GRAND RAPIDS – "God's Not Dead" writers take on the controversial topic of religious liberty again in the upcoming movie "Do You Believe?" because they want Christians to know that they are in the middle of a culture war.
Pure Flix Entertainment writer Cary Solomon said he and fellow writer Chuck Konzelman decided to feature a religious speech lawsuit in "Do You Believe?" because Christians have been in the shadows for far too long.
"When we did 'God's Not Dead' and if you look at that and you look at this and anything else we do, I'm tired, I'm sure Christians are tired. I'm just tired of [how] we are always put in the shadows, we are persecuted down. In other words, we are put in these positions where we're not allowed to speak, we're not allowed to do this, we're not allowed to do that and ... we just felt that it's time to fire the shot heard round the world," said Solomon.
"God's Not Dead" took the world by surprise with its success at the box office. Pure Flix CEO and Managing Partner Michael Scott said the film earned $9 million in its first week in theaters and another $8 to 9 million in its second week.
The Arizona film studio hopes its next film "Do You Believe?" will have similar results.
"Do You Believe?" – due out spring 2015 – follows a group of characters struggling with various problems. The characters' stories intersect in a way that reveals the "redemptive power of the cross."
Rough cuts from the film show a particular scene where EMT worker Bobby Wilson, played by Liam Matthews, shares the story of the cross to a dying construction worker. Bobby's actions spark a legal case and put his livelihood in jeopardy.
"This character, the way it develops is that his union backs away from him because they don't want to be faced with the financial burden of the suit if it's successful and the city backs away from him. And then he's faced with a choice of if he apologizes for having done it and promises to never ever do it again, the consequences will [go] away and he won't do that," said Konzelman.
Solomon said the scene, much like the "God's Not Dead" movie, is a wake-up call for Christians. "You can't get along-go along. Those days are over in America. We're in a culture war now and now is a matter of you have to stand for what you believe and you cannot compromise with the Devil. If you compromise with the Devil, you are going to lose."
Though Bobby ultimately makes the right choice, the writers show his life deteriorate as a result of standing his ground. This decision leads to an honest portrayal of what it means to be an outspoken Christian.
Actor Ted McGinley said this is the kind of candor that draws him to Pure Flix. "It's a pleasure to do business with people who are so honest and upfront," he said. "The Love Boat" actor has starred in several Pure Flix films and will play a pastor re-examining his faith in "Do You Believe?"
McGinley praised the faith-based company for walking the walk and talking the talk in its movies and said more Christian films must be brutally honest in the way they address nagging cultural questions.
"In this genre ... you have to present the most honest, difficult questions to answer. You have to represent what ... the people on the outside don't embrace or don't understand and you have to do it brutally honest and that's, I think, the challenge is to allow the writers to create very difficult moments where it's almost hard to watch," said McGinley. "You can't be afraid to show the other side and to ask the difficult questions."
Filming for "Do You Believe?" began mid-September in Michigan. The cast includes Cybill Shepard, Lee Majors, and UFC Champion Mavrick Von Haug. Pure Flix hopes to finish filming by the end of the month.