God’s Not Dead 5 (or, more accurately, God’s Not Dead: Rise Up) is coming to a TV or phone near you in 2023, according to a press release from Pure Flix. Production on the film will begin later this year.
(I know what you’re thinking: There was a THIRD film? No. You’re lying. That never happened, much less a FOURTH film. Why was there a sequel at all? HOW MANY TIMES CAN THIS GOD DIE?! Get your act together, atheists, and finish the damn job!)
David A. R. White, the co-founder and managing partner of Christian film studio Pure Flix and the main character in the previous two films in the series, will once again star in this vanity project. And, not surprisingly, Christian nationalism is the focus:
Here’s what to expect in “God’s Not Dead: Rise Up”: When a favored incumbent suddenly suspends his candidacy for Congress, an embittered but brilliant campaign strategist is lured out of retirement and convinces Reverend Dave Hill to run for office. The race pits them both against formidable opponents from their past, each with plans to inexorably remove religion’s influence on public policy. Set against a backdrop of unprecedented political, civil and spiritual unrest, Dave struggles to answer an increasingly relevant question of our time: Is God dead in American politics?
It takes serious chutzpah to question whether God is dead in politics when 99% of Republicans in Congress and 88% of Congress as a whole practice Christianity. That’s in addition to the ultra-conservative religious majority on the Supreme Court.
But persecution has always been a selling point for Christian audiences no matter how good they actually have it. They love to complain about how little respect they get, but there’s no non-Christian group they’d ever trade places with when it comes to sheer power and influence.
In any case, if this film follows the trajectory of the rest of the series, it’s almost certain to fail.
Just to recap this history of this franchise, the first God’s Not Dead truly was a phenomenon, making more than $64 million during its run in theaters in 2014. The sequel, which came out in 2016, made over $24 million. That likely covered all the production costs and then some, but it wasn’t a blockbuster by any means.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, the third film in the series, made about $7.4 million. Not even close to the other two.
God’s Not Dead: We the People, the fourth film in the series, was only released in a handful of theaters for a limited run and made just over $1,100,000. But it was used as a promotional tool to get Christians to subscribe to Pure Flix’s paid streaming service.
Another way of analyzing the success of a film is looking at how it did in its opening weekend.
God’s Not Dead made $9,217,013 in 780 theaters its first weekend… which was just astonishing.
God’s Not Dead 2 made $7,623,662 in 2,419 theaters.
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness made $2,689,677 in 1,693 theaters.
God’s Not Dead: We the People made $1,170,367 in about 565 theaters.
All of that is to say: No one needs a fifth God’s Not Dead film. No one needed a second one, either, but at least there was money to be made. God’s Not Dead 5 will likely just stream on Pure Flix, making it even harder for churches to plan group outings to see it. So at this point, it feels like nothing more than a right-wing script from the reject pile that’s getting a God’s Not Dead rebranding because that’s the only way to make it a reality.
The franchise isn’t even about God anymore. Just going by the description, the latest film is just a way to milk the title of the first film to sell a different kind of Christian propaganda. It comes at a time when Christian nationalism is threatening women’s bodies and public schools and Christianity itself is declining in popularity. It’s hard to imagine atheists weren’t the one pushing for this franchise to continue.
You may as well just film White literally beating a dead horse for two hours. At least that would be more honest than anything you’ll see in the new movie.
(Portions of this article were published earlier)