solely exists to clue viewers into the kind of venomous thinkers that Professor

Rattlesnake is going to use to poison the minds of all the hopeful possible Christians out there if discount Logan Lerman does not step up his game. “Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, George Santayana, Democritus…” Stakes. We have stakes in this film. Professor Radisson, resident bad dude, waltzes into class, declares God is dead, and then

Requires all of his students sign a paper agreeing to that fact and/or fail the class. Which is bonkers, but we’re gonna let it slide because “Midnight Mass” has vampires. Honestly, that’s gonna give “God’s Not Dead”, like, a lot of leeway just for the record.

So, in this nightmarish fantasy universe where the education system is the villain and philosophy classes look like this… “I would like to bypass this senseless debate altogether and jump to the conclusion whi–jump to the conclusion whi–jump to the conclusion whi–jump to–jump–jump–jump–jump to the

Conclusion which every sophomore is already aware of: there is no god.” The infamous God’s-not-dead mantra that 19-year-old liberal arts students everywhere have tattooed on their biceps, courtesy of the late 19th-century German philosopher and existentialist Friedrich Nietzsche, rears its ugly head. And we’re not getting on me about my pronunciation of Nietzsche.

I’m gonna try, but I went to the same high school as all of you; all I ever heard was “Nietzsch-ee”. So…bleh. He’s not here to correct me, and he has yet to pay for his crimes, so…”Nietzsch-ee.” Nietzsche was born in Röcken, Germany in 1844.

He was the son of a Lutheran pastor, and he was a super influential thinker, mostly known today for being the reason that that film major you dated sophomore year of university turned into a douchebag for a whole semester.

Also, the nazis got real hype on his work, which, he was mostly senile by that point, but it wasn’t exactly a stretch. It doesn’t take a genius to make the leap from “uberman” to “eugenics”, okay? It’s…it’s not even a leap. It’s not even a step.

It’s an elevator–a very, very packed elevator where everyone walks out smelling like shit. Anyway, Nietzsche–some of Nietzsche’s other notable contributions include the idea that man must accept itself as the part of the material world, physical world, classism, and also that time that he murdered God with gay science.

“The Gay Science” was published in 1882 and is severely lacking in homosexual overtones, if I do say so myself. The Homosexual Chemistry gets the most credit for popularizing Nietzsche’s murder of God because of this, like, sick ass quote, right? It’s good. It’s a good phrase. It’s a good one.

If you really want to know more about, like, where the ideas come from and, like, why that’s an important statement–because that was not, like, the thesis, right? “God is dead” is not, like, the end; that’s not his big proclamation–I would say you should read “Thus Spake Zarathustra” or “Zarath-uh-stra”? I don’t know.

It’s basically where this man, like, achieves enlightenment and, like, comes out of a cave, and, but kind of like Cassandra, sort of struggles to get anyone to believe him. He goes off for a couple of chapters about how humanity is just, like, a bridge between

Animals and the uberman/mensch/overman/superman–it’s a translation thing–but also, like… Then it goes into a whole, like, “faith is for the weak; we should just tough it out and be smarter like me; climb the metaphorical mountain, and you can be freed from the pain of regular life and prejudices and moral values”.

Then, he shits on Christianity for a little while, goes back into the cave, and starts over. Don’t fight me on that. He was all about being the “higher people”. He compares himself to Beethoven or something at one point! Nietzsche was kind of a dick. I shouldn’t put that in there.

I can’t just call Nietzsche a dick. Eh…he’s kind of a dick. And he’s writing all of this during the Enlightenment period, so he’s got–like, all these people are really already questioning the very Christian foundations that many societies had been built on. Science is advancing. It’s the tail end of the Industrial Revolution, right?

Things have changed; the world is different, and Nietzsche believes that God does not serve us anymore. The belief in God no longer serves us. So, when Jocelyn Wheatboy’s philosophy professor comes into class that day and says that it’s a metaphor, he’s mostly right.

Nietzsche never thought God existed in the first place–which is confusing because to say God is dead clearly implies that God must have once been alive, but Nietzsche did not think that God was alive. Nietzsche thought there was no God ever; he was not into it.

And there’s this misconception, I think, with the “God’s Not Dead” films that, because they are bad, they do not understand what they are talking about. Because they are not well made and they are unrealistic to a secular audience, that they must be using concepts and terminology that they just–they just don’t get.

I do not think that that’s the case–not only because I think that that’s a weak argument, but also because Professor Ratballs does not come in and require his students to write down the phrase “Nietzsche was right.” He doesn’t ask them to write down, like, “All hail Nietzsche.”

He asks them to write down “God is dead” because Nietzsche wrote down that phrase and made that statement famous. And because that is the quote that the film is referring to, people assume that that is the version of the phrase in which the film would like to engage. Maybe? Sure? We don’t know.

If you’ve learned anything from the two videos that I have made, you should know that we’re not here to take things at face value. We are here to always go one step too far–to go down the road less traveled by until we hit a cliff.

Wherever you–when you think you’re at the end, just keep going a little bit further. I want to give these films a fair shake, so we have to read beyond the quote itself and start looking at the concept of God being dead because that, my friends, is not a Nietzsche original.

Nietzsche’s use of it in The Queer Biology is most likely a reference to the philosopher Heine, who, in his work, “Religion and Philosophy in Deutschland”, cites Immanuel Kant’s first critique as “a sacrament brought to a dying God.” Okay! Sorry!

We’ll talk more about Kant in the ethics section (because there will be an ethics section), but, for now, all you need to know is that Kant basically was the guy who was like, “We can’t know anything about God. Real (question mark) (question mark) (question mark)?” and sort of just pushed that question

Out of, like, academic philosophical thought and into religious theological thought. He was just like, “Not my circus, not my monkey,” you know what I mean? Heine dug this and called Kant the “great destroyer in the realm of thought” and, his

Work (the first critique), as “the sword with which deism was slain in Germany.” What am I doing writing? Who do I think I am? “Who do you say I am?” So, then, Nietzsche comes along, fast-forward, with his, like, metaphysics of becoming and

His new enlightenment mindset, and he was like, “Yeah, God was dying; now he’s dead. We have killed him; let’s move on.” But saying that “God’s Not Dead” wants to bring Christianity back into the godless, communist academic hellscape that the world has become is also not a complicated read. It’s the plot.

Which means that we need to go even further back to the beginning because the idea of God dying and God being killed does not come from atheists; it doesn’t come from philosophers; it doesn’t come from scientists. It comes from Christians. Part three – The Christian Redemption Cycle…

…adds an extra six minutes to your laundry cycle, costs 50 cents extra, BUT it is the only one that will get those blood stains out. For those of you unfamiliar with the origin story of Christianity… *I am not here to give you a cliff notes of the bible* …here’s the cliff notes.

Jesus: son of God, but also kind of God (it’s confusing, roll with it); sent down to earth; has some hot takes; gets killed for those takes; is dead for, like, three days; rises from the grave; pops back to earth; forgives humanity for all of its debauchery.

That is the, like, literal-ish situation as it was recorded in the best, most detailed account of JC’s life: the New Testament, which is obviously biased. That’s a hot take on its own, right? [Eerie music] If you are looking for a more historically accurate understanding, “Let’s Talk Religion”

Has a really great video as part of a collaboration series about the likelihood of Jesus being, like, a real human dude. For our purposes, though, we are discussing the crucifixion itself with the presumption that it was at least a physical event that happened to a physical person, and it served

Then as an allegory for the beliefs of his followers and became the kind of bedrock story for what we now call Christianity and it’s 7.5 billion denominations. Because, whether or not we know that it happened, the idea that it happened–the story of it–is

The one thing that they all kind of-sort of-sometimes-maybe agree on: son of God dies for our sins; we know this because he comes back, and he tells us. And he has a really important theme of sacrifice; evangelizing; spreading the truth against

The grain; sitting in the darkness with nothing but your faith beside you; the ability to balance the scales of sin in the eyes of God. All of those elements and storytelling things sort of bubble out from this event. The death of Jesus Christ becomes both a physical and a psychological event.

The crucifixion of a dude who is going around with different ideas on God has a really profound effect on the psyche of the individuals who really believed that he was the S.O.G. They live on for three days thinking that God is dead. And, like, what the fuck does that mean?

They don’t know if he’s gonna rise again; they have no idea! They’re in the olden times still, like, with that Old Testament God who is super not kind all the time. The relationship with God is so different in that time; pre-C.E. humans were evidently rather disappointing in the eyes of the Lord.

At least we had the power to be disappointing, right? To disobey commands and ideas–intentionally or not. We were less like a game of Sims and more like a studio apartment full of, like, a shit-ton of puppies and kittens–seven billion puppies and kittens just running around, shitting

On the carpet, peeing on the plants, knocking things over, and occasionally killing each other. In pre-Jesus world, it was completely possible to be abandoned by God, not just on an individual level, but all of us. To be punished by God for your behavior, right?

With things like lightning strikes and famines and pimples. So, it makes sense that, while most people were kind of like, “Okay, Dave, whatever,” when Jesus said that he was the son of God, the people that did believe him were pretty

Fucking concerned when a bunch of their fellow puppies murdered him on a goddamn cross. Because, sure, he said “son,” but he didn’t mean that God got married, settled down, and Jesus was, like, off at college on Earth.

God, like, took a part of himself, put it into this woman, made a baby, and she came out, and that’s what we got. It’s a weird–it’s very weird. It’s, yeah, like, we’re not talking about immaculate conception because that is… Jesus wasn’t the immaculate conception, by the way. It was mary.

Anyway, that’s a pretty terrifying time to exist. It’s not a fun time to be a follower of Jesus. They weren’t quite called Christians at the time. So, when we talk about modern-day Christians living perpetually on Holy Saturday, we’re talking about them living psychologically in that space between Jesus’s death on Good

Friday and his resurrection on Sunday–i.e. Saturday [Applause]–constantly waiting for the second coming; for Jesus to return and validate all of their good work and forgive all of the sins that other people–I mean “they”–have been doing. Only, Jesus cannot rise again if he is not killed in the first place, and he didn’t exactly

Die a second time on that Sunday. So, what do you do, right? What–what do you do then, right? You go back to the beginning: eternal recurrence. Start spreading the word. Only, you can’t spread the word to people who already believe, so you need to find people

Who don’t believe–people for whom (wait for it)… God is dead. If I had a mic, I’d drop it. First episode of “Midnight Mass” includes one of my three favorite scenes in the whole series. It’s so good I googled “mass times” after it.

It takes place after mass, right outside of St. Patrick’s church while everyone is introducing themselves to their hot new priest, Father Paul, because he just gave this, like, sick ass sermon. “The crockpot…” So, Riley had been dragged to church by his family but did not go up to take communion.

Which is accurate; you’re really, like, not supposed to take communion if you haven’t been to confession and you’re not, like, practicing. It’s just–it’s rude. When I go to church, I don’t take communion. And you do get some looks. People notice; it’s very obvious when you don’t go.

So, Father Paul notices this, and he’s like, “Yo, saw you didn’t take communion,” and, instead of, like, shitting on Paul’s god for five minutes, Riley just says that he’s just not, like, really in a state of grace at the moment.

He’s trying to be nice about it; he’s trying to, like, let him off the hook. He’s like, “I’m just not feeling it.” And Father Paul looks at him and just says… “Uh, turns out I’m not much use to people who are in a state of grace.”

Such a perfect moment, and it’s right off the bat in episode one. It’s one of the reasons that this show immediately comes off as palatable to religious-wary folks and non-religious folks and probably even religious and probably even Catholics.

I have not actually asked any Catholics, but I cannot imagine that they’re that mad about it. It’s not that bad! And, like, I’m half Catholic; we never shy away from drama. We put children in, like, wedding garb and princess dresses to eat some crackers for the first time.

There’s a reason that they still wear those fucking robes and drink out of these, like, massive goblets, right? Like, it’s not necessary. We just like it. Catholics get a bad rep for being boring because, like, it’s true, but, also, we all like a little bit of sparkle.

Don’t let any of them tell you they don’t. So, this scene exemplifies the pulsing undertone of the capital-C Christian redemption arc. Riley had been this devout altar boy, like, practicing Catholic (he prays when we first-first-first meet him) who has been in a terrible accident, experienced trauma, and has been left with

Just, like, grief and doubt and self-hatred; he’s lost his way; he’s living alone on Holy Saturday; feels abandoned by God. He’s in this place where God is dead, surrounded by believers–like, concerned loved ones pressuring him to do things like go to church to make communion, to find faith because they think

It will fix him or because they think that it will look better from the outside if he does all of these things. Either way, all of these people just trying to shove him into the arms of a dead God as

Soon as possible, and it’s Father Paul, the priest, who just sort of shrugs, and is like, that’s kind of the point. He’s like, “Yeah, it’s fine.” He’s like, “You don’t have–like, that’s why we’re here.” He’s like, “That’s the whole damn reason.”

This stranger–on his first day at a new church, being love-bombed by, like, a desperate people trying to prove their devotion like precocious middle children who don’t feel seen by their parents–gives Riley an olive branch that we didn’t know we wanted him to have. And, suddenly, things change; because, suddenly, we trust Paul.

We maybe kind of want Riley to take this journey back to God, right? Because we want all of our protagonists to be happy and achieve some kind of security and safety and overcome their traumas and their shame.

And, at this moment, like, that’s being presented to us in the form of Catholicism, of Christianity, as this pastor coming into town like Jesus himself trying to make things better. In contrast to that setup, protagonists in “God’s Not Dead” films are rarely non-believers.

And they are technically ensemble casts, but the central characters in these films are typically not seeking any kind of salvation–religious or not. Usually, they are the ones doling it out. Josh Weedleboro is not presented as having lost faith and looking to re-enter, like, communion with God.

In fact, he is presented and remains one of the most steadfast, firm-believing Christians in the whole series throughout all of the films. He’s in, like, all of them, and he just never loses that. “Do you have a Bible?” “Yeah.”

Time and time again, he insists that he has to do this for God, sacrificed be damned. He loses sleep; his grades slip; his girlfriend breaks up with him, and he might have to go to the Newsboys alone. “My mother was so right about you.” But he stays devoted.

Because the emphasis in that version of the redemption arc is not on the lost and the fallen, who exist mostly as prizes, really, like adding up one by one like points at the end of a video game at the end of every film.

The emphasis is on the stalwart belief of these Christians who exist psychologically beyond the resurrection in a world where Jesus has already returned and given salvation to his followers. They are high on that forgiveness and proof of God. [Music] “When I, in awesome wonder, consider all…”

So, we have the characters in “God’s Not Dead” functioning in, like, a Jesus-like role, and, then, we have the characters in “Midnight Mass” pretty much functioning as, like, the apostles. Even Father Paul. All of its protagonists are psychologically in the place of the apostles either pre-crucifixion or between the crucifixion and the resurrection.

They’re all, like, wandering aimlessly, sort of searching for God. This is a very good reflection of Catholicism versus Evangelical Christianity that we see in the American South and what is presented in “God’s Not Dead.” Catholicism is all about that guilt with a capital-G. It’s about repenting your way back to heaven.

We’re still making up for the sins of Eve. We’re still guilty. Your baby is born guilty; that is why you baptize that shit. It’s just the way that it is. Whereas, you know, American sort of Evangelical Christianity as we know it in these films

Is presented with its strong focus on saving–on being saved. It’s got its roots in Protestantism. And the importance of giving your life to God and, like, verbally and physically acknowledging Jesus as your savior, being given salvation through the power of that faith and that belief alone,

Is very much reflected in the way that these two pieces of media approach the redemption cycle. Either way, the death of Mr. Jesus Christ of Nazareth is a core component of Christianity at its very base–at its very, the very bottom of its soul, it’s there.

