I hesitate as I sit here whether or not to delve where I’m about to delve but something tells me I must. If this blog is what I say it is and if I’m willing to tackle the goods and bads of life out here for all to see then this one definitely should be on here. But I don’t want to. Because it would be so much easier to say nothing and walk away….(isn’t it always?!)
The hubs and I got to go on a date night a few weekends ago. It’s a rare occurrence for us as our scheduling just hardly allows for it and when it does we rather like having the munchkins in tow. But every now and then we make the plans and arrange the childcare and do all of the things that getting out of the house for an evening entails.
This particular evening was planned around a documentary that we’ve been waiting for some time to see. We’d heard about it because the husband of close friends of our friends (follow that? aquaintence might be the right word but that always sounds so cold to me. We like these guys – just aren’t chummy, you know?) had been working on the film for quite some time as the producer. From what we’d heard the documentary was a look at what people from all walks, classes and backgrounds thought about Hell. We knew they had travelled around and done many an interview (at a 9/11 memorial, copenhell etc.) and now this past weekend was the films release locally. We wanted to go:
a) to show our support of independant film making by local guys some of which we knew, others just heard of
b) because it sounded as though it would be interesting to take in many perspectives of what those around us from all walks of life think about Hell
c) there was a panel Q&A with the film makers afterward which sort of added to the interesting factor
I guess if I’d have thought about it for more than a milli-second I should have known that I wasn’t going to come away from this film happy. But I didn’t. I went naively with my biggest thought going to where we were going to eat beforehand. I snapped Instagram pics of the movie poster. Chit chatted. Was even excited to see this thing, that’d I’d heard about for so long, come to fruition.
About 6 minutes in I already knew that I was going to leave the theatre agreeing most accurately with what the token Atheist in the film had to say on the subject. It was something along the lines of without there being a hell, heaven doesn’t make any sense and those who believe in heaven and not hell are cowards hiding from something.
I also should have known that documentaries are always agenda pushing. I mean, I’ve seen enough of them to know that Michael Moore has an agenda. Why would this be any different? For some reason, I thought it would.
It was clear very early on in this film what the agenda was and that was Universalism. The belief that there is not an actual place called Hell and eventually everyone chooses God and will be in heaven, even if they don’t make this decision until after death. The point that was pushed very hard and very consistently was that if God was a loving God he certainly wouldn’t send those made in his image to a place of eternal torment. He just wouldn’t.
So I settled in and while disagreeing with this standpoint I prepared my heart to hear it. To listen. To walk away knowing more fully what Universalism actually is. But then they started to play dirty and I wasn’t prepared for that because these very eloquent authors and thinkers didn’t seem like the dirty playing type. They started bashing. The likes of John Piper. Mark Driscoll. Anyone reformed in theology became the enemy and was placed right alongside the Westboro baptists with their “God hates Fags” signs.
Then they pulled the empathy card. Double whammy in dirty play department and slightly passive aggressive, in my opinion. They showed footage of concentration camps in Hitlers Germany. Unsuspecting people piled into bunks, looking forelorn and helpless, while the question was asked, “Would God send people who didn’t know him, who never had a chance to hear about him before their death, to a place of eternal fire and damnation?” (I paraphrase. I’ve only seen the movie once and can’t remember word-for-word)
What this film is is a brilliant lesson to film students on how to manipulate viewers into agreeing with your agenda. It does this flawlessly. Timing, cuts, score and footage all work together to reach that end.
But of course manipulation is what it is. The cast of people in agreement with the agenda are all very cool, calm and eloquent. They sit at kitchen tables or in their libraries with legs crossed and humbly state their ways in a very likeable, I’d-have-coffee-with-you type of manner. Juxtapose this with the yelling and screaming clips of those who have a different agenda then you and you’ve served your purpose quite well.
For the record, I believe in Hell. I also believe in an all-powerful God who is worthy of all of our worship. I believe in Jesus, that He is God’s son who came to this earth as a babe, lived a life without sin and died a death which I deserve, because I am a sinner who deserves nothing but Hell. Jesus, to me, is so much more than, “The nicest guy I’ve ever met,” as one author said in the Q&A panel. He is my saviour. I think there’s quite a marked difference between the two thoughts.
I walked out of the theatre that night angry with what was said but by the next morning the anger was gone and I felt nothing but sadness. I’ve been heavy hearted ever since.
What this movie preaches (and it does preach!) is that how you live your life here on earth is of no eternal consequence. It teaches that if you believe there is eternal consequence and you’re lucky enough to be one of ‘the chosen’ who escape it you clearly think quite highly of yourself. It says (without outrightly saying) that if you believe in Hell you must not have hope for humanity and without hope you treat people differently. An us vs. them mentality, to be sure. It portrays that Hell is just a fear tactic used to keep evangelical preachers in work.
I’m angry at the portrayal of God-fearing men as tyrannical monsters. I’m frustrated that if the people whom we’ve been sharing the love of Jesus with see this movie (thankfully, I’m pretty sure they won’t) they will learn that they don’t need Jesus now. They can live however the hell (pardon the pun) they want here and choose heaven later. Unless of course you want your best life now – then choose Jesus – cause he’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet. I’m sad that people are eating it up, though it’s nothing new. These debates have been around for centuries and they’re certainly not going anywhere anytime soon. I’m angry at the misrepresentation of people like me, a God fearing woman who loves Jesus with all her heart, but may not be educated in Christian History or as well-read as those in the film. . They made me the villian. I’m frustrated that this movie is going to make the university circuit and make young people question their theology at a dangerous level. I’m saddened by the people who are eating this up!
Here’s what I know for sure, God’s fingerprints are in, on and around everything that happens. He uses all things for His glory. He is sovereign, unchanging, infinite and eternal. He wants our good. He loves us. He is just. He is powerful and He is worthy of all of our worship. He changed my life through messy circumstances so he can clearly use anything to woo us unto himself. Even this.
Hellbound? The movie title which they made a point of saying has a ? for a reason. The movie didn’t seem to need it though. It should have been called Heavenbound [period]. It certainly would have been a more accurate portrayal.
**I’ve sat on this post for a few weeks and am just now posting it without hesitancy but I want to add a few things.
1. Jesus talks about Hell more than anyone in the New Testament and yes…I know that the actual word “hell” isn’t used but it is a picture of a place of fire and eternal punishment. I’m not a history buff and so I can’t answer all questions on this but if you’re interested in more information on this please read Francis Chan‘s wonderful book called “Erasing Hell”.
2. The film makers take everything back to a man named Origin – who’s views were later deemed heretical. In fact, and I quote Francis Chan, “for over 1,600 years, hardly any major theologians argued that everyone will be saved. This all began to change in the 1800’s, when several thinkers resurrected Origen’s beliefs and put them back on the table.
3. We don’t know our bibles well enough! I was frustrated that as they put scripture up on the screen I didn’t have the wherewithall to shout out, “That’s not what that says!!” But thankfully I have a bible and I could go back and read and read and read and screw up my nose and say to my husband, “That’s not what it said!” Christians, we need to know our bibles. You and me both.
If you want to listen to a more detailed breakdown of this film that I completely agree with follow the link!