Last night, I watched Kirk Cameron’s new movie, so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Apparently, Kirk Cameron is an all-round amazing guy who loves Jesus and doesn’t mind at all having his vaguely handsome slightly-stubbly face as the whole of the movie poster. Liberty University is an all-around amazing evangelical Christian school and they also love Jesus. While Liberty U. is indeed notoriously homophobic, they nevertheless call themselves the Flames for some reason, and they have filled up an entire sports stadium with passionately fiery virgins to see Kirk’s movie, which is supposed to be mostly about Jesus rather than the charming blue-eyed devil on the poster.
Firstly, though, because it’s a live stream of an event at Liberty University, we’ll honor the troops and listen to some wholesome Christian R&B followed by some wholesome contemporary Christian rock.
Singer Warren Barfield reminds us, “We live in a world where it’s not politically correct to tell the truth.” He is absolutely right, of course, as any atheist can tell you. Try suggesting that we could improve immeasurably upon the morals of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus at your next neighborhood cookout, and you will see exactly what I’m talking about.
Finally, we get past the preliminaries and on to the movie proper. Oh look, it’s even more of Kirk Cameron talking to the camera! (Thank Almighty God in Heaven I didn’t actually pay for these tickets.) He is telling us that the problem of evil is indeed problematic, and sometimes even turns Christians into atheists. He is also badly overpromising on his own ability to answer the problem before the movie ends.
We then hear the tragic story of Matthew and how he was taken from his family by cancer at a young age. This is meant to be the defining event that motivates the rest of the movie, and it is truly heartbreaking to watch. Whether you are Atheist, Baha’i, Christian, Daoist, or what-have-you, I’m not about to try to argue you out of your beliefs while you are leaning on them in a time of personal crisis. I don’t think that would be fair to you to try take advantage of your emotional vulnerability like that, and I don’t think it would do justice to the process of critical thinking to try to use tragedy as an emotional shortcut.
Similarly, though, it makes no sense to use tragedy to try to reaffirm a religious message. Had the family on screen been Jewish, or Mormon, or Muslim, we’d have seen how Judaism or Mormonism or Islam helps a family work through their grief and gives them hope. I’ve written before in this space how my atheist friends supported us when we lost my father to multiple myeloma, but I did not write about how the pastor prioritized sermonizing over eulogizing. Needless to say, it didn’t improve the experience for anyone, and not a single soul was saved that day.
Adam and Eve
Back to the movie, which promises to help us solve the problem of evil by going back to the very beginning. We meet Adam, the first man, as he arises from out of the clay. He is shockingly European, which reminds me suddenly that I’m in a room with hundreds of white people who deny the African origins of humanity, not to mention the evolution of humans from other great apes, and don’t find White Adam shocking in the least. A grungy metal soundtrack that kicks in at this point, because you cannot quite convey how badass it is to raise humanity out of dirt without making a music-video-style production out of it.
You’ve probably heard the rest of this story, but it goes like this: God performs an emergency wifectomy on Adam’s torso and creates a woman out of the flesh that he removed therefrom. This woman is named Eve, she is smoking hot and even whiter than Adam. God also provides the tastefully nude young couple with a tree from which they are not to eat, conveniently bearing visually appealing and delicious fruit at the center of the garden, and if that wasn’t tempting enough on its own, God sends in a forbidden fruit salesman in the form of a walking and talking serpent.
Cutaway to Kirk, who explains to us that God gave Adam a job in the garden, and that job was to crush the heads of any serpents that try to sneak in and sell anyone fruit. I couldn’t find the verse on point for that, but I’m not about to argue with a Bible scholar like Cameron. Adam was definitely failing at his only job, to keep the poor vulnerable woman safe from having to think about these weighty moral issues for herself.
Cain and Abel
Now humanity has become way more sinful and (apparently) a smidge more ethnic. A swarthy man in what looks to be a snakeskin balaclava chases down his brother and bludgeons him to death with a rock. This warrants another music video, of course, as blood seeps into the ground. Cutaway to Kirk, who pontificates for a bit at around the level of a teenage stoner. Ever think that maybe the mark of Cain was the original mark of the beast? Whoa, man, that’s really deep. We should write that shit down.
Skip forward a bit and pretty much all of humanity has turned evil. God drowns everyone, but Kirk says that’s ok because they were destroying themselves anyhow. He also makes it abundantly clear that he does not mean this story as a moral fable, he means a literal total worldwide inundation that drowned everyone except for one family and their floating zoo.
Which brings us to the funniest part of the film, when Kirk does an imaginary Hollywood pitch for The Flood as a film production unto itself. These slick metrosexual producer types seem to think that the near-total global genocide of homo sapiens by water wouldn’t make for particularly enjoyable or child-friendly viewing. I sincerely hope this segment breaks on to YouTube someday, it is far more hilarious than originally intended.
Back to Kirk, who explains that God’s rainbow is a war bow and the fact that he hung it up pointing towards heaven is perhaps prophetic of eventual messianic redemption. Because when I look at a rainbow, I don’t see colorful partial circle resulting from sunlight interacting with water droplets, but rather a divine weapon of war against the entire human race. No wonder these guys fear the gays so much.
Tower of Babel and the Empires of Death
Skip forward a bit more and pretty much all of humanity has turned evil, again. This time God is annoyed with them for creating “one world government” and trying to work together to reach for the skies, so God cunningly invents all new linguistic systems to bring them down.
This divine clusterfuffling of human speech leads (by unspecified means) to the great empires mentioned in the Bible: Babylon ian, Assyrian, Persian, Grecian, Roman, etc. Kirk refers to these collectively as the “Empires of Death,” while conveniently eliding over the parts of the Bible where the Israelites boast of killing all the Canaanite natives and taking their livestock and virgins for themselves. By this point in the film, I’ve taken to gnawing on bits of myself to numb the pain.
Into the last of these great empires, God comes down to live and suffer and die, so that he can fulfill some mysterious Deep Magic that prevents the All Powerful Deity from forgiving people without first requiring a blood sacrifice. Thus evil is finally defeated and we discover Kirk’s answer to the problem of evil: ALL APPARENTLY GRATUITOUS SUFFERING IS IN FACT DIVINELY PURPOSEFUL.
That’s it, really. No sophisticated appeals to soul-building or many worlds, just an appeal to the faithful to assume that it’s all good. Naturally, there is no evidence given for this proposition beyond the Biblical highlights I’ve described above, popular stories which every last one of my 4th grade Sunday School students could have easily recounted back when it was my role to indoctrinate young children. The faithful in the audience (that is, well nigh the entire audience) are expected to fall in line with their training and stop asking difficult questions. Why did I ever think to expect anything more?