And that story of sacrifice and martyrdom and redemption and fighting for your beliefs–all of these elements in this story are still found in the modern storytelling context that we know, like the hero’s journey and things like that, right? There’s, like, “leaving home”, “call to action”, “moment of doubt”; like, all of those can

Be sort of found in this redemption cycle as well as in other biblical tales. It’s why films like “Silence” and “Noah” are able to captivate audiences both religious and non-religious alike. It’s why “Left Behind” exists; it’s why Pureflix was able to make four of these films in the first place.

There are so many ways to tell this kind of story–to talk about redemption and forgiveness and faith. And all of them start with the death of God. Part four: God death – Causes, symptoms, treatment Episode one of “Midnight Mass”, we open on a flashback.

Red and blue lights; glass on the ground; Nickelback in the background; it’s nighttime, the scene of an accident; and we pan to our first protagonist, Riley, where he sits on the side of the road, all banged up, praying the “Our Father”.

For those of you who don’t know, the “Our Father” is basically the “Party in the USA” of Catholic prayers. It is the Billboard top 100 25 weeks in a row: stone-cold classic. It’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”; it does everything you need it to do; everyone knows it; no one forgets it. It’s *french kiss*, right?

It’s just iconic. And it’s definitely the only one I remember. “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us;

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.” Put a bit too much feeling in that. Sorry. So, Riley’s on this curb; he’s praying; he’s obviously horrified by the situation; scared out of his mind; not at all injured in this car accident; spends four years in prison;

Reads all the books, and comes to the conclusion that there is no God. There can’t be. And, therefore…atheist. On the other side of the void, in “God’s Not Dead”, our prominent long-time atheist, Professor Rodelson, is being a menace.

“But know this: if you truly feel the need to continue with this charade, I will make it my personal mission to destroy any hope of a law degree in your future.” “Know thyself, darling. Know thyself. Which I suggest means knowing your own limitations.”

We don’t get any kind of fun, like, flashback sequence for him. Instead, we just find out later that, long before Henry David Adam Rattlebomb was starting pissing contests with 19-year-olds instead of doing his job, he was a believer. And, as a child, he was, like, super gung-ho on God.

Then, his mom got sick, and he, like Riley, prayed to the Lord to save her. She was not saved, and, therefore, he reasons “No God”, thus…atheist. So, both of these films have come to the conclusion that a common cause of God-death for the individual

Is “Bad things happening to good people and prayers unanswered”–which is a fair conclusion given that philosophers and theologians and just general humans have been losing their minds over this forever. Fyodor Dostoevsky explores this and like 57 other concepts in his 1880 novel, “The Brothers Karamazov”.

Bet you thought I forgot that I mentioned 19th-century Russian literature, didn’t you? Nope, not even a little bit. We’re just getting started, but I didn’t want to scare you off. Because this book is way too long to summarize, but the gist of it is Mr. Karamazov was a

Shitty dad; he’s got three sons who pretty much get raised by different people. Alyosha ends up being, like, super religious. Ivan is a smart-ass philosopher; Dmitri is a soldier-turned-criminal-turned-like, kind of decent-dude. There is an inheritance; there’s some murder; a lot of asides; a lot of dialogues; and a lot of quips.

It’s really great; you don’t need to have read it in order to understand what I will be talking about when I reference it; trust me, Josh didn’t. But I love it. I love Dostoevsky; “Crime and Punishment” is one of my favorite novels. I think that his writing is just magical; it’s so good.

What you do need to know is that, during one of the many long dialogues between the brothers, godly man Alyosha is listening to diet Kierkegaard Ivan express his struggle to square the suffering of children with the existence of God. So, why should they serve as fertilizer for someone’s future harmony, right?

That is what Ivan says. In this world where suffering is often seen as a punishment by God for sin, how can innocent children who have not sinned be allowed to suffer and, on that note, why should they embrace a Lord that allows them to suffer, right?

His Euclidean ideal justice system that relies so heavily on acts of evil being punished directly (just as acts of good are rewarded directly) clashes with this idea of a benevolent, all-forgiving god who could return at any moment, empty out hell, and release all humanity from sin.

Ivan’s rejection of God differs slightly from Riley or Radisson’s in that Ivan is less concerned with the existence of God and more concerned with the value of God. He basically tells Alyosha, “If God exists–if THAT God exists that’s allowing child abusers

And monsters to walk free, and that is the world we live in? No, thank you. I politely would like to return my ticket,” right? That’s what he says. So, Ivan is really on the struggle bus here, because Alyosha is not doing him any favors because it’s Dostoyevsky.

And Dostoyevsky is a Christian whose middle name is “devil’s advocate”, and he was in, like, a shitstorm of grief when he wrote this–on top of just, like, a very long and painful life. And, so, basically, Ivan just ends up sort of exhausted by Alyosha every time they have a conversation.

“Today is critical for us, and I am finished. Complete honesty. How does it make you feel?!” So, he descends into full-blown madness over this (which I get–family triggers all of us), but, before any of that, he just kind of concedes to the argument, right?

He’s just kind of like, “Fine, it’s not God that I don’t accept; it’s the world that he created.” And that’s, like, enough to settle that chapter and move on. Now, Jasper Wedone tries to take a page out of this book and, basically, in his third

Argument with Professor Radisson, just starts, like, rattling Dostoevsky off on him and morality and quotes and just gets into a screaming match with Professor Raddison that cultivates in this moment: “It’s a very simple question, Professor. Why do you hate God?” “Because he took everything away from me!”

Plot twist: he was never really an atheist; he was just sad. And, luckily, when he gets hit by a car 14 minutes later, Reverend Dave just happens to be right there just in time for him to accept Jesus into his heart with his dying breath, thus saving him from eterminal damnation. Whew.

In a piece published by the University of Pennsylvania press, Eric Von Der Luft describes a key difference between the death of God from a Christian perspective and from a Nietzschean perspective, in that Christian’s the loss of God is something that happens by accident;

It stems out of a lack of faith; of spiritual blindness, right? The belief in God for the individual is killed by the oppressor, who simply does not know the truth. And, for Nietzsche, it is an act of defiance in the face of near-constant tragedy and turmoil.

It is not something that happens to humans but something that humans do. WE have killed him. Humans have deliberately done away with that which is no longer beneficial to our progress. Nietzsche was kind of obsessed with his own little idea of progress–not progress, like,

As we would see it in 2021, where people become more equal and understanding and respectful, but more of a spiritual evolution for himself. A metaphysics of becoming rather than being. Searching into yourself and searching for the self and understanding yourself and your connection to the world was of the utmost importance.

He wanted humans to be in a perpetual motion; constantly changing and becoming our sort of best, ideal versions of ourselves–like, the most awake, the most enlightened, the most perfect. Are you seeing why the nazis got so hype on this?

Anything that sort of hinders or interrupts that forward motion (like the idea of a perfect God who is infinitely better than man) has got to go. For Nietzsche, believing in God is like chaining your wrist to a block of cement and throwing

The key into an incinerator; a form of self-imprisonment, like a castration of the soul. Humanity has done and needs to continue to assert its free will and refuse to believe in the great man in the sky, therefore killing his presence in the collective consciousness and allowing us to become… superheroes.

And that is how Riley went about it. When confronted with the cognitive dissonance of bad things happening to good people, he reads all the books and comes to the conclusion that there is no God and just does away with that which is no longer beneficial to him.

Was he doing this with the intention of becoming the superman? No. But… Irony is gonna iron. Riley’s atheism is a choice; it is the killing of God in a deliberate and permanent fashion. He does not ever voluntarily take the sacrament throughout the show.

He does not return back into the covenant of the Lord. It is an evolutionary step in his psychology, arrived at following years of research and (not unlike Ivan) intellectual reasoning. “A lot of time to read in there, and I read it all: Torah, Quran, Talmud, Dao De Jing.

Came out of that an atheist.” Radisson’s atheism is a product of a cruel world; it is something that happened to him that caused him immense pain and suffering always and, most importantly, (like Ivan’s) is temporary. And, so, despite being set up for what could be a typical Christian redemption arc–Riley

Returning to the faith, the prodigal son both physically and spiritually—his story ends with him still outside of the covenant of the Lord–technically speaking, if we’re taking free will into account, which…we’ll get to. “Free–” “Free will. That’s the ball game, wasn’t it? That’s the whole thing.” When Riley killed God, it worked.

When Radisson killed God, he came back. And, so, there’s this, like, recurring theme in “God’s Not Dead’s” universe where, if a character refuses God, their life is… *Sobbing* …like shit with a capital-S. Bad things happen to them. They get cancer. Their moms die. They burn down churches and kill people.

Last one was an accident, but still–point still stands. These characters are consistently punished until they are either putting their faith in God or they’re just abandoned to wallow in their misery forever. *More Sobbing* The only solution to their pain and troubles…is Jesus. Part 5: [Music] “Why should I die?”

In order for Riley to stay out of jail, he has to do these weekly AA meetings; but there are only, like, four people on Crockett Island, and none of them are ready to admit their powerlessness to the blood of Christ just yet, so he is forced to go all the way to

The mainland every week so he can get his little paper signed by the dude for probation. This is a bummer because there are only two boats: one that comes to the island and one that leaves every day–that’s all you get.

So, if he misses that first boat and he misses this appointment he’s capital-F fucked, right? So, Father Paul is like, “Hey, I will start a chapter here so I can sign your paper, and you don’t have to go all the way to the mainland anymore.” And Riley’s like, “Sick!

That makes my life a lot easier. Let’s do it.” And this sets up a series of dialogues that happen between these two characters–these long, drawn-out scenes of conversations between Riley and Father Paul in this empty rec center right next to the church.

This feels a lot like the scenes that we get between various characters in “The Brothers Karamazov”, where you have two people with drastically differing opinions on a subject just playing, like, intellectual tennis just back and forth, back and forth, ripping open

Cans of worms one after another and letting them crawl all over each other like that was the point the whole time; pushing and pulling for answers and completely ignoring the nagging feeling in the back of your head that everything is meaningless and there is no truth because

We are forever trapped within our own personal perception of the world no matter how much talking we do. We’ll never truly understand if the color that I say is red and you say is red is actually the same color! Our stupid, weak little puny retinas could be interpreting entirely different sensations

In our brains, and we would have no idea because, technically, the same thing that we saw is also the same thing that we said, but it’s different and we don’t know. So, these long back-and-forths in “Midnight Mass” echo a lot of the discussions from “Brothers Karamazov”

Almost beat-for-beat, with Riley initially playing the part of Ivan or even, like, Nietzsche himself, when Father Paul says to him to say whatever he wants about Christianity. “…just not want to offend you.” “That’s tough to do. And AA is not about protecting people’s feelings, is it? It’s about recovery.”

Father Paul’s not doing this to convert Riley. Father Paul is doing this because he thinks it’s what he was sent back to Crockett Island to do, which is help people. So, when Riley makes the argument that Radisson makes and that Ivan makes, and he says,

“Bad things happening to good people…what’s up?” and Father Paul gives him the basic, like, “Who knows what the big man’s plan is; it’s got to be a good one,” Riley doesn’t hold back. He says “God works in mysterious ways” is just something people say as an excuse not to hold themselves accountable.

And Father Paul says this: “Look, there’s nothing in the scripture or in the world, for that matter, that suggests God negates personal accountability.” And, so, it’s this kind of dance around the subject of “God real (question mark)?” Because Father Paul very clearly believes in God and Riley very clearly does not, and

They’re trying to have this discussion about the structures and the way that people use religion in their lives because that’s something that they’ve both experienced. “We can all just stand by and watch Lisa Scarborough wheel herself around town. We can watch Joe Collie slowly drink himself to death.

We can watch so many people just slip into these bottomless pits of awful, and we can stand it. We can tolerate it because we can say things like, ‘God works in mysterious ways’.” So, Riley’s talking about the way that people use God, and Father Paul is kind of talking

About the way that God uses people. “God can take that pain and turn it into something good–something with purpose. Suffering can be a gift; that just depends on us.” And this is another one of those reasons that it’s so palatable, I think, to religious and

Non-religious people to watch “Midnight Mass”, because it takes these discussions very seriously. And it’s one of the reasons that Christians love Dostoyevsky and so do non-Christians, right? It’s not taking a side; it’s opening the discussion. And you get a sort of similar dynamic in the second “God’s Not Dead” movie, where Sabrina

The teenage witch is having, like, a dangerously close to flirtatious discussion with her non-religious lawyer when he asks her about why she became Christian. So, she tells this sort of vague story about her being in some kind of a bad place without

Any details and coming across a church with a sign that said “Who do you say I am?” And that scene differs greatly in depth and length because it’s an ensemble film; it’s not an eight-episode miniseries. They have a lot of story lines to get through, and, also, it’s important to remember that

Their target audience is Christians; so, the fact that there isn’t much time spent on or giving details about Grace’s pre-Christianity backstory makes a lot of sense and is very in line with Evangelical Christianity in the American South and, like, the American West. [Music] “And I was struggling with a lot of things.”

Evangelicals are born again when you accept Jesus into your soul; into your heart; when you re-baptize as an adult. Who you were before doesn’t matter. Who you are now is what’s important. You can accept God into your heart with your dying breath, and that’s enough.

Which, for the record, I do think is a very beautiful sentiment. And it works within the narrative, because Grace’s story is not about what belief in God gave her the strength to do or change; it’s the idea that simple belief was all it took.

She’s not trying to sell him on having to make all of the tough choices and do the things that she had to do after she found God; she’s trying to sell him on the feeling that believing in God gives her. “As I read it, I could hear the Lord speak to me.

So, that was the start of a journey that didn’t end until I found the answer.” But she doesn’t tell you what the answer is. “Please don’t forsake me…” When our journalist character is in remission, she finds herself in the church with Jude, where she confesses that she’s really struggling to believe.

And he actually does kind of echo the sentiment that Father Paul gives in the beginning of “Midnight Mass”, which is: that’s the point. [Music] “He delights in using us in ways we never dreamed of and giving us things that we never even knew we wanted.” The “God’s Not Dead” franchise paints this struggle to believe as not an individual struggling to achieve the state of believing but as the individual wanting so badly to believe but being bogged down by the world. It’s not that she doesn’t want to believe or she doesn’t believe, it’s that she wants

So badly to believe that the world is coming for her. “He who believes in me will live, even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” *Screams* “Do you believe this? Then invite him into your heart, and make him the Lord of your life.”

The carrot that GND is dangling in front of its Holy Saturday characters is liberation from anything and everything negative. The message in the first two films is “just give Jesus the wheel, and he will drive you straight to heaven without a single surcharge. Sure, bad things happen, but they’re not your fault.

They’re not your fault as long as you believe. They’re the big, bad American education system’s fault. They’re the world’s fault. They’re the government’s fault. They’re the atheists’ fault. “What makes you so sure?” “Speed of change. Viciousness of the opposition.

The message of the gospel has us standing in the way of a lot of things that powerful people want, and our resistance to change that message because it’s not ours to change has made us a lot of enemies.” Grace isn’t about to lose her job because she started preaching during geometry class.

