Hollywood’s Unexpected Religious Awakening

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The movie NOAH drew publicity for its box office success and eccentric adaptation of Biblical material, while two smaller religious movies drew eager audiences with their more traditional messages.


The little-known stars in  GOD’S NOT DEAD told a moving story about a courageous student standing up to a bullying professor trying to force his class to affirm atheism. This message movie spent three weeks in the box office top five, drawing $35 million—many times its miniscule budget.


Meanwhile, HEAVEN IS FOR REAL recounts the true story of a 4-year-old surviving a near-death experience, describing his encounters with angels, Jesus and dead relatives. The excellent Greg Kinnear plays the boy’s pastor-father seeking to understand his son’s testimony. Both movies demonstrate an enthusiastic audience for earnest films that affirm faith, rather than deriding it.

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  1. Brian  •  Apr 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    Hollywood has long been making movies about the bible, religion and spirituality. I don’t know where Michael has been. If he is trying to advance some argument that Hollywood is bending to some new great demand born of a growing conservative conversion then he is going to have to explain why they still make the “other” kind of movies.

    • Andrew  •  Apr 9, 2014 at 9:35 pm

      Did it cross your mind that the point he’s making is that there’s more than usual?

      • Brian  •  Apr 9, 2014 at 10:10 pm

        That’s the problem – what constitutes “usual” for Hollywood? Take for instance the movie “Noah”. It may be in theatres now, however, planning for the movie probably started at least three years ago and who knows how long the movie was in the conceptual stage? So is the movie responding to today’s “usual” or the “usual” of five years ago? And more to the point what is the “usual” source material for Hollywood? When you consider the huge spectrum of subject material it is very difficult to construct a “usual” for the entertainment industry. What is popular, of course, is any source material that is in the public domain and therefore, free. You know, like the bible.

      • Andrew  •  Apr 9, 2014 at 10:13 pm

        Point well taken.

  2. mark  •  Apr 10, 2014 at 11:08 am

    I think Michaels point is that there has been a strong attack on religion from secularists going on for several years now. And it seems to be getting stonger, especially in relation to the same sex marriage issue. It takes courage to make a positive movie about god and religion . Especially when one has to work in a community (Hollywood) that has a lot of that secularism in it. I’m sure many in Hollywood would just as soon see all religion, especially Christianity, disappear from any public influence. In other words, what many supporters of liberal issues, like same sex marriage, would like to see is religious people who oppose liberal ideas, go into their own closet and close the door. Movies like these might just open it instead.

    • Brian  •  Apr 10, 2014 at 2:12 pm

      If by “attack” you mean that there are persons who attack religion by ignoring its dogmas and acting differently then how is prescribed by its leadership, then yes religion is under “attack”. And why are you so sure about how people in Hollywood feel about religion, Christian or otherwise? Do you think religious people would like to see liberals disappear?
      Besides, what gives you the right to assume that to be religious and to be Christian means automatically to be on the other side of “liberal issues”? Are you suggesting that someone can only be religious when someone agrees with you?

  3. mark  •  Apr 11, 2014 at 9:58 am

    By attack I mean exactly what I said. The left is the most non inclusive, intollerant, and judgemental group in America today. Funny how things change. Used to be the conservatives were considered the close minded ones. Now the left has taken that mantle. Look for instance at what Brandeis University did. Won’t allow a black woman to speak because they are not tolerant of politically incorrect opinions. That is just one of many examples of how the left have left the American way. The left would love a totlitarian government in America, as long as it fit all the parameters of their dogma.

    • Brian  •  Apr 11, 2014 at 11:13 am

      “The left is the most non inclusive, intollerant, and judgemental group in America today. Funny how things change”.
      Exactly who is included in your definition of the “left”? Is it pretty much anyone who doesn’t share your personal opinions? I do consider my on the left and there are certain things that I do not tolerate and, like most human beings, I reserve the right to make value and factual judgments. And I refuse to include in my circle anyone whose political viewpoints are personally, politically, ethically or morally abhorrent to me and who refuses to change. But I guess if I were a good little conservative you would just refer to that as being “principled”

      “Used to be the conservatives were considered the close minded ones”
      They still are, and its not just a “consideration”.

      “Now the left has taken that mantle. Look for instance at what Brandeis University did. Won’t allow a black woman to speak because they are not tolerant of politically incorrect opinions”.
      Actually, I don’t really agree with the University at this time, however, the objections had nothing to do with her perceived race but had to do with her outspoken critique of Islam. I am sure if the University had dropped an atheist from the calendar for fear of offending their Christian students then there would be substantially less objection from the conservative wing.

