In the 2015 film, God’s Club, Stephen Baldwin stars as Michael Evens.
Michael is a teacher at the local high school. His wife is also a teacher and it is quickly established that she is quite a bit more religious than her husband. In fact, she’s the sponsor of the after-school Christian club. This club is very controversial because God’s Club is one of those films that takes place in a community where everyone is not only an atheist but also a total jerk about it. It’s like everyone learned how to be an atheist by watching Richard Dawkins YouTube videos. At a school board meeting, parents shout about separation of church and state and warn that they are not going to sit by while their children are brainwashed. Principal Max Graves (Corbin Bernsen, giving the film’s best performance as the sole voice of reason at the high school) explains that no one is being forced to attend the club. Michael, for his part, remains quiet. Later, as they’re driving home, Michael and his wife are in a serious accident. Michael survives. His wife asks him to pray with her and then promptly dies.
Weeks later, a guilt-stricken Michael returns to school. It turns out that most of the students are just as jerky as their parents. When Michael opens his class with a moment of silence for his dead wife, one of his students reports him for praying in class. This leads to the parents demanding that Michael be fired. Spencer Rivers (played by Lorenzo Lamas) is especially adamant that Michael should not be allowed to teach and he even goes so far as to insult the memory of Michael’s dead wife. Making things even more tense is Michael’s decision to restart God’s Club himself. Needless to say, this leads to even more controversy but it also gives Michael a chance to make peace with both himself and his guilt over his wife’s death.
Christian teachers being persecuted by atheist parents and mindless government enforcers is a recurring theme when it comes to faith-based films. Perhaps the best-known example of this is God’s Not Dead 2, in which Ray Wise literally cackles with delight as he thinks about ruining Melissa Joan Hart’s life. (“We are going to prove that God is dead,” Wise explains to his legal team, none of whom point out that it would be smarter to just settle the case and move on.) The debate over whether or not religion should be allowed in schools is a legitimate one but films like God’s Club (and God’s Not Dead 2) tend to approach the subject in such a melodramatic that it’s difficult to really pay much attention to their arguments. It’s not enough that the parents in God’s Club are perhaps being a little bit paranoid in their belief that their children are going to be preached to. Instead, the parents are portrayed as being so evil that they can’t even show the least bit of kindness to a man who has just lost his wife in a sudden tragedy. One thing that all of these films have in common is that they take place in world in which there are no polite atheists.
Stephen Baldwin, who is usually the only lively thing about the films in which appears, gives a rather stilted performance as Michael. According to the film’s IMDb page, Baldwin was dealing with some health issues while filming God’s Club and perhaps that’s why he seems to be so disinterested in the film. Baldwin seems to be just as depressed when his wife is alive as he is after the car accident. At the end of the film, everyone seems to be excited about God’s Club except for him. It’s hard not to think that maybe Michael would be better off just retiring and maybe moving to Florida. By the end of the film, he’s earned some time on the beach.
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