She’s not about to lose her job because she answered a question. She’s about to lose her job because the slimy, fire-breathing demon children of the leftist overlords are throwing chains around the Bill of Rights and shoving copies of “The Origins

Of Species” down the throats of hard-working American Christians and, God, why won’t anyone listen to Jordan Peterson?! And this sounds ridiculous. “I do think I have an unusually high regard for the value of evidence…” Because these scenarios are ridiculous. “You understand that I might die.” “I’m sorry about that.”

Sabrina would never have been fired or given any sort of discipline for answering a question about the story of Jesus in the Bible whilst they are talking about martyrs and influential thinkers. A philosophy professor would never force his students to sign a paper or fail.

Social workers will not shut down your homeschooling co-op because you taught your kids about Noah’s ark. These are not things that happen in the real world; but they ARE things that happen in the Bible. Jesus? Obviously literally killed for hanging out and doing miracles.

Pretty sure John the Baptist gets, like, imprisoned and then beheaded for calling out the king on his BS. Jacob ends up in prison. So many people go to jail; so many people end up in prison for believing in God. People get stoned, right? The seas run red with blood.

Like, this is the world of the bible. “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you. You will suffer persecution for 10 days.

Be faithful–even to the point of death–and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.” *Screaming* Religious horror is about taking the more abstract elements of religion and legitimizing them as fact within a given story. When we look at the “God’s Not Dead” films as an exploration of the traditional Christian

Redemption cycle, placing its Christian characters in the place of Jesus the prophet and atheist characters as disciples on Holy Saturday, then what we have is the American education system and, later, the government serving as the infamous persecutors as stand-ins for

The devil himself, coming down with rage and fire and constant temptation that must be overcome somehow. “If we stand by and do nothing, the pressure that we’re feeling today is going to mean persecution tomorrow.” “What makes you so sure?” Imagine that you don’t read fantasy.

You don’t grow up reading “Harry Potter”; you don’t grow up reading “The Hunger Games”; you don’t get to read the Percy Jackson books or things like this; you don’t watch these kinds of films; you don’t watch a lot of TV; everything is very curated. What you do read is the Bible.

What you do do is go to Bible study three times a week, and what you grow up to do is make films. This is the kind of film you would want to see; like, this is reality. [Music] [Applause]

Belief in God is the only thing standing between suffering and not suffering in this world. Questions like, “Who will wipe the blood off us?” or “All things are lawful, then?” aren’t questions that need answers in the face of a dead God; they’re experiences of suffering.

Not knowing what is right and what is wrong, being lost and confused, is a form of suffering in these films–a product of God’s death for the individual. And, by extension, any and all moments where one does not have faith in a Christian God are experienced as moments of suffering. “You’re beautiful…” [Music]

“…I wish you didn’t have to do that.” So…so, these movies are racist. There’s no way to get around that; we’re not sugar coating it. I’m giving them a fair shake but not there. They’re racist in addition to also being specifically very, very, very anti-muslim.

Ayisha is our character who is stereotyped as being, like, forced to cover up with a hijab and is presented as like– I’m sorry, I think–so, this is the point–this is the point in the script–I just realized

This is the point in the script where I started referring to people for whom God is dead as “deadlings”…? So, just henceforth…deadlings? So, Ayisha is stereotyped as being forced to cover up with her hijab and, like, presented as a deadling.

God is dead for her, and she is experiencing all of the horrible suffering as a direct result of her not being raised in a Christian household. She is kicked out of her house, not because her father is abusive and making a bad choice,

But because he doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ as the Lord and savior. Apart from the blatant misunderstanding and sheer lack of respect for Islamic culture and practices like hijab-wearing, the film also goes out of its way to make it very clear

That just believing in God is not enough; it has to be a specifically Christian God–their Christian God. “No, Papa(?), Jesus is my Lord and savior, and he died to save me from my sin.” And, now, we have a similar-ish story in “Midnight Mass” after the miracles start happening on

Crockett Island, where Sheriff Hassan’s son, Ali, wants to go to church and see what it’s all about because he’s 15 and his best friend’s girlfriend just started walking out of her wheelchair, right? Fuckin’, I would go too. And the sheriff is not stoked about it.

It’s actually really, really, really difficult for him that this is happening, because Bev Keane is so shitty, first of all, and also he has, like, a lifetime of racism and intolerance behind him. His wife had recently passed, and he had kind of converted to Islam for her, and they raised

Their son in this, in this faith. And, so, it opens up, like, a whole bunch of wounds that his son is now questioning. “If he handed Lisa Scarborough a miracle but let a child die of a brain tumor across the way on the mainland…no. No, that’s not how it works, Ali. It’s not.”

He’s not just upset that his son might be considering Catholicism. He’s upset because he feels like he’s losing his son. But, instead of kicking his son out of the house and right into the arms of Bev Keane,

It kind of opens up this dialogue where they discuss the different ways in which one can be connected to God outside of the bounds of any specific religion. The line that sticks out to me that he specifically says is–he says, “We already have him. We already have God.”

“I will not tell my son not to look for God. Son, oh. We already have him.” “Midnight Mass” also gives the opportunity for Sheriff Hassan to actually explain a bit about Islam to a room full of Christians and Catholics, and he breaks down that Muslims

Do actually believe that Jesus was a prophet–just not the last one. And, full disclosure, I didn’t know that. I had no idea–absolutely no idea. I…like I never…I spend a lot of time thinking about Christianity and thinking about Catholicism

And its split from Judaism, and I really have sort of left the other Abrahamic religion on its own, so i feel…I felt kind of shitty, but, um, but now I know. So, I’ll look into it. Also, that scene and, like, an hour and a half or so spent on Wikipedia and Google is

Kind of all that I have to go on, so please correct me if that was wrong or I did anything incorrect there. Please feel free to leave resources or any other information in, like, comments and stuff, as I would like to be corrected, and I would not like to spread misinformation.

Speaking of misinformation, “God’s Not Dead” doesn’t leave space for that kind of an explanation or any kind of education about any other religion because it simply will not do. You simply cannot be saved by Jesus if you don’t believe in Jesus, so…

That’s their logic. I do low-key think they tried to correct this in the third film. The thing about the third one is that they tried to correct a lot that they did in the first two that people really were not happy about; and one of the things was, I think

They were trying to be more tolerant; they were trying to make it seem like they were being more tolerant, but they definitely weren’t ready to give Muslims a chance, so they were, like, just having the judge be Catholic (which is a miracle on its own).

One of the two branches between Christianity and Catholicism is that Catholicism focuses really, really heavily on guilt–I mean repentance, sorry. It’s about feeling guilty, admitting you were wrong, feeling guilty, actively repenting, feeling guilty, saying ten Hail Mary’s, feeling guilty. That’s, that’s, that’s it. That’s the whole shebang, uh, to be honest.

There’s other things? There’s other things. The idea with the ten Hail Mary’s is you confess your sins to the priest through the screen, and, then, he kind of assigns you how many of what prayer you should say to make up for it.

And, technically, it’s like…repeating this prayer is for you to believe it, right? It’s the more that you say it, the more the words can sink in and the more you’ll be able to mean it. What it is, though, is spiritual capitalism. And we’re gonna get into that later.

But it relies on repenting for your sins first in order to gain forgiveness later…maybe. You’ve done wrong, so you have to make up for that; you’re constantly trying to, like, play catch-up to make sure that you are sort of in the right balance. Have you been to church enough?

Have you given enough to the collection? Have you gone to confession? How many times do you go to confession? Like, what are the good things that you’re doing? How many prayers are you saying to make up for all of these other terrible things that you’re definitely doing? Like…breathing.

We don’t breathe without the Holy Ghost. So, that’s a core foundation of Catholicism, and that comes all the way back—allll the way back–to pre-pre-split; like, Roman Catholicism pre-schism. Schism’s a big deal. I love a schism. There’s a million and five schisms, I think, exactly.

I think it’s, like, one million and five-and-a-half schisms that Christianity has had since its inception. But hot boy summer of 1054: THE Schism. The schism is, basically, when Western Roman Catholicism split from Catholicism and what we kind of now call Eastern Orthodoxy.

That’s important because that is kind of spread over to Russia; and what do we know when we’re talking about Russia? What are we talking about with Russia? Dostoyevsky and “The Brothers Karamazov”. So, that is the version of Christianity that they’re dealing with. So, now we have three (if you’re not keeping up).

We have the, like, American Evangelical Christianity that comes kind of from Protestantism, um, and has that emphasis on saving. We have Roman Catholicism or, more so, modern, like, New England Catholicism, which is, like, a bit irish, a bit all over the place–all guilt, all day.

And we have the Eastern Orthodoxy, which, that’s Dostoyevsky’s kind of wheelhouse. Same as Nietzsche, though, he’s in the enlightenment period, so things are changing; lots of political structures are changing; things are going crazy all the time everywhere. And the form of Christianity that we see in “Brothers Karamazov” is much closer to what

We get in “Midnight Mass”, in that there is a lot of that emphasis on kind of guilt and repentance, and there’s a strongly held belief in this book that one must suffer in order to repent and be forgiven, right?

We have characters who feel a tremendous amount of shame and guilt and desire to suffer as penance for God. Joe Collie is an alcoholic; he’s a loner; he’s a deadling. A few years before the events of “Midnight Mass”, he’s out in the woods drunk, shooting

What I’m assuming were dear I guess, and accidentally shoots little Lisa Scarbrough in the back, paralyzing her from the waist down. He wasn’t exactly well-liked before, but now he’s public enemy number two. Do I need to tell you who public enemy number one is? “It’s just, you’re wearing a gold chasuble today.

Shouldn’t it be green today? We’re in ordinary time; seventh sunday of ordinary time.” Joe Collie mirrors Dmitri in a lot of ways, one of them being, you know, terrible crimes in the past; a lot of it being that people have just given up on them.

In TBK, everybody just kind of assumes that Dmitri has killed his father or will kill his father. Like, they all think that he’s gonna become his father; he’s kind of seen as just, like, a lost cause. They’re like, “He’s a scoundrel; whatever,” and it really takes people kind of believing

In him and…and fighting for him to…for him to get the opportunity to grow as a person, and he does. Joe Collie is in the same boat. Everybody’s given up on him; they don’t think he’s capable of change; they hate him for

Shooting a little girl; and they don’t think that he’s worth their time or their love; and this is a struggle for Ivan in Brothers Karamazov as well. He says, “One can love one’s neighbors in the abstract or even at a distance; but, at close quarters, it’s almost impossible.”

Which is the same thing that Riley points out in one of those first AA meetings, where he says, “Yeah, everybody’s talking about how God loves everybody and we’re all God’s children, but they let Joe Collie drink himself to death; no one wants to give Joe Collie the time of day.”

Interestingly, though, Ivan really focuses on the suffering of children and the abusers of those children; and Riley really sees the Lisa Scarborough/Joe Collie situation for exactly what it is–which is just an awful, awful situation. Admittedly, um, Ivan’s not talking about, like, an individual situation; he’s talking about kind of grand scale, but still…

Neither of them can square this, right? This “God letting terrible things happen and allowing suffering”; it’s just error 404, please check your connection and try again later. It does not compute because it’s a cognitive dissonance. What is a cognitive dissonance?

A cognitive dissonance is what happens when you have two or more thoughts or experiences or beliefs or rationales rattling around in your little goldfish brain, existing in opposition to each other. The fact that you are a goldfish is not consistent with your understanding of a goldfish.

The fact that it is raining outside is not consistent with the fact that the weatherman said it would not rain. Unicorns are not real, but also… The little wires inside of our brains are desperate for consistency; normalcy. They like when things make sense.

We like watching the wine moms slot all of their cans right into spaces along the inside of their fridge, fitting perfectly across in a line. We like watching the Tetris pieces fall right where they’re supposed to. We like watching people organize things and do their…satisfying videos is an entire genre for a reason.

We like it when things come together nicely; we like it when things make sense; we like it when movies have good endings. We don’t want to be confused; we don’t want to be scared. It scatters our little brains and makes us malleable and weak like this dental guard

That I had to buy to stop myself from stress-grinding my teeth into nothingness while I lay in the dark for eight hours, every night, desperately hoping I’ll be sucked down into the wormhole of my subconscious for just a few short hours.

Cognitive dissonance fucks with your brain; it fucks with your sense of self and your sense of reality. And this is what happens when you are told that God is good always, and, then, not-so-good things are happening on God’s watch.

In order to resolve this issue, one of the incongruent thoughts must be abandoned, thrown away, spat on, and left for dead in a mysterious alleyway. My own experience and self-image does not line up with what I know to be the experience and image of a goldfish.

Then, I am either not a goldfish or I am not myself. Which, frankly… If the weatherman says it’s not raining, but it’s clearly raining outside, either the weatherman is wrong or my perception of reality is wrong; which, frankly… Either unicorns are real or this doesn’t exist.

Riley, Professor Radisson, Ivan — all presented with the same cognitive dissonance. The solution for Ivan is to return his ticket. The solution for Riley is that God is not real. The solution for “God’s Not Dead” characters is this… “God is good.” And the solution for Father Paul is, well… [Intense music]

Part six: “What do you want, Paul?” [Music] “Excuse me?” So. Here’s how it went down. Monsignor Pruitt: super fucking old; totally losing it; whole island sends him to Israel, the holy land; as, like, a make-a-wish before you die kind of thing.

On this trip, he does die (more or less), walking alone in a desert, totally off his rocker, runs into an angel who saves his life, makes him all young and hot again, sends him back to Crockett Island, takes this angel in a Trunkit, then he goes back to the Island,

Calls himself Father Paul, and starts lying to everyone constantly. One of the lies that he tells comes up during an AA meeting with Riley, right after Lisa Scarborough has begun to walk again. Riley, in an attempt to ease the cognitive dissonance of that shit, lays it all out for

Father Paul, and he’s like, “Look, scientifically, I get it. I can explain a misdiagnosis; I can explain miraculous recovery. It happens. I get how she can physically walk again. What I don’t get is how you knew she would be able to do it.”

And what this tells us is that Riley has enough faith in Father Paul as a person to know that he would never have asked Lisa to stand if he didn’t know she could do it. And the answer Father Paul gives him is that he just knew.

And he says, “I know that’s not enough for you. I envy you. I wish I could see the world scientifically and be able to reason like that,” but he just doesn’t know. And it’s out of his hands.

But, the truth is, he knows it’s not gonna be enough for Riley because he knows it’s bullshit. Father Paul knew she could walk again because he’s been spiking the communion wine with the blood of the angel that made him young again–not because of any kind of intuition.

He didn’t have some weird feeling; he didn’t walk on a ley line, okay? He’s been deliberately trying to make everybody on this island young again because he’s got dreams he wants to relive. Father Paul Monsignor Pruitt has been lying to everyone everywhere since he got here. His name’s not even Paul!

He made it up! He named himself Paul after Paul of Damascus. You know what happens to Paul in the Bible? Paul is sent through the desert to Damascus to arrest Jesus Christ and, on the way there, God steps in and is like, “Hey, please don’t arrest me, you lunatic.

Instead, go to the city, wipe your browser history, and wait for instructions.” “Lord, what do you want me to do? Then the Lord said to him, ‘Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'” I wasn’t kidding. And I’m not shaming Father Paul for lying.

We all have to lie sometimes. He’s got this big ass secret that he does not understand, topping off a very, very long life full of secrets and lies from before any of this madness began. All of them, all of the lies, varying degrees of commandment breaking, right?

We have some sod–I’m not gonna say sodomite, he’s not. Although, by biblical definitions…he might be a sodomite. By medieval definitions, he’s certainly a sodomite. Ask Eleanor Janega. So, he gets to the island with this trunk full of angel.