      “That is just one of many examples of how the left have left the American way”.
      No, it’s really not. Its an example of how you are grabbing at imaginary straws in order to try and justify your own bigotry and intolerance.

      “The left would love a totlitarian government in America, as long as it fit all the parameters of their dogma”.
      Again, not really. I love free speech, I love freedom of religion, etc. However, that doesn’t mean I love everything I hear or I love all religious dogma.

      • Andrew  •  Apr 11, 2014 at 3:54 pm

        “I am sure if the University had dropped an atheist from the calendar for fear of offending their Christian students then there would be substantially less objection from the conservative wing.”
        Do you seriously believe they would do this though? You actually think they “fear” the Christians as much as they do Islam? C’mon, get real.

      • Joanna S  •  Apr 13, 2014 at 8:39 pm

        Universities do not ever fear offending Christian students. I know your next question is “How do YOU know?” Well, this is an area that I’m well aware of, because of my own research, my children’s college experiences, and most notably, my own experience teaching in a public university for the past 25 years. In my school the message is relatively subtle–nothing like “God’s Not Dead”–although something like that actually did happen at my alma mater, which is one of the most highly ranked schools in the country.
        However, students get the picture very quickly that you don’t proclaim your faith unless it’s one of the sanctioned ones (anything that is not particularly orthodox and not Christian). When 90+% of my students parrot the same tired cliches regarding religion and politics, I know that this is coming from their shared environment. Some of what you’ve said above about the totalitarian impulses in universities would definitely be a part of their responses: “…imaginary [attacks on Christians]…your own bigotry and intolerance…” My favorite colleague uses “Jesus Camp” and “Republican War on Science” as part of his curriculum, for example. He doesn’t know it’s biased. His students don’t, either. They think their documentaries–ALL of which are either liberal/secular or are presented in a tongue-in-cheek manner–are factual. In the Bush years, a day didn’t go by without one of my colleagues making anti-Bush jokes and slurs, and of course students all did the same thing. I called it our “2 minutes of hate.” It gets old, but I love the students and my colleagues, so I grit my teeth and keep my mouth shut.

  4. Brian  •  Apr 14, 2014 at 5:45 am

    Well, you see the problem with the “Christian” objection thing is – there really aren’t that many Christians that would object. I know the right-wing evangelical types like to think they are legion, but they really aren’t. That’s what really hurts. The fact that most folks don’t think the way they do and most folks don’t agree with them.

    And I am sorry that you all have swallowed the whole “christian martyr” thing being trolled by right wing pundits and con men. Colleges and university’s don’t like to offend their christian students, but it would be almost impossible to function if they stopped everything that offended that group of professional whiners.

    • Andrew  •  Apr 14, 2014 at 6:50 am

      Ahh, Brian, poor guy, are you actually that naive to call Christians the “professional whiners”. How upside-down you must see things to think that they are the ones who “whine”. Hmmm, let’s see, who are the ones always crying ‘racist!’ ‘sexist!’ ‘homophobe!’ and whining about things? Pretty sure it’s not the “right-wing evangelical types”. To actually believe that we’re the “whiners”, it sounds like YOU are the one listening to “con men”.

      • Brian  •  Apr 14, 2014 at 9:40 am

        I’ve been hearing from the far right for years about the “gay agenda” and “anti-Christian” this and “anti-religion” that. The gay community raised alarms about real problems including the fact that until a few years ago it was actually ILLEGAL to be gay in many states. I am not aware of any state that outlawed christianity or made christianity a legal basis for being fired, being denied employment, being denied housing or being denied service at a place of business. It was a pretty neat little piece of political calculus to turn that argument around. The far right decided that allowing persons the same rights as everyone else without regard to sexual orientation was some how or another a slight against christianity. Hence, the growing whining about how the “gay agenda”. Same thing applies for race and sex. Basically, so-called christians are complain that not be able to victimize anyone else makes them a victim.

      • Andrew  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 4:14 am

        Yes, they did raise legitimate concerns years ago as you said, but now it’s gotten out of hand, such as things like suing a wedding photographer because they won’t photograph someone’s wedding because of their sincerely held religious convictions. So in regards like that, yes, it’s understandable to hear Christians saying they feel they’re under attack. Oh, and I still stand by my comment about liberals being bigger “professional whiners”. You would have to be willfully ignorant to not see what is so obvious.

