It’s unlikely that David A.R. White knows who I am. If he does I imagine I blend into the hundreds of other mean tweets, YouTube takedowns, blogs, and comments that have been a part of his life since his 1992 entrance into Christian cinema. The joke I make is that if I ever ran into him on the street there’d be this awkward moment of “DAVID!!! I’ve seen all your movies!” and he’d be like, “Always nice to meet a fan!” and I’d be like, “NO…no…not…not a fan…we…we’re gonna have a fight now.”
But fan or not, besides David himself, it’s very likely that my partners and I have seen more of his movies than, probably, anybody else in the world. Most of them multiple times. I’ve spent hundreds of hours insulting everything from his physical appearance, to his fight choreography, to his frosted tips, and I’ve done so for good reasons. His movies are, at BEST, propaganda, and at worst they’re homophobic-transphobic-racist monstrosities pushing bronze-age morality under the guise of entertainment. I roast David A.R. White’s movies because…they deserve it. Like everything else we do on our shows, we point and laugh because it takes away the power of terrible things, and I have done so without a second thought.
Until…this year. I’ve been waiting for God’s Not Dead: A Light in the Darkness (the third God’s Not Dead movie so far) since they teased it at the end of God’s Not Dead 2. It looked like the third in a series of insane persecution fantasies and I was excited to make fun of it. The plot looked like it was going to be about a preacher arrested for not turning his sermons over to the secular government…but it wasn’t. Unlike the first and second movie’s insanely cartoonish atheist characters and horrifying moral message, A Light in the Darkness taught a lesson that was…well…good. And so the night after I saw the movie, after I’d written my jokes about the clumsy writing, the bad acting, and the oddly twisting plot because that’s my JOB, I lay in bed thinking about A Light in the Darkness and this blog is the result.
I think 2016 changed the way a lot of us view the world. I don’t know about you but the way I feel about democracy, the internet, and my fellow Americans is very different now than it was before the election. That hardening of the heart in the wake of being a sucker that I’ve written about in places on this blog feels more and more like a cocoon that’s isolated me from former friends, members of my atheist community, and my country. Like many of us, Trump’s America, above all, has made me feel lonely and foolish. Like I should have seen the monsters around me all along but was too stupid to do so.
The difference for ME is that, for the most part, my community, friends, and listeners have been on the right side of this part of history. As I’ve watched unknown horrors rise from the parts of this country I thought we were done with I’ve been comforted to know that I’m not alone in my horror and my sadness. My heart is in the right place and so are the hearts of the people around me. So are the hearts of the people who pay my bills.
But David A.R. White doesn’t have that comfort. I have a hard time imagining what it’s like to be a Trump supporter, let alone a conservative, but I have no idea what it’s like to be one of their leaders. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not letting him off the hook. David A.R. White has some bad ideas, too, but I don’t think he planned for this. I don’t think he planned to see the symbol of his faith carried by Nazis down the streets of Charlottesville, or to watch his spiritual leaders and colleagues support and defend a president who cheated on his mistress with a pornstar. And I think that maybe, just maybe, A Light in the Darkness’s surprisingly positive and humble message might be the result.
The character who needs to change in the movie is the Christian. The atheist characters are helpers, moral, and DON’T end the movie by turning their lives over to Jesus, getting hit by a car in the rain, or both. Rather, the nonbelievers in A Light in the Darkness have abandoned their faith because of real and honest questions and the way they were treated when they asked them. As a character says in the final act of the movie “Do you want to know why my generation is leaving the church? A lot of people know what the church is against, but nobody seems to know what it’s FOR,” and yet another character (Josh, the original student, in the original cartoonish God’s Not Dead) describes Jesus as the ultimate social justice warrior. Further still, one of the preachers in the movies talks about people loving Jesus for his kindness and not for his ability to fight.
Now look; I’ve read the book, and I know those characters are wrong. The Christ of the Bible is radical, violent by ANY measure, and firmly believes that the world is going to end any day now, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Christ David A.R. White chose to sell in the biggest movie of his largest franchise is one that stands AGAINST everything American Christians are representing today.
I watched A Light in the Darkness and when my jokes were done I wrote this for you because the truth is that it gave me hope. Hope that David A.R white, someone whose bad thinking is so central and iconic that I can make a career by making fun of him, can change. And if David can change…there might just be hope for us all.
Hey everybody, thanks for listening, I know it’s been a while but it’s been a crazy couple months, so thank you for your patience. If you enjoyed this and you want to support not just me but the ENTIRE scathing crew, remember that this blog is split evenly, just like all our shows are, and you can pledge at patreon.com/elibosnick and get cool stuff, as well as bonus patron-only sections on most of the blogs, including this one. So if you’re already a patron stay tuned for a patron-only afterthoughts: “Sound.”
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