How he got it through customs, what he did with the rest of his things, God only knows; but he gets there with a lot of conviction, right? He’s confident. He knows what he’s doing. He gives this whole, like, long ass confessional sequence basically to us and to himself, I

Guess, justifying his actions, explaining everything he is doing and how it is the right thing and how he’s doing capital-G, capital-W “God’s Work”, and that is the Father Paul that is sat across from Riley when he is talking about how people treat Joe Collie and the

People on the island and how they use God’s will as justification for treating people horribly. It’s that Father Paul who says absolutely fucking not. He argues against Riley’s idea that he can’t believe in a higher power and also own his mistakes.

He tells Riley straight up that there is nothing in scripture that says God negates personal accountability. We talked about this already, I think. Oh, I do this every time. And this is pretty powerful stuff, right? It means a lot. It’s impactful.

You can tell that this is coming from a man who has made mistakes and done things that he regrets; who is still making his peace with the Lord; a man who has lived a full human life already. The thing that’s so captivating about Father Paul for people is he’s this young man who

Has the wisdom of an elder because he was; because he lived for 80, 90 some years. He was on his death bed; he didn’t remember who he was. In certain lights, this is a gift from God–to have lost to yourself, and to be able to be

Young and in a position where you’re respected, and be able to share that kind of wisdom with people is such a gift. He has the knowledge and life experience and wisdom of an old man and the confidence of

Someone finally getting a do-over; a chance to go back and fix everything; to do the things he didn’t do; say the things he didn’t say. It’s the one thing that we all want and will never get, and he has all of this. And, so, when he says this to Riley, it matters.

It’s inspiring; it inspires Riley; it inspires the kind of confidence that Riley’s gonna need to have in him to say, “I don’t know how you knew she could walk.” But he’s still a dirty liar; he tells himself and us that he’s doing all of this lying to

Protect the people of Crockett so that they are prepared for when the real miracles come; for the healings; for the words from God. He doesn’t want to upset them, and he doesn’t want to scare them before he can help them.

He wants to let Lisa run again; he wants to help people get sober; he wants to make people feel young again. But old habits die hard, and the man just can’t stop lying. And I’m not saying that he shouldn’t have lied; I’m just saying that it’s this lie that

He tells to Riley about how he knew that Lisa could walk again that is the beginning of the end. This is the first turn of the screw, where the dynamic between Riley and Father Paul begins to shift. No longer is it the steadfast intellectual reasoning of Ivan and the holy man Alyosha

Discussing the suffering of innocence and the responsibility of God. It is something different now. “I really don’t have an answer that’s gonna satisfy you. Not you.” Father Paul tells Riley that it must be nice for him to be able to explain all the miracles via science.

He envies Riley’s freedom from the belief in the transcendental because his own personal belief in the transcendental, his proof, now has consequences. It’s not just big ideas and big plans in a trunk. It’s happening; and, sure, it’s fine now. People aren’t needing their glasses; their backs don’t hurt; everything’s fine.

But, as the miracles continue, and the healing becomes more, Father Paul begins to feel more and more powerful because he is, right? In the eyes of his community, he is practically a god: completely infallible. At the same time, his dependency on the angel blood that made him young in the first place

Is wildly out of control. It’s turning into a full-blown addiction. *Hacking* And, so, another cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head, and every step that Father Paul takes to relieve that dissonance–take more angel blood, pray, try and do more good–all

Of that just leads him further and further down the rabbit hole of violence and contradiction that becomes harder and harder to square with his belief in God as he knew it, before his twilight era. By the time that he is just a priest standing in front of an alcoholic, asking him to become

A vampire, he is visibly unhinged. He is like Ivan, who, if we remember, slid so far into madness that he started having conversations with the devil himself, and he still couldn’t win. He is shaking; he is sweating; he is talking to himself; he is repeating prayers over and

Over and over again, like a shark who can’t stop for fear he’ll never start again. Father Paul has worked himself into a gordian knot of anxiety, and Riley has just been chillin’. Riley, who made a calculated nietzschean decision to reject God for his own betterment, has absolutely no difficulty with this conundrum.

In the face of absolute moral insanity; bathing in the light of the promised absence of guilt and pain; in the reign of the freedom from moral dilemma that Josh Wheaton promised his philosophy class, came with blind faith, Riley is like, “Absolutely fucking not, you psycho.” Riley is having none of it.

In “God’s Not Dead”, the act of believing, of giving yourself to God, is the gift of living in a world that is black and white; free from the consequences of regular life. No longer do you have to be tolerant of others; no longer do you have to make the choice between

Right and wrong and deciding what the best move is. God does it for you. And, if you choose wrong, well, that was just his plan in the first place. You get to try again next time; and all you have to do is believe; all you have to do is believe.

And believing is not something we can see or quantify in those films, but “Midnight Mass” makes the act of believing a physical one. You have to enter the covenant of the Lord by drinking the blood of Christ in order to receive that gift.

Jesus’s actual blood and flesh were not on the menu at the last supper, okay? It was a metaphorical idea. It was an act of “choose to drink this” and “choose to believe”. “Midnight Mass”, being religious horror, makes that real. It is real blood. You have to really choose that.

The existence of God does not negate personal responsibility, nor does your belief in God negate personal responsibility. Evidently, God itself, in an act of supernatural mercy, is the only thing that can abolish any kind of moral responsibility–in a physical act of sending the blood of something transcendent down.

The characters in “God’s Not Dead” are constantly reminding themselves that God is good; God is good always, and always God is good, over and over again. He uses all things and works in mysterious ways that we can’t see the whole picture.

If we could; if only we could see the world the way that God does, then we would understand; there would be no cause for guilt or pain or suffering or confusion. And that is what the angel gives us; it gives the people of Crockett; it gives Father Paul,

Practically on a silver platter: the ability to feel and see like God. All they have to do…is drink. “God’s Not Dead” requires faith and rewards it with proof; “Midnight Mass” offers proof and rewards action. Part 7: Easter Rising “Wait ’til Easter.

If it weren’t for that and Christmas, some people would never come at all.” *Screaming* So, Jesus kicks it. He decides to let himself be crucified to save humanity, comes back, restores faith, fucks off. Time goes on, societies advance, kingdoms and empires rise and fall and scatter, and

There is no second coming in sight. Centuries passed. Christianity starts creeping its little claws all over every continent, digging its way into the laws and the royal courts and all of that jazz, and still no sign of Jesus. So, we start to get philosophers and metaphysicians working tirelessly to provide some kind of

Evidence that supports the existence of God. Neoplatonism emphasizes the transcendence of God; Descartes was like, “God is perfect, and a perfect thing can’t not exist.” That seemed to suffice for a while? But people keep thinking, and people keep thinking about other things, and people want to have other kind of conversations.

So, as long as you weren’t publishing blasphemy, and you sort of tack on a footnote about God being the perfect creator of all things, the church would, like, more or less leave you alone and let you write about all the trapezoids you want.

So, that kind of covers the general population’s belief in God, right? But what is true of the general public is not always true of the individual, and three days is a long time. When the three days are a psychological, metaphorical experience, three days can start to feel like

A lifetime; and a lifetime is just about long enough for some of that capital-D Doubt to sink in. And this remains true for forever. People’s belief in God diminishes the further and further away we get from the resurrection.

And that is because, in order for God to have any personal meaning for the individual, he must bring himself down to the individual’s level. In order to surpass that “the court says you have to believe in God, so you say you believe

In God” barrier, in order to have real meaning for a person’s life, he has to send part of himself down to earth. He has to get on our level. He sends part of himself down to earth in this human form as, like, a gift to humanity

So he can teach us some shit; but the problem is that, like, Jesus can’t just, like, move to Miami and, like, live out the rest of his life selling cars and be, like, “Alright,” and die at like 97.

Because, if he did do that, he’d just be some dude who’s going around saying that he’s God, and when was the last time that that worked out well for literally anyone involved? Which brings us back to the thesis point: he has to die.

But, if he dies, then that means that God can be killed, and that makes God a lot less godly, you know what I mean? Plus, you’ve got like a shitton of people just living their lives thinking that God has died and abandoned them. No bueno.

Not to mention that he’s got shit to do upstate, so he can’t just stay on Earth forever. He can’t just die and float on up to the heavens like every other good Christian. Also, he’s got all these apostles hanging out, trying to write a book, and what kind

Of a friend would he be if he just left them with that kind of an ending? He’s all-knowing. He knows what happens when Game of Thrones ends. He wouldn’t do that. Which brings us to the next necessary element of the Christian redemption cycle.

The death of God is the first; God has to die. Second part is that three days, those three days of waiting; he’s got to be dead for somebody somewhere or Christianity doesn’t work. And the next necessary point on the Christian redemption cycle is this: the supernatural proof. He’s got to go back.

“We have to go back, Kate.” Big man gets nailed to the cross, dies, takes a quick detour into hell, frees all the sinners (except for Solomon; fuck Solomon), comes back to Earth, takes a bow, forgives humanity for all of its sins, then zip-zap-zops back up to Daddy.

Which is some next level proof-of-the-divine shit, right? This is in line with Red Seas parting; this is bushes burning; this is angels flying down in a desert to tell you what to do. The resurrection serves as that necessary supernatural element that will sustain faith for a very long time.

The resurrection will sustain people for a long time; and Descartes will come in, and he will sustain people for a long time. But man cannot live on metaphysics alone, and that “son of God” candle only burns so bright for so long.

Eventually, say 2000 years later, in this post-Easter Sunday world where God can be killed not physically but spiritually for the individual, it’s a lot harder to believe. And it becomes increasingly difficult to carry out this redemption cycle without that supernatural element.

The “God’s Not Dead” films really struggle with this because they place their characters in the position of Jesus, but they’re not really able to fully accomplish that true, “I am God, believe in me” vibe, right? Like, no one can do it like Jesus can.

As Eric Von Der Luft says in his essay, “The bridge between infinite immortality and finite mortality must be made by the immortal making itself mortal, lowering itself to humanity’s level.” Which means… Vampires. We’re talking about vampires. Part eight: the morality of eating people.

Father Paul/Monsignor Pruitt: old, wrinkly, in a desert, gets Benjamin Buttoned by Dobby on steroids, comes back to Crockett Island and starts drugging everybody with Dobby’s blood. We learned all of this, remember? I just talked about it. Father Paul gave that confession to himself because he felt really shitty about being

A damn liar, which I get because I’m also a damn liar sometimes, and it’s one of the ten commandments, but, in his defense, it is the ninth one; and anyone who’s ever read a Buzzfeed listicle knows nobody reads past number six.

He feels bad, but he does it anyway because he’s got big miracles on the horizon. Lisa walks again; the woman that he had an affair with 40 years ago and had a secret love child with: she’s young and hot again; Erin’s unborn child mysteriously disappears

From her womb completely as if it was never there. Okay, maybe they’re not all great changes. So, like, WE know that they’re not all great changes, but Father Paul does not. Father Paul thinks he is doing the Lord’s work, and he is riding that train as far as it can go.

That’s all he’s ever wanted. He’s a priest. That’s that’s that’s the gi–that’s the gig. That’s the gig. He swore to never have sex all of his life because he wanted to serve the Lord. Mmm…he failed the first time around, but this time…this time’s different. He feels like Moses.

He’s got an angel commanding him to save people, and it’s all fun and games until he gets addicted to the angel blood, and kicks it–only to come back again…full Dracula. *Screams* “Monsignor, ah, thank God.” For the record: Father Paul/Monsignor Pruitt has died twice. *Laughs* *Gunshot* …comes back full Dracula, immediately murders Joe Collie.

Joe Collie, who was just there for some guidance because he’s trying to get sober, and he was gonna buy a drink, but he didn’t, and he came to Father Paul instead, and Father Paul ate his brains. Michael Flanagan morally fattened Joe Collie up like a pig for slaughter, and I will never

Forgive him for it. So, he’s eating Joe Collie’s brains out by the skull, and who should walk in but Bev Keane: top-tier Christian; Queen of God’s work. It’s all over, right? It’s only downhill from here. The number one Bible follower has just walked in on you eating someone; it’s got to be over,

Right? Wrong. Bev Keane has been waiting for this moment her entire life. “Okay…okay.” So, there’s this moment where we have these two devout religious characters who have already interacted with what they believe to be proof of the divine. Bev is already aware that Father Paul has been made young again.

They have the opportunity to take this as a command. Father Paul’s body, the body that was resurrected (a la JC himself) is demanding the blood of Joe Collie to survive. It is physically craving and calling him to, well…

At the same time, in a year far, far away (Genesis 20:22), God rolls up to Abraham and is like, “Hey, so you know that kid you have? That kid that you love so much? That miracle baby that I gave you and your wife after you were childless for so long?

You know that kid?” and Abraham’s like, “Yeah, Isaac. Super into dinosaurs; really good at darts; love him; he’s the best,” and God’s like, “Yeah, I know, he’s great. So, here’s what we’re gonna do: we’re gonna take him…and some wood…maybe a knife…we’re

Gonna take a little road trip, top of that mountain over there you’re gonna…*gestures*…burning offering for me, and we’re gonna call it a day. Right? Got it? Solid. Awesome. Seeya in three days. And Abraham does this.

Now, if you don’t know the story, God swoops in a la ram ex machina and, like, gives him a sheep to slaughter instead at the last possible moment. And, in religious context, I have been informed that this story is about faith because Abraham

Is like, “I told you, Isaac, he would never make me kill you,” and everything is just hunky-dory. And I cannot tell you how much I do not understand that read. I hate this story; I am obsessed with it; I think it is the best story in the Bible;

I think about it all the time; I am always thinking about this. I remember being in CCD in, like, second or third grade and being taught this story and just being like, “What the fuck are you guys talking about?”

It’s horrifying; it’s terrible; it is gut-wrenching; I feel sick every time I think about it. It wasn’t until two years ago (two years ago!) when someone laid it all out for me in excruciating detail over the course of like two hours that I finally began to kind of understand what

It is that apparently everyone else sees in the story, which is that the message in the story is not “You must be willing to kill your kid for God,” it is, “God would never make you kill your kid.”

It’s like, I always thought it was a reward; I always thought that God only sent that ram because Abraham was like this close to doing it, and he was like, “Solid. He would really kill his kid for me.

I’ll…I’ll let him have his kid as a prize,” not that you should have faith that God always has another plan. The thing that people say about it is, “You can never see what God is leading up the other

Side of the mountain,” like, a ram was coming up the other side of the mountain the whole time, you just didn’t know it. So, you have to have faith in God. I…I just really…I just thought it was a God-fearing story.

I swear to God, I always thought it was just the absolute wrath of God, who would make you kill your own kid, and, even knowing this now, I still don’t really see it. I get it on, like, a cognitive level, but I still read this story as about a man who

Has to spend three days with his beloved son just walking him to the slaughter; and what, in God’s name, Isaac must have been thinking; and how do you get past that? How do you…how do you look your father in the eye when that ram comes down?

How do you go to breakfast every morning after that? How do you look your kid in the eye after you were willing to murder him? Like, how do you… I feel like even understanding that story requires a level of faith that I just don’t have and couldn’t have.

Um, it’s probably why I couldn’t make my confirmation. And there are other reads of this story, I’m sure; for me, I find it more interesting from that angle, but that’s just why it’s such a good story; that’s why it’s the best one; it’s so good. In fact, everybody loves it.

