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New God’s Not Dead Movie Explores Relevancy of the Church

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

It seems cliché, but as a community of faith people are called to be a light in the darkness to those who desperately need hope. 

This powerful reminder is the focal point of the third installment of the God’s Not Dead movie series.  In God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness (releasing on DVD, Blu-Ray, and Digital this week), a university uses a tragedy to push a long-standing church from its place on school property.  Rather than acquiescing to this mandate the church opts to defend its rights and subsequently creates more tension on campus than the university ever bargained for.

Hollywood veteran Ted McGinley (Do You Believe?) plays a vital role in God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness, portraying a university chancellor forced to choose between being sympathetic to the church or ultimately being the one to approve shuttering its doors.

I recently spoke to McGinley about this movie’s ability to elevate the conversation about faith in today’s America, whether the church is still relevant, and why this movie is the most personal of the series.

This is the third installment of the God’s Not Dead movie series but your first appearance in the trilogy.  What was it about this script and this film that attracted you to become part of it?

As an actor, you want to make sure that your character has some sort of arc from A to B to C.  And this movie had such great conflict between myself and the main character (Reverend Dave played by David A.R. White).  David’s character is my friend, I love his family, and the fact that I got that job as the chancellor of the University is strictly because of David’s character. So I have a true affinity for his character and his family. So when the college’s Board of Directors puts me into a position that will have a great effect on him and his family’s legacy, that’s really a difficult place to be. But as an actor, that’s exactly where you want to be. You want to have the stakes high. So that was cool. I enjoyed that. That’s what attracted me right away to the script.  I do love that relationship. It makes that choice extremely difficult, and it’s wonderful when they put the movie together knowing that the more difficult they make the obstacle, the better the movie will be, as opposed to sort of a nothing part, because it could have also just been really boring.

What is the same about God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness as compared to the first two movies and what is different?

There is no need to see (movies) one and two to really enjoy three. The first one is the one that takes what all of our kids are going through in school and education, where does God, where does your faith belong in that argument and in that life and what do they encounter often in classes? The second one, of course, goes to court.  And then this one, in my opinion, actually takes place in your own living room, in your own heart with your own people.  This one makes you look at your own views, and I think also we’re asking you to listen to the other side. If we’re so frightened that we can’t hear what the other side says; how are we ever going to have a discourse? How will we ever make change, how will we ever accept anyone?

As you have mentioned and from what I have seen in this third movie, it seems much more relational and personal than the first two God’s Not Dead releases. Do you agree?

Totally.  This is a very interpersonal and personal relationship movie and story, and so that all of the characters are making changes that have and will affect them and the people around them deeply. And it’s because of something that happens sort of publicly, but the truth is the change, unlike the other two movies, this change is happening to each person individually. It’s happening on a smaller stage.  You change the world one person at a time, and you can’t ask these things of other people if you’re not willing to do it yourself. We all seem to want to do that.

Do you feel like this movie is strictly for a niche, faith-based audience or is it one that has the potential for a broader appeal?

I definitely feel that it does.  The key here is that if you have a dissenting view of religion, a dissenting view of politics, whatever that is, whatever you’re on the other side of, you are fairly represented in this film. You weren’t made out to be a villain, your voice was heard, and I think you’ll see yourself in it and say, “You know what, okay, they didn’t make me out to be the bad guy, all they did was say what I believe,” and I think that is fantastic filmmaking. In other words, we’re all just holding up a mirror to what society is currently doing, and then we are showing that the only way to make resolution—the hard part about politics and even in religion, in politics in order for someone on the other side to get something, that means there is a group of people who have to give up something.  And in religion, there’s a group of people who are not going to give up. You’re not going to take away God, the Father, the Son, you’re not going to take that from them, but they are willing to listen and maybe change how they may go about their business, how they might worship, how they might help the Millennials get involved, that kind of change. But yes, you’re not going to give away the core value of their faith, but you can love, respect and listen to the other side with grace.

I believe one of the chief goals of this movie is to elevate the conversation about faith in America today.  Specifically, how is the church relevant in today’s society?  Is it still relevant?  From your perspective, do you think God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness achieved this?

I really do feel that the film was a fair representation to so many groups that were looking for a mirror to themselves.  That is very rare.  I think that you can say that in a lot of faith-based films that the real wise choice here was to make these people real and not evil, just the fact that many of them have a questioning point of view, and you deal with the Millennials who look at church and going to church, and how they live their lives as they’re trying to figure out “How do I work in the church, how does the church see me and will the church understand how I want to live?” It’s all of those questions, and I felt like everybody is very well-represented in this film, and that when you walk away, you will say, “Okay, they didn’t make me the bad guy. I heard my point of view,” and I think that that’s super-generous and commendable.

After people have seen God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness, what would you like audiences to take away from the movie?  What is your greatest hope for the film?

I love the idea, “a light in darkness,” and I think that I really honestly believe as Martin Luther King believed that darkness cannot chase out darkness, only light can do that, and we can never find light if we’re filled with hate and judgment.  If we can’t listen to the other side, we’re never going to make it. And so we can’t be fearful. You hope for those of us with faith that our belief is so strong that hearing the other side isn’t going to destroy us. It might help us have some empathy, some passion, compassion, and a way to figure out when you hear somebody, some kid, some person on the Internet writing these horrible things and being filled with hate, you wonder why is that person doing it? What is their reason for doing it? And if we can look at what’s causing them to do it as opposed to what they’re saying, we can begin to help them, and we can begin to figure out the “why” and how do we make it work. We just get so caught up in what these people are saying as opposed to why is it? What are they missing? What do they need? How do we fill it? We can do it better. I think this movie is so nice that it shows, “Listen, I hear you and I don’t hate you. Don’t hate me. Let’s do this together.” And I think it works, and it’s very real. What you see is something that could happen. But it’s one person at a time.

Watch a trailer for God's Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness:

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