Pre-Reborn

In recent years, so-called “pro-life” groups have tried to redefine fetuses as “pre-born individuals,” imbuing them with the same legal rights as “post-born” (I guess?) humans, a move that would essentially redefine abortion as murder, outright.

I am thinking about this fact because, last week, I subjected myself to the movie God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness, given that it was filmed here in central Arkansas and the Arkansas Times wanted a review. I’ve already ranted a lot about the series here and here and here, and you can read my review of God’s Not Dead 2 my take on the latest online at the Times. While the movie has been lightly praised for offering slightly more complex characters, especially in its representation of people outside the faith, and maybe even seems to call into question the series’ insistence that Christians are perpetual objects of persecution in this country, it still holds to a fundamental divide that is dehumanizing. Yes, it has a kinder, gentler tone, and yes, its Christian protagonists this time question the idea behind “fighting for one’s faith.” However, because of the goodness on display by these Christians, at the end of the movie, our non-believing characters are both holding bibles, apparently taking the first step on a journey of faith.

In other words, in the Christian worldview, all non-believers are “pre-reborn.” There is one end here–all persons must be reborn, and to interfere with rebirth in any way is rather analogous to being an abortion doctor, right? Immoral, insidious, evil. Everything must be done to guarantee rebirth. In the world of God’s Not Dead, those who deny the goodness of God are the damaged, the incomplete, like a baby still being stitched together in its mother’s womb. The latest in the series may not represent all non-believers as incarnations of evil (as with the lawyer named Kane in the previous movie), but those who left the faith behind did so not because they had serious questions about the nature of religion–no, they fell away because the Christians in their lives weren’t Christian enough.  So, alongside the philosophical debate of the first, and the legal struggle of the second, Christians have a third strategy for winning over the fallen with this third–basic human kindness.

For my own part, I left religion behind after having cycled through a few different denominations and finally finding myself among people who were certainly kind, definitely intelligent, espousing a theology that recognized human diversity and the value of genuine care for the most vulnerable in our community. All the virtues were there, but after I few years I still drifted away due to a growing value for scientific methodology and an awareness of the limitations of philosophical inquiry predicated by even a liberal and tolerant religious worldview. (My own eventual conclusions rather mirror Ubi Dubium’s recent discussion of the problem of religious methodology.) The problems I had with faith were problems inherent in the phenomenon of faith, with issues of epistemology, not in the behavior of other people.

In other words, the alleged humanity depicted in God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness is false for two reasons: A) it still rests upon a false understanding of why people leave–or never engage in the first place with–religion, and B) its remains fundamentally goal-oriented, predicated upon the aim of conversion. No matter our subjective experience with objective reality, we remain incomplete until we embrace the faith. For Christians, the rest of us are pre-reborn, and the only right we have is rebirth.

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