Even moral philosophy professors. Bet you didn’t think that had a point, did it? Abraham’s near sacrifice of his son, Isaac, has long been a topic of debate amongst philosophers, amongst the Kierkegaards of the world. Because, like, what do you do when God commands you to do bad things?

If you couldn’t tell, this is the ethics section. “For Christians, the fixed point of morality, what constitutes right and wrong, is a straight line that leads directly back to God.” “Oh, so you’re saying that we need a god to be moral? That a moral atheist is an impossibility?”

“No, but, with no God, there’s no real reason to be moral. I mean, there’s not even a standard of what moral behavior is.” We’re in the ethics section, which means we have to lay some ground rules. For this section, we are presupposing the following two premises: 1. Killing people is bad.

2. Everyone is aware that killing people is bad. These are our assumed norms for this topic, because, just as there is a cognitive dissonance with God being all-powerful and also not stopping bad things, there is a cognitive dissonance

When you’re being commanded to do something evil by a good God, especially when we are working within a framework where most of the moral decision-making is based in Christianity. So, if we have a perfect cartesian God, then that God would not command something evil. He COULD not command something truly evil.

So, any command that is being given must, therefore, be good. Abraham killing his son cannot be truly evil. That is way out number one; justification for doing the thing. That is what Bev Keane does, and she runs with it straight off the tracks, right into the sunrise.

But, like, what if you’re not Bev Keane? Because we can’t all be Bev Keane, try as we might. And, sometimes, you really really really really really don’t want to do the thing, but God is telling you to do the thing.

If God is telling you to do the thing, then is it morally wrong not to do it? Robert Adams, in “Finite and Infinite Goods: A Framework for Ethics”, suggests a moral constraint on our obedience to God’s commands. And a moral constraint is essentially a rule that helps one identify what is the ethical

Choice. Kant very famously had a moral constraint against lying all the time, and it drove poor Chidi insane. That is the problem that Adams is trying to solve with his moral constraint, saying that, “If, upon reflection, a purportedly divine command seems to be evil, then one should

Not accept it as a commandment of God’s.” So, if it sounds bad–probably not God. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a goose. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true.

And what Adams is doing here is using a critical sense to assess morality under God’s transcendent goodness, saying that we should always question any human view about what God is, because humans are not transcendent; we don’t have a perfect transcendent perspective. Let me just get…

How obvious is it going to be if I have this cough drop? Probably. I’m losing my voice. So, we, as humans, should always question and be critical of any human assessment or human understanding of God and what God is or any empirical test of value that humans provide.

We have to be critical of our evaluation of morals and ethics and not just say that everything is okay because God said so. Because we have to believe that God would not command us to do evil, which means that we have to hold ourselves to a standard that we do not truly understand.

“God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it.” “Well, how convenient.” We have puny little fish brains. We cannot understand what is good, because the only thing that can really understand what is good is God because God is perfect and God is only good.

So, any understanding that we have is just, like, a sad little echo put together from scraps falling off a table that we’re, like, hoping looks like good. “Every day, the more I give myself over to God, the more I hear the voice of his angel, and you will too. That’s okay. That’s good.

Know you will be moved to act, and there will be things you cannot change.” We cannot truly understand what is good; only God can. Therefore, any commandment presented by God should be followed. The moral constraint means that, in between these two steps, we take a minute and we say,

If upon further reflection, that commandment does not add up to what our understanding of good is, it should not be taken as a commandment from God. Which means it’s not God telling you; it’s the devil. We could definitely still be doing wrong by not following God’s commandment but, morally

And ethically, we are justified in not doing the thing. With the understanding that God is only good in a transcendent way that we cannot understand, even that idea that we cannot understand God’s transcendence is a human idea.

Any traits or attributes or ideas that human beings are putting onto God need to be critically assessed before they are taken as fact. So, had Abraham said, “Killing people is wrong dude; I’m not gonna do it,” he would have been equally justified in that act that he was in doing the act.

However, Risler disagrees with that in his work because, “in the case of Abraham and Isaac, Abraham does ultimately decide that he must sacrifice Isaac. In order for him to reach that conclusion via Adams’s framework, he must alter his perception

Of the meaning of evil in order to accommodate that for which he does not understand.” He argues that we shouldn’t be messing with the moral aspect of the whole thing but the psychological. Because we’re stupid. We’re stupid humans, and we’re dealing with a cognitive dissonance; our brains are cracking

Under the pressure; we cannot be left alone to decide what is morally right and what is morally wrong; that is what God does. God is supposedly so perfect that we literally cannot understand his commands. So, instead of putting the constraint on the morality of those commands, we put the constraints on ourselves.

The psychological constraint that Risler presents is, “If, upon reflection, one is certain that a command is from God, then one should obey it.” Basically, we’re gullible. We’ll believe anything’s God if it smells good enough. Adams’s idea is still intact.

If God is commanding something, then it can’t be evil, but we are definitely off the hook for deciding whether or not something he’s commanded is evil. That’s not our job anymore. Our job is just to decide if we are actually receiving a commandment from actual God.

So, they all should have just not done it, right? Or am I missing something? Hold on, am I forgetting something? Let me see… “And Abraham stretched forth his hand and took the knife to slay his son, and the ang… *Screams* Oh… Right… That…

“Given the limited nature of our epistemic abilities, and given our inclination to try and doubt that God would give a seemingly evil command, I am inclined to think that achieving certainty that God is commanding one to do something abhorrent would require direct supernatural intervention, such that, despite one’s best attempts at doubting the

Divine authorship of the command, one would simply remain certain that God has issued a particular commandment.” So, he has a point… Unfortunately, so do the people of Crockett. “Just then, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of God shone around them,

And they were sore afraid, and the angel said, ‘Fear not; fear not; be not afraid!'” Boy, oh, boy, do the people of Crockett have a reason to believe that commandment came from God. *Shouts* So, when Father Paul and Bev rope the mayor and friends into their crazy scheme, they

Have no issue following this order, because, as far as these people are concerned, that commandment came from God. Catholicism has a long-standing belief that, if your priest pulls a Lazarus on you, you should probably do what he says. He’s always been the mouth of God; you’re not gonna start doubting it now.

And, yet, you could probably argue that, like, that’s the same justification Bev Keane uses, but I think we all know that Bev Keane has been waiting for a moment to justify murder her whole life. Either way. Bev justifies cleaning up the body by quoting Deuteronomy (“…where one must obey the priest

At all times.”); but she also quotes Matthew 10, and she kind of spits out, “Think not that I come to send peace on earth. I came not to send peace but a sword”; a passage that can be interpreted in a number of ways.

R.T France, a new testament scholar, argues that, in context, it means something closer to, like, the sword of social division cutting family ties and dividing individuals who choose to follow the faith or choose not to; not necessarily like a military sword.

Whether Bev Keane is convincing the mayor to sever himself from his previous beliefs about the whole murder thing or just saying that Jesus came in with guns ablazing, we’ll never really know; but, regardless, she yells at him not to cherry-pick the glories of God which is just…it’s just beautiful.

Especially when you remember that Jesus also specifically said that he did not come with a sword at one point; that’s in, like, his story; I think that’s before he, uh, before they arrest him one time. Editing note: I went to find the source for this, and he didn’t actually say that he didn’t

Come with a sword. He said to his friends to put down their swords because they who draw the sword die by the sword. But he also immediately follows it up with, “Do you think I cannot call on my father,

And he will at once put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels?” Which is just very…it’s very, like, “my daddy’s a lawyer” vibes. Anyway… Having two contradictory thoughts and reasonings is just kind of part of the territory when you’re dealing in a cognitive dissonance.

And you start to see how Abraham’s cognitive dissonance that Father Paul and Bev and everyone is now dealing in–this, like, “murder is wrong but God is making me murder” thing–is really starting to weigh on these characters. I mean Father Paul is crumbling; Bev is higher strung than ever; everyone is nervous all

The fucking time, and more and more people are forced to face this moral conundrum of a God-given command to break a commandment. But here’s the thing: you might have justified your action in the eyes of the lord morally speaking; but that does not mean that the rest of the world agrees with you.

“Erin Greene. I’d like to finish our discussion.” So, sure, when Father Paul gets brought back to life via God, makes friends with a winged raisinet, and wants to murder people, it’s pretty easy for his, like, devout followers to justify following him in his footsteps, right?

It’s easy for them to say, “Alright, this is fine.” But what about the next person who becomes bat food? “How convenient.” Riley, on the other hand, has already given up his faith in God. He has reasoned his way to atheism.

Riley is not a Christian who’s lost faith; he is not an angry atheist; he is like Nietzsche. He’s got his own beliefs and his own ideals. And, when he gets presented with “God has commanded me to eat people, and eating people

Is abhorrently evil,” it’s not exactly a challenge for him to chalk premise one out the window like the baby in the bathwater and make the unselfish choice instead of the self-serving one. Which he does. In an act of sacrifice, Riley turns himself into dust. *Screams*

Part nine: the morality of eating people, part two The lord is burning my throat. Unlike the rest of Crockett Island, Riley was not waiting for supernatural intervention. The potential Christian redemption cycle that he was being set up and primed for in the first few episodes is long off the table.

This happened when Father Paul lied to him about how he knew Lisa could walk, remember? That was the moment that the tables started to shift. That is when the idea that Riley was just a person not in a state of grace that Jesus was surrounding himself with was taken out of the equation.

That storyline was cut off; flipped on its head (narratively). Suddenly, his difference in belief, like Sarah’s and Sheriff Hassan’s, are front and center as part of who they are and part of their arcs. The more miracles that start happening after that moment, the greater the divide becomes

Between people like Riley and Sarah and Sheriff Hassan (the people who don’t have a Christian belief system; the deadlings) and the Christians. Tensions begin to rise in a similar manner to that of the third “God’s Not Dead” film, where, the more righteous and determined Father Paul becomes to fight for this church, it

Becomes a bigger and bigger problem. In “Midnight Mass”, it ends up in a full-on war. In “God’s Not Dead”, it ends up in like a glorified pep rally. And, in GND, the only way to relieve that tension is for God to come down and personally

Speak to Reverend Dave and tell him, “Cut the crap.” Which he does. He lets it go; he lets the church go, and he decides to build a church elsewhere. I don’t know if I explained the plot to the third one at all.

If I didn’t: basically, this kid accidentally kills someone and sets a church on fire, and Reverend Dave is like, “Please, school board, fix my church,” and the school board’s like, “Maybe we should just tear it down,” and then that’s what the fight is about. He doesn’t want them to tear his church down.

But, eventually, God comes to Reverend Dave after he punches a kid and is like, “Bro, you gotta take a step back,” and Reverend Dave does it. This, by the way, is why I like this movie; I think I said that in the beginning. I do actually really like the third one.

I think it’s…I think it’s watchable. There’s a lot of interviews where the actor who plays Reverend Dave says that he wanted to show him as, like, a normal guy, like, “Pastors are regular dudes.” And the way that they do that in the first two movies is just, like, have him spill his

Coffee a lot. But, in the third movie, they really took it seriously, and they they showed him not just being like a normal person with like a family and family troubles, but being, like, someone who makes wrong choices sometimes, even in the eyes of God, and who has to, like,

Atone for them and has to change his ways. And that, I think, is a really, really great, like message. I think that’s a good way to take the story; I thought it added depth; I’m here for it; I love the third one. I’ll watch the third one if I have to.

If I ever end up quarantined again in, like, a youth group, and they want to watch “God’s Not Dead”, I’ll be like, “Put the third one on,” and I would be fine. He does literally build a new church outside of the college campus, and I’m sure that there’s

Some kind of, like…there’s probably a connection there with, like, Solomon building a church in hell and, you know, Jesus building churches and stuff, but we’re 18,000 words in. I’m…I’m done; I’m calling it. Anyway, for Riley, “God’s is dead” does not insinuate that God was ever alive at any point,

Which is what makes it so interesting that he then becomes the Jesus of this story. He goes from being the apostle to playing the role of Jesus in this story, being the one to understand the truth in the way that no one else can; making a sacrifice for the

Betterment of others; literally dying as opposed to giving up his beliefs and living the way that Father Paul was living in that moment. He gets the most Christian death of all of them. He literally gets greeted by an angel of the woman that he killed as forgiveness and is,

Like, carried up into the heavens…more or less. He gets the most Jesus-like ending without having to believe in Jesus at all, and the characters who have been waiting desperately for this return of Jesus–the ones who have been living out their redemption cycles, waiting for more proof of the divine, waiting for

The resurrection, trying to prove their worthiness in the eyes of God–when Father Paul and Bev Keane stand up there and say drink this rat poison, lay down your life in the name of God, trust that he will bring you back, a lot of them are willing to do it.

And this is exactly what Nietzsche was worried about: their belief in a transcendental, all-good, all-powerful God that is more than they could ever understand, and the, frankly, very good arguments that Father Paul and Bev are making, hinder their ability to make a moral judgment.

The supernatural proof that they have been provided hinders their ability to make a psychological assessment. They’re unable to be critical in any way. Morally speaking, the only way that they have out is the first way that we talked about; they have to change a premise. And they choose to change the second one.

They can’t argue that this isn’t coming from God; they can’t argue that it’s morally wrong; they just have to believe that their perception of what is morally right and morally wrong is wrong. They have to change the second premise, and they have to decide that eating people is, like, probably fine.

Because, if they don’t, then they can’t follow God’s commandments; and, if they’re not following God’s commandments, they are actively denying the Lord and, therefore, actively following the devil. They are now vampires, a lot of these people. A lot of these people are now experiencing not only the physical sensation of desiring

That person’s blood, the changes in the way that they’re seeing things, you know, the world looks different now. And they also are experiencing that, like, absence of guilt and shame; that release from all pain and responsibility. Of course they decide that they should be killing people. What else would they do?

“Do you have guilt in your heart for doing what you had to?” “Not at all.” “Then ask yourself why God let that cup pass you by.” It’s a euphoric feeling. There’s no pain; they’re drunk with it; they’re caught up in the power; in the fight for God.

And it’s sort of like ships passing in the night when we look at “God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness”, because Reverend Dave has also become increasingly violent and aggressive in his own fight for God.

He is wrapped up in his desire for justice; he is grieving, and he wants to believe that Jude’s death meant something. He wants to believe that his friend wasn’t just killed because some poor kid was sad that he got dumped.

He wants to believe that his best friend didn’t just die because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, if he could just get this church fixed, if he can just keep it there, then maybe it won’t hurt so much.

Everyone is telling him that he needs to stop; that maybe he’s taking this too far; and I think that part of him probably knows that, but he’s so caught up in this desire to fight for God–to live out Jesus’s story, to be the Jesus in the redemption cycle–that he just keeps pushing through.

He’s searching for the same liberation from pain and suffering that the characters in “Midnight Mass” have already received. “Murderer.” “Well, I suppose so. But here’s the thing: I had no guilt; none. And, knowing that I should feel guilt, but accepting that I did not, finding grace where the guilt should be, I…”

As the night rages on in Crockett Island, we watch a handful of characters slowly come to realize what it is they are doing. They are killing each other; they are killing their parents, their children, their friends, and they don’t even care.

The line that Jonathan Waterboy so neatly drew for us in the first “God’s Not Dead” film? Washed away. Soaked in blood. Can’t see it anymore. And they want to know why God would allow that to happen.

If the idea is that following God is following goodness, why would God allow us to live in this doxastic state where we understand that what we’re doing is wrong, but we also understand that what we’re doing is good. Why would he allow us to live with this cognitive dissonance?

