Student clubs have become a hot topic for Christians in current events. Pro-life clubs are silenced, Christian clubs are banned, and religious students are often marginalized (in case you doubt this claim, look at this article, and this one). God’s Club puts the spotlight on that without reservation.
It follows the story of Michael Evans, a teacher whose wife (also a teacher) passionately campaigned for the inclusion of a Christian club as an extracurricular activity at the school. They faced a lot of opposition, and when Michael’s wife is tragically killed in a car accident, things simmer down a little bit – until Michael decides to pick up the fight where she left it.
It should be noted at this point that the production value for this film is better than what you might be accustomed to for low-budget Christian films. This is largely due to the presence of professional actors in many of the roles, rather than amateur stand-ins. Stephen Baldwin plays the lead, and is bolstered by Corbin Bernsen’s supporting role. The film’s primary antagonist, Spencer Rivers, is also played by a professional actor, although he’s not nearly as well known as the previous two. This doesn’t completely save the film from the forced dialogue and awkward framing that often plagues this genre, but it is much less distracting than comparable films.
But the film gets something right that far too few Christian films have. This is primarily a film not to evangelize to non-Christians, but to show Christians what the cost of discipleship could actually be. The soul of the movie, and of that message, comes through when at one point Michael says “I can’t believe your mother ever believed there was a shred of humanity in this town.” That’s what opposition to the Christian faith can really be like. As Paul said to Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”
Meanwhile, there’s Victor, a boy at the high school who’s interested in Michael’s daughter. He undergoes what is undoubtedly the most compelling character development in the film, and his story prods questions about Christianity in the light of depression, mental illness, and even shows that antagonists, yes, even that guy that will stop at nothing to keep your Christian club from going through, he cares about something too. He also cares about his son. In so doing, the film adds some nuances that all too often are just missing in Christian films. And perhaps the most important of these nuances is the fact that Michael and his daughter Rebecca, stout Christians though they may be, aren’t without their struggles in being such. Michael in particular struggles with his faith, and wonders if it’s really worth it, and indeed at times is convinced it isn’t.
Being a film with these complexities, however, it’s a shame that they don’t take place earlier in the story. When Michael’s wife dies, he transitions from drowning in grief to going back to school to complete acceptance with unbelievable speed. Almost immediately after going back to work, he tells Rebecca that the accident has made him stronger. For all the positive things I have to say about the film, I must also say this: that is a tremendous oversight, or simply ignorance, on the part of the writers. That, or a lack of execution when it comes to plot development. The point is this: to any husband, even any Christian husband, the tragic death of your wife is something that takes years to accept. Not just a couple of months.
All of that said, this is certainly one of the better Christian films out there. The primary theme of the film – the cost of discipleship – is a much-needed one in a culture that is increasingly hostile to evangelistic Christianity, and the inclusion of depression, suffering, and oppression makes it closer to reality, and therefore more relatable and helpful, for the Christian viewer.
Consensus: 8/10. While the film’s picture of grief is far too idealistic, the portrayal of Christian life in an antagonistic culture is inspiring, and prods us to consider how fear might be impeding our faith.