      • Brian  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 6:54 am

        Those legitimate concerns are still real and still out there. It is still legal in most states to fire someone because they are gay. And it still happens on a disturbingly regular rate. As far as I know it is still illegal to fire someone because of their religion. Its not “whining” when the offense is real. As for the photographer – what other recourse does an American citizen have when a business refuses service based on the business’s perceived view of the customer? Besides its an important question – does self declared religious convictions trump the law? As for the matter of who the professional whiners are – its difficult to view white christian Americans as being an oppressed group and not consider them professional whiners. Just think of it, whose the bigger whiner – the so-called christian photographer who is forced to see gay people and get paid to do it – or the gay teacher that gets fired because his/her employer finds out they are married to a member of their own sex?

      • Andrew  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 8:25 am

        Here we go again. You knew I was talking about independent and/or private businesses, right? It really is ridiculous to call the photographer’s religious reasoning “whining” just because he doesn’t want to participate in what he believes is morally wrong. Funny how you tried to make the photographer sound so petty. Oh, and now it’s “white Christian Americans”?

      • Brian  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

        We are “going again” because we never actually resolved anything. Like I said, it is still legal to fire someone in most states based on their sexual orientation. And some how or another the whiners have equated the hardship of not being allowed to fire someone with the hardship of actually being fired. And that includes in private and independent businesses ( if that is what you were referring to, I’m really not sure of what you meant with that comment). And yes it is “whining”. You start a business, you enjoy all the benefits of operating a business in this country (well regulated and dependable utilities, law enforcement, infrastructure support, the court system to settle disputes, fire, ambulance, hospitals, etc.) all of which are supported through equitable and representative taxation and yet you want to be able to pick and choose which citizens you are going to serve and which ones you are not going to serve, yet those citizens are given no choice when it comes to supporting the public matrix that your business depends on.

      • Andrew  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 11:19 am

        Of course a private business owner is in their right to turn down anyone they want for whatever reason. Even if you don’t like that reason. Do you even know how businesses work? It sounds to me like you’re OK with forcing them to do otherwise. For instance, would you be against a party planner to deny helping someone throw a “Nazi party”? I would think so.

      • Brian  •  Apr 15, 2014 at 2:15 pm

        No, private business owners are not within their “rights” to discriminate against a customer for whatever reason they desire or for whatever justification they may want to use. We had this discussion before. In the 50’s and 60’s. It was called the civil rights movement. Yes, a party planner has to help Nazi’s plan a party. And the department store has to sell white sheets to the KKK. And the Jewish deli has to sell to the Muslim cleric. But the deli owner doesn’t have to carry pork chops and the department store doesn’t have to sell white sheets and the party planner doesn’t have to be a party planner. They don’t have to like it and they aren’t required to do anything that they don’t already do.

      • Ravenspeaker  •  Apr 16, 2014 at 1:04 pm

        Brian, this argument is getting a little off topic. Michael made a point that is undeniable, Hollywood has made very few films in the last dozen years or so that affirms rather than derides religious faiths that are common in America. I say this as a person who practices two spiritual traditions that are uncommon in America. If I can see that it amazes me that anyone else can’t. Also, on another point the Supreme Court has ruled before that a person with an “expressive” profession such as an artist does not have to sell his services to someone he does not agree with. Photographers and cake decorators can argue and with good lawyering no doubt will in the future that their work is expressive and forcing them to use their artforms for something they do not agree with violates their first amendment right to freedom of expression.

  5. bobbyg  •  Apr 14, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    there is a song on about talk radio search: am radio Nazi song

  6. Brian  •  Apr 18, 2014 at 5:38 am

    Raven speaker:
    Not only is his point not undeniable, there is absolutely no evidence to support such a broad generalization.
    Just the entire idea that there is a “Hollywood” where all entertainment decisions are made is ludicrous.

  7. Matt  •  Apr 19, 2014 at 7:52 am

    Where are you going when you die? That is the only important decision you will ever make.. I pray you can answer that with “Heaven, because Jesus paid my debt with his blood.”

    • Andrew  •  Apr 19, 2014 at 8:00 am

      I wouldn’t hold my breath, Matt. From what I can tell he’s either an atheist or a bitter agnostic etc.

  8. Dominic  •  Apr 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

    I am still a very, very. Loose Christian, and I find your content amazing, hilarious, and helpful, personally, you must be an up and comer in the reviewer world, you should be up with the greats of Doug Walker and Roger Ebert, I am doing a report on the profession of film critics and I am in dire need of an extra source. May I email you, perhaps? My email address is thank you for your time.

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