Why would he allow humans to live in a world where they cannot tell what is right and what is wrong? Why did God command that Abraham murder his own son? Are they all just Abraham waiting for a ram to be brought up the other side of the mountain?

Is there any moral weight to what happens at “Midnight Mass” at all? Or were they all just going to end up in the same afterlife anyway, and nothing matters because this is the way that it was supposed to happen? Lisa’s last line indicates that the monster itself died, so his blood stopped working

To cure her. Was all of this just so that they could destroy that demon? Are they Jesus, or are they the persecutors? What is their role in this story anymore, and why would God allow them to be confused like this?

The massacre that they have carried out on Crockett Island has pushed a very simple cognitive dissonance as far as it can possibly go; and now everyone is feeling a bit abandoned by God, even the most devout. So, Mildred is Sarah’s mother, the woman that Father Paul had an affair with years ago;

And she is the reason that he is doing all of this. He wants a second chance to get it right with her, and to get it right with his kid. He’s watched Sarah grow up with another man as her father, and he hasn’t been able to say anything, and he regrets that.

That’s at the core of why he’s doing all of this, and everything else is just fodder. “That’s why I put that thing in that trunk; that’s why I bribed and lied and smuggled it back here. That was the reason; I didn’t want you to die.”

Mildred was pretty stoked when she was young and hot again, but Mildred has not been a fan of what Father Paul’s been doing since he gave a very violent sermon. And she says to him when he kind of confesses what he’s done…you know what, just play the clip.

[Music] “But that’s over now, John. We made our choices; we lived our lives. She grew up, and we faded away, and that’s how it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to be over.” So, after Father Paul tells Sarah’s mom that he just did all this so she’d be hot again,

They walk out of the church, and they find Bev Keane and the other vampires being absolute fucking menaces, okay? I think it goes without saying that Bev Keane was not one of the characters who came to any sort of realization about what she was doing over the course of the night.

But, either way, Father Paul walks out, sees her being a cunt, and just kind of suddenly realizes that maybe he got this wrong. “It’s between them and God, isn’t it?” “No.” “I’m sorry?” “No; we got this wrong.” “Oh, don’t be ridiculous” “Oh, Beverly, please, look at them, would you? We are the wolves.”

And it’s heartbreaking; because this is the moment where you realize that he was never a villain at all. He really, truly believed that he was doing God’s work; and the realization that maybe he was wrong ,and maybe Mildred is right, and we’re not supposed to get do-overs, and

People aren’t supposed to behave like this, that realization hits like a cold bucket of water. “I was wrong. We…we…we were wrong. We are wrong, and this needs to stop.” And when he comes into the church a few moments later and sees Sarah–his daughter who doesn’t

Know that she’s his daughter, that he so desperately wanted to be with and to take care of and to start over with—is pouring gasoline all over his church, just everywhere, preparing to burn that shit to the ground so that there’s no shade for the vampires to hide in in the

Morning, he looks her in the eyes and just says, “Good.” He gets it. It took all of, like, five minutes. And, just like Reverend Dave, he sacrifices his church. Because it is the best thing for everyone involved.

Two sides of a coin: these two devout religious men choosing to sacrifice and give up a place of worship that has meant so much to both of them and has played such a pivotal role in their own personal journeys to being men of God and followers of the Lord and leaders

In the church. They both give it up. The only difference is that Reverend Dave makes this decision after he gets his supernatural proof, after God commands him to chill, and Father Paul makes this decision in SPITE of his supernatural proof. “Don’t be ridiculous.” “Oh, Beverly, please, look at them, would you?

We are the wolves.” “John?” The people of Crockett Island, except for Bev Keane, have their return to consciousness moment in spite of their supernatural proof. Whether it is a feeling of physical guilt returning, or like an intellectual understanding

They should be feeling guilt and yet they are not, they suddenly have been forced to accept both of our premises. The only way out is through. They have to accept that eating people is wrong, and God has commanded me to eat people. They’re thrown smack into the middle of another inconsistent belief system.

Instead of engaging with the psychological constraint and saying that maybe this wasn’t God that commanded them at all, or throwing out the premise that God has any moral authority in general and discarding their belief in God, instead, the people of Crockett Island

Choose guilt; they choose personal accountability; they make the choice that Riley made, and they choose personal accountability. There is a parable in “The Brothers Karamazov” about a woman who was sent to hell for being a terrible person; but she really doesn’t want to be there, so she tells God about this

One time that she gave an onion to a beggar on the street, and he’s like, “Alright, fine.” And, so, she gets the opportunity to be pulled out of hell via holding onto an onion root. While she is holding on desperately to this onion root and climbing to her freedom, all

Of the other sinners also start trying to grab her ankles and be pulled up as well, and she’s not having any of that, so she kicks them off, and suddenly the onion root disappears, and she’s stuck in hell. Getting very “Hadestown” vibes but with an onion.

It’s like the Orpheus and Eurydice country vegetable medley. The idea there is that moral redemption is always possible up until the very last second. Had she just allowed the others to come with her, that would have been enough; that would have been the good deed.

The onion didn’t matter; no one cared that she gave an onion to someone one time. You can always do the right thing, even if it’s with your dying breath–sometimes even after. And “Midnight Mass” kind of echoes this parable when, after having slaughtered and/or cannibalized

Most of the island, the remaining people of Crockett choose death; whereas “God’s Not Dead” sort of sticks more to the original understanding of the Abraham and Isaac story. Cause Abraham could have said no at any point. Up until the moment that he had his blade pressed into Isaac’s neck, he could have said,

“Ehh, maybe not.” He could have had a Father Paul moment where he said, “Maybe I got this wrong,” but he didn’t. So God sent a ram instead. Because the story of Abraham and Isaac is not about morality; it is not about moral decision-making.

It doesn’t matter if Abraham was able to decide whether or not that was a moral action; it doesn’t matter if he was on or off the hook, because that story is about faith in God; that story is about belief.

Pastor Dave could have stopped his aggressive fight for the church at any moment, but he didn’t; so God had to step in and tell him to cut the crap because, like the Abraham and Isaac story, what’s important in the “God’s Not Dead” films is not morality; it’s not action; it’s just blind faith.

Just like it doesn’t matter what Grace was doing before she gave her life to Jesus, it doesn’t matter what other choices Professor Ratball has made in his life, as long as he chooses to give his life to Jesus and accept him as a savior with his dying breath. That is all that matters.

It doesn’t matter how Abraham felt about killing his kid; none of that matters. The only thing that matters is that he trusted God, and that is why God sent the ram. In “Midnight Mass”, choices matter. Choices are important. Actions in the face of God are what’s important.

The “God’s Not Dead” movies, they use the closest thing they have to a supernatural element as a reward for faith: they cure cancer, and they give joy and happiness to people who have given faith. We don’t know if the characters in “Midnight Mass” are saved or not; we don’t know if they

Are redeemed in the afterlife; we don’t know if they’re in hell; we don’t know if they’re given an onion; we don’t know what’s going on. The only character that we do see beyond the ashes is Riley; and Riley is then escorted

By an angel with the face and image of the woman that he killed to what looks like a very, very Christian heaven. From the fact that she’s wearing all white, to the fact that she is forgiving him, to the sun coming behind her, it is so explicitly Christian.

And the reason it stands out is because Riley very much did not think that that was what was going to happen. There’s a very, very long, drawn-out dialogue between Riley and Erin where they talk about what they think happens when you die; and Riley basically is like, “I don’t know; you

Trip balls for a couple minutes, and then you’re done.” “Dream to end all dreams; one last great dream as my mind empties the fuckin; missile silos, and then…I stop.” And it’s not until the moment that he gets this Christian, bringing-you-to-the-gates-of-heaven death that you realize how important that scene was.

All of this despite his refusal to carry out what was presented to him very reasonably as God’s plan. He is rewarded with a Christian afterlife not for his Christian beliefs, but for his very Christian actions; for choosing to behave like Jesus; to act like Jesus; to live the

Way that Jesus lived; to help people; to sacrifice yourself. He is rewarded with the Christian idea of heaven, which is just forgiveness and light and freedom. The fact that we don’t see what happens to the rest of the characters only serves to

Support that thesis; to support that idea that that’s not what matters. It was impactful when we saw it with Riley because Riley didn’t want it; Riley didn’t think he was going to get that; Riley didn’t believe that; a release that we didn’t know we wanted with Riley.

The rest of the characters, we don’t need to see the afterlife presented for the rest of the characters because it doesn’t matter. What matters is their choice, and their choice in the last moments of their life is to sing, “Nearer, My God, to Thee”.

And it is Riley’s mother, actually, after sacrificing herself to get the children out and to the boat to safety, she is the first one to start to sing. She is the one who, after everyone looks around and is like, “What happened,” and the sun

Is rising, and there’s nowhere to go, she is the one who starts to sing. “Nearer, my God, to thee. Nearer to thee.” And it reminds me of the moment when Mary is given a tour of hell, and she is so horrified

By what she sees that she encourages all of the sinners to pray so that they may be freed. Mary, who is, like, mostly known for being a virgin and being Jesus’s mom also did this other incredible thing.

The islanders choice to sing and to praise God in the face of the hell that they have created, in the face of the horrors that they have just committed, directly echoes the way that the sinners listen to Mary, and they pray.

Riley’s mother plays the part of Jesus’s mother, Mary, in saving the sinners. And she does this while being a sinner, which is not something that Mary did. Mary was immaculate; Mary was free from original sin; Mary wasn’t even born with Eve’s mistakes; it was a fluke of nature.

The character Riley, who doesn’t even believe in God, gets to play the role of Jesus and gets rewarded with a Christian death for his Jesus-like actions despite his belief, and Riley’s mother, who is quite far from the idea of Mary in the fact that she is a sinner

Herself, carrying out the story of Mary, encouraging these sinners to pray. And, while the biblical tale has the sinners being released from hell, we don’t get that; we don’t get to see if the people of Crockett Island are saved because it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter; that’s not the point; it was never the point; the point is free will. “Free will.” I just said that. “I mean, you could shoot me right now; it’d just mean I’m five minutes behind–” *Gunshot* Part ten, part ten, part ten, part ten, um part ten

I’m so tired, but I’m so close to the end. “It’s supposed to be over.” Because the Christian redemption cycle is a cycle, it is cyclically cycling Solomon’s son’s sickly souls for sport. We all kind of know what the fuck is going down, right? We all know what’s gonna happen.

There’s only so much that one can change without sacrificing the integrity of the arc. Jesus dies; is dead for three days (we have a period of darkness, lack of faith, fear, and confusion amongst his followers); supernatural intervention (i.e the resurrection, redemption:

Jesus grants forgiveness to all of the sinners in hell and on Earth–except for Solomon, fuck Solomon; clean slates all around); and then you do it all again. Otherwise, what else are you doing with your time? You’re not writing 30-page, single-space essays on a series of movies and television shows

For two wildly distinct audiences just because you thought the title would be funny one time at 2 AM. Instead, you’re stuck. Because, if you know that God’s not dead, and everyone else around you knows that God is very much alive–your sunday school wine-mom brunch buddies, they’re believers; your tears-or-it-didn’t-happen

Summer youth group group chat; your homeschool co-op believes; even that group of strong conservative men that you hunt naked with in the woods twice a month while your wife thinks you’re golfing, they believe in Jesus–it’s too late; that only leaves you with one question left to ask. Well…? What would Jesus do?

Or, rather, what did Jesus do? Before he got snogged to death by Mr. Iscariot in that garden over there, what was he up to, really? How far were you from that grassy knoll, huh? Why were they so mad? What do you know about the Library of Alexandria?

Where were you on January 6, 2021, Mr. Christ? The answer is “busy,” actually. Super busy. Jesus had a packed schedule, and we know this because he had like 12 assistants keeping track of it for him. It’s all there in a checklist.

If you want to do the shit that Jesus did, just crack it open. Turning water into wine…no. Okay, not that one. Making blind men see? Skip. Walking around the Earth, spreading the word of God? That one I can do. Gain some followers? I can also do that. Help the sick; yes, totally.

Feed the hungry? Also that one. Love thy neighbor? Mmm…okay, so here’s the thing… Point is: there are a lot of things that people do to emulate Jesus’s life at that point in the cycle: to go forth and to spread his good word, to volunteer at hospitals, to do food drives, blah blah blah.

But there is one thing; there is one holy grail, elder wand, infinity stone act in all of Jesus’s canon that really just wipes everything else out of the holy water. And I get it, okay? I do; I really do.

Someone dies on a cross and comes back to life, that is probably gonna overshadow the eighth-grade clarinet solo that they had, as far as, like, “previously on” sections go. We’ve been talking about it for two hours; this is the big one; no matter how you twist

It, turn it, mangle it, this is the story of Jesus Christ, and it remains to be one of persecution and martyrdom; of hanging on to belief and truth like it’s a rope dangling from a helicopter in a windstorm of oppression; hanging on to that belief and faith like it

Is an onion root pulling you out of hell. Being willing to die in the name of God is top-tier iconic behavior. It’s not for everyone. And, perhaps, in the year of 33 AD, when sneezing too loudly could start a war, perhaps, it

Wasn’t too difficult to be killed in the name of God, right? But, now, in the year of our Lord 2022 (or 2014 for “God’s Not Dead”), in the United States of Goddamn America, not so many people running around with crosses and bags of nails, you know?

So, if you want to express your willingness to die for your faith, then you need someone to be willing to kill you over it. And, if Reverend Dave and the “God’s Not Dead” franchise have chosen the American education system as their big bad oppressor, then Beverly Keane has chosen literally everyone else.

“Sheriff, of course, I wouldn’t run you out of town; and it makes me sad that you would think that of me.” Bev Keane has decided that literally the entire world is her opposition at all times constantly.

She is a servant of God first and foremost; she is at the top of the spiritual food chain; first in line at the gates of heaven, and she does not care how many dogs she has to kill to stay there.

Whether she is calling out Father Paul for wearing the wrong color robe on his first day, baiting the sheriff into accusing her of some shit that she knows she did just to deny it, or shaming Erin for throwing out an empty bottle of Windex, Bev Keane creates

Persecution against herself for the sole purpose of appearing to overcome it. She wears blinders, and, like Josh and Grace, they walk past the damage that their actions are doing to the people around them in the name of the almighty martyrdom, the holy grail of Christian behavior.

Reverend Dave’s decision in the third GND film to sacrifice his church has the most profound effect on the deadlings in that film. It’s not just the characters who were explicitly Christian and sort of questioning or losing their faith like keaton, but the whole damn school; the whole town; the whole surrounding

Vicinity have suddenly become Christians. And they’re live streaming about it. “Call it a publicity stunt if you want, but we were there. I mean, this dude’s legit.” “There’s no doubt about it; we…we make these films, first and foremost, for the church

To encourage people in their faith, so they can stand up, and I think that’s one of the reasons why the first one was so successful.” But, in order for any of this to work, you need that villain; you need the monster that is Kevin Sorbo’s facial hair. “Nooooo!!”

But, due to the nature of the redemption arc, because Jesus was so perfect, placing your main character on the prophetic side of the redemption cycle, characters like Josh and Grace and Reverend Dave are then stripped of their agency within that cycle. Sure, they choose to fight…but that’s kind of it.

