The experience of directing “God’s Not Dead” was a powerful one for Harold Cronk, the Scottville area resident selected by Pure Flix to bring the film to life on the screen.
It has a national opening in 777 theaters today and has sparked what Cronk called a full-scale battle on Facebook about God.
The film tells a fictional story based on real-life court cases of a college student standing up for his faith when faced with a college professor requiring students to renounce that there is a living God.
“We’re expecting it to get beat up a little bit by the secular community, but that’s all right. Our God can take it,” Cronk said Wednesday night in Manistee.
Thursday night, the show previewed in Ludington at Harbor Cinema 8.
During the post screening question and answer period at Manistee’s Vogue Theatre, Cronk was asked a couple times about how faith played a role in his work, and in one case, to describe his own walk of faith.
To the first question, he said he works from a place of personal faith though in his own movies such as “The Adventures of Mickey Matson” films, the second of which will be released this summer or fall. His faith is infused in the sensibilities of those works but is not outrightly discussed.
“God’s Not Dead” is a different type of a film, an outrightly Christian film seeking to be a teaching tool. Cronk said he trusted that the writers and Pure Flix had their story and arguments in the script straight; he was just there to direct it and be true to the writers’ vision.
One thread of the story involves a Muslim father whose daughter is attending the same college where the philosophy class debate is taking place. The father is a devout and traditional Muslim who tells his daughter he understands how difficult it is to be in a world not of their own that they can see but not be a part of. She’s, however, testing that world and learning about its Christian faith. Suffice to say, there is a confrontation that is graphic and disturbing.
Cronk said in Manistee that scene and depiction in particular bothered him.
“That’s a tough scene,” he said. “We wanted to show someone standing up for their faith in the most dire circumstances.”
He said he knew the film deals in many ways with archetypical and potentially stereotypical characterizations — another involved a People’s Republic of China student in the class whose father wanted to hear nothing of religion.
“The scene had always bothered me,” he said, “because I didn’t want to portray the Muslim faith in that way. (Islam) is a very peaceful religion. They have people going off the edge like we do.”
So he asked another scene be added after the confrontation scene between the father and daughter that showed the father as a person.
Asked if actors balked at being in Christian films, Cronk said he found most just wanted to act and that wasn’t an issue. He said it was a busy set and there was little time between takes to talk about anything other than what’s for lunch. However, he said, one crew member was fired for swearing in front of children, something that couldn’t be tolerated on that set of a movie with Christian principles.
The question from the audience about his own faith walk made Cronk pause.
“It’s a struggle every day,” he said. “Thank God for God’s grace or we would be in trouble every day. It’s um .... (quiet) ... God is good.” The audience replied, mimicking a line from the film, “All the time.”
“My walk of faith started late in high school and continued through college,” Cronk went on. “It’s been a journey. As long as you are willing to acknowledge that God is in charge of your life and you’re not, that you are willing to follow Him, that’s kind of where I am right now.”
“God’s Not Dead” continues at Harbor Cinema 8 in Ludington, Saturday at 10:20 a.m., 1, 4:20, 7:10 and 9:50 p.m. and Sunday at 10:20 a.m., 1, 4:20 and 7:10 p.m.
At the Vogue Theatre in Manistee Saturday at 12:30 and 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 7 p.m.
Sunday night discussion
Sunday night in Ludington, Crossroads Baptist Church is conducting a session for people who saw the movie to gather and talk about it and the topics within it.