They don’t get to make a lot of other decisions throughout the course of their films. With the exception of the moment where Reverend Dave chooses to sacrifice his church (which arguably wasn’t really his choice because God told him to), all that the central Jesus-like

Characters in these films do is make the same choice over and over and over again, and so they remain stuck in that first half of the redemption cycle, the persecution, and can never really move beyond that. Because, while they may be functioning as the prophetic martyrs within the narrative,

They are not actually prophets; they cannot perform the supernatural acts required to complete that arc, not only because they’re human, but also because these films are made by Christians for Christians, and, therefore, you cannot have your characters performing actions that surpass the actions of Jesus Christ.

So they remain stagnant; they are awaiting an interruption from God that will allow them the opportunity to convince the surrounding characters that… “God’s not dead; he’s surely alive. He’s livin’…” It’s not Grace who loses her faith in the second film, it is supporting character Brooke,

Who is grieving the loss of her brother and is inspired by Grace’s steadfast belief, that finds Christianity. Keaton and Adam who, after Dave hears the voice of God, they are the ones who find God, who choose to give their life to God.

It is Radisson who chooses to believe in Jesus Christ as the savior. The deadlings are the only ones who make choices in these films because they behold their characters to these strict boxes of Jesus-role and deadling-role.

They do not get to make the choices that characters like Riley, who was a deadling then became Jesus, gets to make. They don’t make any choices because they’re locked into this cycle. One of my biggest gripes with the first GND film is that it is not Josh who finds Ratballs

In the street after he’s been hit by a car. Imagine how good that would have been! The…the emotional journey that those two have been on; the emotional payoff that that would have given us of these two characters who have been at odds with each other like

All of the brothers in “The Brothers Karamazov”, and like Riley and Father Paul who have been at odds with each other, and having these back and forths, and discussing the big things of nature; and then the one who was so adamant not to believe in God suddenly needs God,

And it is the character that he’s been bullying and treating like shit this whole movie who is the only one there with any even remote connection to the Lord; he’s the only one who can even possibly kind of take this man into his arms and say, “Do you accept Jesus

Christ?” and he’s the only one who can hear that confession and be like, “I verify; I vouch for him,” and…and give him that salvation in his dying moments. How good that would have been! It would have been so good! Because they have been fighting, they’ve been fighting this whole movie because Riddlestone

Has been treating Waterballs like garbage this whole movie; he has been tormenting him, and Josh has had to stay steadfast in his belief in God and just take it. And he finally wins that argument, and he’s like, “Thank God, I am done with this. I am done with dealing with this professor.

I get my grade, it’s over.” And, then, he’s walking to this Newsboys concert, and he sees this crowd of people in the street, and he goes to see what’s going on, and it’s Ratbomb; and it’s Rainbottom.

And he is on the floor just dying, sad; and Josh has to choose to not just do the Christian thing, which is save this this dying person, but the personal thing, and Josh gets down on his knees and looks this man in the eyes and forgives him. “I forgive you.”

But that’s not what happens. Because that would muddy the waters too much between personal forgiveness and godly forgiveness. It would mean that part of Radisson’s being saved was dependent on Josh choosing to be there and choosing to love thy enemy, which he can’t do because they’re not allowed to

Make these kind of choices. Instead, what happens is by, supernatural intervention, Pastor Dave just so happens to be walking by in that moment. Essentially, the supernatural proof element used in the first “God’s Not Dead” film is basically that God sent Dave to happen to be walking by just at the moment that Radisson

Would need him most to give him the chance to be saved at the last possible moment. “I believe it’s God’s mercy that brought me here right now.” And that is literally Dave’s job, by the way. We don’t get to see him or any of the other Christian characters make any other decisions

Or choices that change who they are in any sort of fundamental way. Like Bev, they all stay exactly the same the whole way through because Bev Keane…Bev Keane doesn’t give a shit about who she converts. In fact, she’d probably rather people stay out of the church, if she had her way.

Which is also a pretty accurate reflection of Catholicism. We’ve never been big on recruitment. We prefer to just sit and stew in our guilt until the free-market spiritual forgiveness scheme finally suffocates all of us with our last 10 Hail Mary’s. “It is almost as if he is preparing you for that.

You sit there, blessed among men, smirking when I say ‘God’s will’.” “I’m frustrated.” “I know.” Bev’s spirituality is so capitalistic that she literally cannot process the fact that she wasn’t chosen by God to become a vampire. She is practically twitching with rage throughout this entire scene that they’re trying to keep

Riley calm until the sun sets. She does not understand why, after all that she has done, after all that she has paid, she was not rewarded as she should be. Her constant pursuit of self-interest leads her to recruit workers underneath of her to

Help cover up Father Paul’s crimes: minimizing her labor, increasing her potential benefit, growing her spiritual capital. And she is just boiling over with the fact that Riley, who has not even taken the sacrament since he’s arrived on the island from prison, has just been gifted eternal life over her. She can’t deal.

She has become a victim of spiritual capitalism, exploited for her labors. So, when she steps into the leadership role at the end of the battle, when Father Paul begins to question what they’ve done, she thinks that she is justified in this because she was a servant first. It is the American dream.

She pulled herself up by her bootstraps. She deserves to be the leader. And the leader has the most power. And the leader can, therefore, export the most good in the eyes of God; and thus gain the most profit, i.e. favor of God, fast track to heaven. “It was always going this way.

You were always…you were always going to be the last, the hardest, test of my faith…you.” She wants to go from follower to profit; she wants to make the jump from religious zealot to saint; she wants to be seen as holy; she wants to reap the benefits of her faith that

The characters in GND already do. But all that’s required of them is faith. And, in the end, it is her inability to see past herself, her blind pursuit of self-interest, that leads her to let everything burn down. Which is the ultimate cause of her own destruction.

There is a bug flying around, and we’re just gonna be friends with it, just for the record, if it’s in the shot… “The polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, idolaters, and all of the liars; their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Let it burn.” She chooses to do what is best for herself over and over and over again. She digs herself deeper and deeper into a hole that she will never get out of. And, despite her move into spiritual leadership, she dies in exactly the same place that she

Started, literally digging herself a hole to bury her face in the sand. *Sobbing* *Singing* She does not sing with the others; she does not pray; she does not speak to the Lord; she does not apologize; she does not ask for forgiveness. She just keeps digging.

She could not make the leap that Riley does; she could not experience the growth that characters like Keaton in GND do. She never gets a chirotic moment; she doesn’t get a come to Jesus moment because she doesn’t do anything to earn it.

She does not make any alternative narrative choices outside of her initial role. She does not exercise her free will. And the way that Christianity is presented in “Midnight Mass” requires action for reward. “…because, your whole life, I think you’ve needed to hear this. You aren’t a good person.” “Well…”

So, according to Jesus’s pals, there was this one time that he was walking in the desert, and he got tempted by satan himself to turn some stones into bread; but, for whatever reason, he’s like, “No, I’m not gonna do that.”

And, so, then the devil’s like, “Okay, jump off that cliff, but the angels will save you because you’re the son of God.” And Jesus is like, “No, um, I’m not gonna do that either.” And, so, the devil’s like, “Alright, rule the fucking world then.

You’re Jesus, son of God; you should be able to do that.” And Jesus is still like, “No, I’m also not going to do that?” A couple thousand years later, Fyodor Devil’s Advocate Dostoyevsky, he’s alone and grieving; struggling with his faith and the ever-changing Russian political climate of the time; he’s

Writing TBK, and he includes this parable that is supposedly written by Ivan, and it is called “The Grand Inquisitor.” And, in this story, Ivan basically writes fanfic about the Grand Inquisitor story, and he imagines that, in the 1600s, Jesus did come back.

In Ivan’s world, he comes back and immediately gets arrested; because, remember, we have all come to terms with the fact that humans cannot be trusted to decide what is good and what is bad; what is right, is what is wrong. We cannot be left alone to our own devices.

We learn this in Genesis; we learn this in Adam and Eve. We talked about it a couple sections ago; we’re no good with the decision-making. And, because of this, the church had to step in and feed the people, and govern them, and

Bring order to a chaotic society; and, so, the inquisitor is basically grilling Jesus about the fact that he said no to everything the devil asked him to do, and he’s like, “If you can turn stones into bread, why did you not feed our hungry people?

If you can bring life back, why are you not bringing people back to life? If you could rule everyone peacefully, why are you not doing that?” He points out that Christ’s decision not to use his magic powers to turn the stones into bread led to people suffering because they were starving.

“Because you’re right. There is…there’s so much suffering in the world, so much. And, then, there’s this higher power, this higher power who could erase all that pain; just wave his hand and make it all go away but doesn’t? No.”

By not being the all-powerful God that you are, and fixing things and healing people, you are allowing your people to suffer; and, for that, you must pay. Because they punish people on Earth for their crimes, and people get punished in hell for

Their crimes; so, if Jesus is going to come back into a world that is shaped by his existence, shaped by his church, then he is gonna also be held accountable for his crimes. The existence of God does not negate personal accountability. And why does a good God allow terrible things to happen?

Ivan tells this story mostly because he’s trying to push Alyosha’s buttons, because every conversation that he has with Alyosha leaves him spiraling. But he also tells this story because it is something that he uses to justify his belief that the church should actually be in charge.

He thinks that the church should be in charge of governing people and sending people to jail and all of that; he thinks that they should make the laws. Even if they are doing satan’s work. Because he thinks that people will listen better and follow laws if they believe that

They are being given by God, because, without God… “…then everything is permissible. And, not only permissible, but pointless. If Professor Radisson is right, then all of this, all of our…” Two things we need to talk about with Josh’s use of this quote in this scene. One: it’s not real.

It is in the book; it is a concept in the book; it is a very, very important concept in the book; but no one ever phrases it like that. “As Dostoyevsky famously pointed out…” This is not a direct quote. It’s also not a direct quote from Dostoyevsky himself.

I have a strong dislike for people who quote things that characters say as if the author is saying them. I just think that you’re missing a layer there if you are saying that this is something that the person said.

If you’re gonna do it, put a comma and the title of the book that it’s from, but don’t go around saying that, like, John Green said, “Okay, okay.” Like, yes, technically, but he didn’t just say that for fun one day. It’s in a book.

So, the concept is in the book; it’s a very, very important concept in the book that gets explored really thoroughly, but, when they’re saying “God”, it is more of a reference to the immortality of the soul, which is directly and intrinsically linked to the concept of

God, but what they’re talking about is the idea that you will live forever after you die; that your actions on Earth have consequences after your death. That is what they are talking about; not about God and whether or not God will tell you that something is permissible.

They’re talking about whether or not your actions on Earth have consequences after your death; they’re making the argument that, if your soul just ceases to exist at the moment of your death, then everything that you did on Earth before that doesn’t matter.

Which is why Ivan thinks that the church is important; because he thinks that people need to be kept in line while on Earth, despite the fact that he doesn’t believe there’s an immortal soul, and he doesn’t believe there’s anything after. That is what that quote is talking about.

That is why the church needs to be making laws and controlling people on Earth: to keep them in line while they are alive. Because, if they know that they’re not going anywhere after, then they will do whatever the fuck they want.

Someone needs to be keeping people in line, and someone needs to be making laws. That is why he thinks that the church should be in charge of laws. And that brings us to the second thing. Which is the use of the word “permissible.” It gets quoted like that a lot.

I will give it to the directors and the creators of the film that it is most often quoted like that; because that sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? “All things are permissible? Then everyone is allowed?” And Dmitri actually does kind of say it like that at one point.

I think he says, “…then men can do what they like,” which is a much more, like, titillating way to say it. But the word that is used, at least in my translation and, like, two of the other translations

That I checked, I got two ebooks and I have one physical copy, and the word is mostly “lawful” or “legal” or, like, a version of that, when they quoted that section. Which I think is a much better translation for what they are talking about…which is laws.

See, I told you that he did not read the book. Anyway, so the grand inquisitor is berating Jesus with questions and accusations and shit. “Instead of taking men’s freedom from them, thou didst make it greater than ever.

Didst thou forget that man prefers peace and even death to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering.

And, behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest forever, thoust didst choose all that is exceptional, vague, and enigmatic.” Thank you, drama school. Where Nietzsche saw the death of God as an opportunity for humanity to build a new, better

Moral system, many of the characters in “The Brothers Karamazov” see it as disastrous, if not downright evil. Ivan’s proclamation that everything is permissible, lawful, without a god is both utterly horrifying and completely seductive. There is a character in “The Brothers Karamazov” called Liza or Lise; I don’t know how it’s

Pronounced, if you haven’t caught on to the fact that I’m not big on pronunciation accuracy, then here you go: I’m not big on pronunciation accuracy; at least not with things in the public conscious; pronounce people’s names correctly; don’t be a dick.

In TBK, we meet Liza as a 14-year-old girl who is paralyzed and using a wheelchair. She is wide-eyed and innocent and suffering this terrible affliction until an encounter with Alyosha’s father figure, Elder Zosima, in which he performs some religious healing, and suddenly her condition is improving.

Elder Zosima is like a monk, by the way. And, after this, throughout the course of the novel, she becomes very tempted by Ivan’s ideas. Basically, Ivan’s idea that everything is lawful without a god spreads like wildfire and causes lots of problems, and Liza is one of these people who gets infected by it.

She starts acting out; she’s deliberately cruel to the people around her; she is slamming her hands in doors, causing herself pain; she is putting herself through physical and emotional suffering as penance for these dark thoughts and doubts and fantasies that she’s having. Which we’ve all been there.

Because she’s a kid, and she’s also about to be married off to someone who is very much not a kid. She gets a little bit older; I don’t think she’s 14 when they start talking about getting married, but still. She recounts all her dark fantasies to Alyosha; slams her finger in the door.

This is very common with the characters in TBK; they all think that suffering is a way to make penance with God. But it’s interesting because our Lisa in “Midnight Mass”–already established to be a sort of holy figure; completely devout, innocent, sweet victim of a horrible crime; suffering

A physical affliction in a wheelchair–regains the ability to walk through a similar encounter with a spiritual leader, and we get a similar outburst from our Lisa when she decides to pay Joe Collie a visit. This is her first time speaking to him since he shot her in the back.

And she rips him a new one. She talks about how angry she was; she talks about how she hoped that his place was dirty and disgusting; she hoped that he was miserable and alone because of what he’s done to her with one of the best lines in the entire show.

“You reached through time, Joe Collie! You reached through time, and you stole…” Which, again, why do I write anything? And she follows up this outburst and this outpouring of anger and frustration with an act of radical forgiveness.

She literally says, “If God can forgive you, and he says he can, then so can I.” And Joe Collie falls apart, and it is like getting hit in the chest with a baseball bat every single time you watch it. “And if I can forgive you, Joe Collie, then anyone can.” *Sobbing*

It’s soo good. It’s so good. It’s a moment of such, like, strength and…and growth as a character. It’s so good! It’s not really something that we get to see a lot of from Liza in “The Brother’s Karamazov” just because we don’t really get that much of Liza in “The Brother’s Karamazov.”

Apparently, there was gonna be a sequel, but… Anyway. Lisa does this, and it gives such strength and dimension to her character, and exemplifies her faith, and puts her on this pedestal, as well, of not only someone who is a devout

Believer, not just someone like Josh who goes to church every day, not just someone who holds on to her belief no matter what, but someone who struggles sometimes and who makes the choice to choose to behave and to act in a godly manner.

And it’s this moment, not the fact that she could walk again, not when Bev Keane killed his dog, it is this moment that triggers Joe Collie into attending his first AA meeting with Riley and Father Paul. God, this show is so fucking good.

Joe Collie, who has been drinking himself into oblivion and hating himself day in and day out ever since the accident, has started to attend these AA meetings; he is trying to get his life together; and he is really starting to do it until Father Paul fucking eats him.

We have Bev with this twisted idea of protecting the town and the community in the name of God killing Joe Collie’s dog at a public event, punishing him even further and causing more stress in the community, and then we have Lisa, equally devout–a character whose choice

To live by the word of God, to be the one who forgives–that creates a ripple effect of actual good in the community and also brings people to the church. For Bev, trying to exist like the characters in “God’s Not Dead”, like Josh and like Pastor

Dave, it is counterintuitive to what she wants, which is more praise from God…I guess. Because she doesn’t live in a world where blind faith is enough; she lives in a world where action is required for the rewards that she is seeking. She needs to make choices, but she won’t make choices.

Had Jonah the whale been allowed this kind of freedom in his narrative, Lisa’s freedom, then we could have had a similar moment of reckoning; we could have had that moment on the street in the pouring rain with Josh and Ratcakes; we could have had it; but we can’t

Because Josh making that kind of a choice would have distracted from the real focus of the story, which is blind faith. Put in “watch ‘God’s Not Dead’ and find out why Adam turns himself in.” Oh, we’re not doing that.

The emphasis on the “fight persecution” and “faith from the same perspective of the prophets” in “God’s Not Dead” limits its protagonists’ actions in both scope and scale, seemingly circumscribing the very thing that the narrative is working to save, which is freedom of will.

It feels like a contradiction; it feels like a cognitive dissonance; it feels like it should be tearing apart every neuron in their little brains every time the director calls action; it feels like hypocrisy at its finest. But we know from “The Grand Inquisitor” and from the Instagram stories of the disciples

That Big Man did not use his free will to turn the stones into bread, he did not use his free will to push satan off that cliff, and he did not run off and join the army under a false name to save China.

He used his free will to do one thing and one thing only: he used it to trust in God. That’s what he did. Because man does not live on bread alone; and, if you are living in the GND universe as a godling or a deadling, then that’s it; that’s your move.

So it’s gotta be a big one; it’s gotta make noise; it’s gotta be the Taylor Swift “Reputation” stadium tour, and it’s gotta have a ripple effect so massive that it almost feels supernatural. You get one shot per movie. You can only afford to have the Newsboys on set for so long.

“I want everyone to go to their contacts and click on everybody you know and text them three simple words:’God’s Not Dead.’ And there’s 10,000 of you out there; and everyone knows about a hundred people? That’s a million messages right there.

A million times we’re gonna tell Jesus that we love him in the next three minutes.” “Midnight Mass” places the emphasis on the “sacrifice” and “forgiveness” portions of the cycle, so its characters have a full range of experiences. They can bounce back and forth between godling and deadling, faith and not faith, like me

At a party when I didn’t take my meds. You can take Riley from deadling atheist to Jesus in a rowboat and back again; you can take him, put him up against the prophet-esque Father Paul, who is exhibiting nothing but

Jesus-like kindness, and you can set that up of “Jesus and apostle”, and you can flip it upside down, turn it inside out, wring it out over the narrative like blood dripping from a rag you can’t get clean. Father Paul dies, then comes back, starts performing miracles, dies again, comes back

Again, starts fucking shit up, and he is still not the Jesus. It all comes back to that moment when Father Paul looked Riley in the eyes and lied to him about how he knew Lisa could walk again. He had free will in that moment, and that’s what he did with it.

There is so much free will in this series dripping all over the place that, divine intervention be damned, these characters will not do what they are supposed to do; they do not stay in their assigned roles. So, later, when Father Paul chooses to lie to Riley again about Joe Collie visiting his

Sister, because he doesn’t know, when he chooses to continue playing God, it is that choice that brings Riley back to the rec center when he gets eaten by Dobby. Which is the only reason that he is able to tell Erin what is happening and send these

Notes to his family, so that, later, when they all become bat food, they understand what’s going on, and they choose to fight it, and it’s the ultimate undoing for Father Paul, and it’s all because he’s a dirty liar. That was a lot. Um, none of that was in the script.

This comes from, um, right, okay. “There’s so much free will dripping all over the place that divine int…these characters will not do what they’re supposed to…they won’t stay in their assigned roles…to lie again about Joe…” It’s only because Father Paul used his freshest free will to lie that he gets taken out of

The position of Jesus Christ. Riley gets placed in it, is given the opportunity to make that sacrificial choice, and it opens up the floor for everyone else to make the same kind of sacrificial choice and save the world. Part eleven: who do you say I am? This is the last one.

Final episode of “Midnight Mass” contains the second of my three favorite moments. It’s dark; shit is on fire; most of the island have either become bat food or become the batman; and Bev Keane has appointed herself judge and jury; standing outside of Saint

Patrick’s church, deciding who shall continue to live as an eternal blood-sucking soldier journeying to the mainland to spread their glorious gifts onto the unsuspecting world; and who shall be jet fuel. She’s about two seconds from having one of her minions strip some poor dude for parts when Mildred steps in.

Remember when I said that Father Paul walked out of the church to find Bev Keane being a menace? This is…this is Bev Keane being a menace. And mildred is like, “Bev, maybe don’t,” and Father Paul tells her to bring him to the church because all are welcome. All have to be…

“All have to be welcome, or this isn’t really a god’s house!” Father Paul, who we have seen lose himself in the madness of being an immortal demon creature, has had this world-shattering experience. His faith has been challenged; shaken to its very core; run through a blender with a copy

Of the Necronomicon and the first installment of the “Maximum Rise” series, only to be dumped out onto a blood-soaked altar and set on fire. Just put that clip of you saying, “Burning offering? For me?” And, then, just go right into…

This man’s church is a war zone; his friends hate him; he has created a monster that he cannot control with the help of another monster that he cannot control; all of this under what he believes to be the instruction of a god that he has dedicated his entire life and existence to.

“That’s the thing about priesthood: it’s never supposed to be about me; it’s supposed to be about God!” By all accounts, Father Paul should be feeling so abandoned by God; so utterly betrayed by heavenly father that lucifer himself should have shown up to give him a pep talk.

The devil should have brought him on with a salary no man could match. And Christians aren’t allowed to lend money to other Christians, so God couldn’t have done shit. I mean, he probably could have hired him legally, but when was the last time a Christian organization had books that were clean? *Cheers*

Father Paul should be so lost, angry, and dejected, that, if God has not been killed for him, he should be murdering God with his bare hands as we speak. And, perhaps, maybe he is harboring a deep, Radisson-like hatred for the God that is dragging

Him by the collar down a blood-soaked road to a freshly minted hell of his own design, but we don’t know that, and we’ll never know that because he doesn’t say anything like that, and he doesn’t do anything like that.

You know what he does do when confronted with the consequences of the choices that he made? That is exactly what he sees. His choices. Not God’s; not the angel’s; not Bev’s. His decisions. Because, God or no God… “There’s nothing in the scripture, or in the world for that matter, that suggests God negates

Personal accountability.” He finally finds himself standing in Riley’s shoes, staring out from a curb at the mess that he has created, and he does not look away. He does not wander aimlessly without faith. He retreats into it.

He recommits himself to the God that saved him; the God that made him; the God that inspired that priest; the man who offers to start an AA chapter just so that one guy doesn’t have to go to the mainland twice a week; who brings daily mass to the elderly who cannot go to

Church anymore; who once scoured an island looking for a very specific-looking mouse just so he could keep one kid’s faith alive. The God that created that man who says things like, “I am of no use to people in a state of grace,”; that is the God that Father Paul commits himself to.

That is the God that he chooses not just to believe in, but to act like. And, when he walks into that church that he has just declared to be God’s house, and he sees Sarah dumping kerosene everywhere, he just says “Good.”

Because he knows; and he sees in that moment that the best way for that building to be God’s house is to burn to the ground. “He said, ‘this building is not my church’.” It is a powerful moment in both of these films when our godly hero chooses to sacrifice their

Place of worship because it is a sacrifice. And sacrifice is what makes the story of Jesus Christ different from traditional hagiography. This act of free will, of martyring oneself, is the most potent act with the most profound effect on the people around them.

So, it begs the question: does it matter that the only reason Reverend Dave sacrificed his church was because God told him to? We’ve already made the claim that Riley doesn’t need to believe that Jesus Christ himself

Walked the Earth and gave his life in order to free humanity from their sins in the eyes of an all-forgiving all-powerful god. He just needs to do the right thing. He just needs to recognize evil. It doesn’t matter why Riley recognized the evil, be it by its biblical definition or…or

By the harm that it’s causing. It matters that he put a stop to it. “I don’t think that Reverend Hill rolled over. I think that he saw people suffering, and he made a sacrifice for them. Surely, their parallels to Christianity are not lost on you.”

It doesn’t matter if Reverend Dave only put down his sword because Daddy told him to; and it doesn’t matter who was there to offer Professor Sorbo his salvation in the eyes of God. It just matters that he got it.

“The God that you don’t believe in has given you another chance; another chance to change your final answer.” To sing, recite, or teach a text is never a neutral act.” If we are looking for a traditional monomyth in the “God’s Not Dead” films, we are not going to find it.

That’s not what they’re for. They are made by Christians, for Christians. They are acts of praise. They are retellings of the Christian redemption cycle with characters fulfilling the role of Jesus, without actually being Jesus. Which makes them a lot less like protagonists and a lot more like saints.

And, if they are saints, then these films are just visual hagiography; hagiography being the retelling of the lives and achievements of saints, culminating in a chirotic moment where that saint’s badassness is officially acknowledged by God himself to the world.

The chirotic moment is the moment when the Lord comes and says, “I choose you.” Holland says, “In hagiography there is no room for interpretation of events prior to the chirotic moment, because everything leads up to that and is painted in the light of that.

There is no moment where the protagonist could have gone a different route or made a different moral choice. Time is not linear anymore; it is all the same. In narratives, before a climatic moment, everything is up to many interpretations.”

The GND movies go down one way and one way only; they ask one question (“Who do you say I am?”), and they answer it: God is good always, and always God is good. They are straightforward; they are palatable. Pureflix is the Dhar Mann of feature length video content.

Does that mean that they are harmless? No. They are offensive; they are full of stereotypes and misinformation, and I do not even want to know where their money comes from or where it goes. They are problematic in the most basic sense of the word.

There are so many well-researched and well-articulated articles and videos about that fact, and, yet, they still made four of them. They’re doing it for somebody, somewhere out there. That is why I wanted to give these films a fair shake.

“The biggest thing is that…that God has a specific purpose and a plan for your life; and, uh, and he is real, and there is hope in him.” “So, April…” What’s interesting about the film’s use of that phrase, “If there is no immortality of

The soul, then all things are lawful,” or, “If there is no God, all things are permissible,” is that they use it to support the film’s idea that the bible gives us answers. It gives us guidance that belief in Jesus Christ can give us the freedom and liberation

From pain and suffering that we all so secretly, deeply desire. But, in context, in “The Brothers Karamazov”, that statement actually brings about a lot more questions than it does answers. When Dmitri poses that specific question, “All things are lawful, then?

Men can do what they like?” he’s proposing it to a journalist right before his trial for the murder of his father, which he did not commit. And the journalist responds by saying that clever men already do what they like.

Ivan is concerned that a world where no one believes in God or is governed by a belief in God will fall into complete chaos and injustice, when it’s already happened. Dmitri is found guilty. Dmitri gets sent to jail for something that he didn’t do. A murderer walks.

It’s already happened; the death of God has already occurred in their world. You cannot unring that bell. “God is dead. We have killed him. We have free will.” That monstrous world that Ivan describes–that selfish, evil, lawless land where cannibalism

Runs amok–that is the world that “Midnight Mass” presents to us as a direct product of the belief in God as a moral authority. In “The Brothers Karamazov”, the belief in God brings nothing but questions; in “God’s Not Dead”, it gives us answers; and, in “Midnight Mass”, it gives us justification.

If Dostoyevsky was putting Eastern Orthodoxy on trial to see if it prevails, then Michael Flanagan is nailing Catholicism to the cross to see if it will rise again. They are rewarded for their actions; they are rewarded for how they choose to love.

In the final moments of “Midnight Mass”, the people of Crockett Island stand amongst their burning homes–the wreckage of their God’s work. *Singing* And they begin to sing. They liberate themselves from their belief in a transcendent God that would require such monstrous acts of them through a return to their most basic principles.

As the sun rises on Crockett Island, Ali and Sheriff Hassan begin to pray; Erin lies like Jesus on the cross beneath the angel; Father Paul and Mildred hold Sarah’s body on a bridge that she loved as a child; and Lisa and Riley’s brother are sat on a tiny rowboat in the middle

Of the water, watching everything that they have ever known and everyone that they have ever loved turn to ash. And Lisa looks at him and says… “I can’t feel my legs.” Suffering has returned; liberation is over, even for the innocent. “Weeping may last through the night, but joy cometh in the morning.”

“Midnight Mass” was never about resurrection; it was never about bringing God back from the dead; it’s about standing in your darkest possible moment, when you have become the devil, and answering the question. It’s about keeping God alive whoever you say that he is. Alright. That’s it. We’re done. We’re done. We’re done.

God save the queen. I can’t believe I’m done…I’m so happy to be done filming this. This has been the hardest thing that I’ve done in a really long time. Like, between the fact that I started the script in September and just the sheer amount

Of research that was required, and there was always something else that needed to be looked into and explored, and the script didn’t make any sense for so long; it still doesn’t; editing is gonna be a fucking nightmare, but… And, then, the tech issues…

And I film all this on my phone; I have to keep everything on a hard drive because I don’t have space on my computer to even run Final Cut. Like, this is…this has been such a monster. So, thank you for watching all of it. I appreciate it. I would like to do more.

I’m planning to do more. I hope they don’t take this long. I’m trying to get better at other social media, so I do post some stuff about this on my Instagram; but, like, my Instagram’s, like, mostly my family and my friends, so it feels really weird to post anything, like, advertisey?

So, don’t expect, like, influencer-level content if you follow there. But, if you do, I do sometimes post about like the process of these and…and how they’re coming along, so there’s that. Um, you can follow my tiktok…that’s mostly gay shit. And, um…yeah. That’s about it. I appreciate your help.

Not that you did anything, but…you know. I apologize to chairs, so… I can hear my neighbors; okay. I…it’s 2:02 AM, I can hear my neighbors talking, so I think they’re probably about to come complain about how loud I’m talking so… Bye. That’s a wrap! I keep on waking up, walking alone in the street… I keep on hearing the voices; they’re trying to scream… A child in a blanket of lead, on the river I wade through Searching reflections for all of the answers I thought I knew

I wanna burn down the farm Set fire to the wood that built me so strong For a world that I cannot Survive I want to watch it all fall Swallow the ashes I make of the stall In the hopes that they might Make me feel alive

Family of monsters can live as long as their youngest So, cut down the fountain of youth and tie it to her wrist A child in a cave, on the edge of the river I’m hiding Traded her matches for all of the time she’s spent biding

I wanna burn down the farm Set fire to the wood that built me so strong For a world that I cannot Survive I want to watch it all fall Swallow the ashes I make of the stall In the hopes that they might Make me feel alive

Call the fire department Tell them there’s been an arson Forget the village buckets There’s not a damn thing left Call the fire department Tell them there’s been an arson Forget the village buckets There’s not a damn thing left

I wanna burn down the farm Set fire to the wood that built me so strong For a world that I did not Did not survive I want to watch it all fall Swallow the ashes I make of the stall In the hopes that they might Bring me back to life

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