At the Wild Goose Festival, I had a chance to preview a film, "Hellbound". This is a "conversation starter" movie, which examines a variety of approaches that Bible reading Christians take on the idea of Hell. I did not like the movie, but this is the kind of dislike that is worth talking about, even for people who are completely uninterested in what any person silly enough to read the Bible thinks about hell, so please bear with me.
There are three really interesting possible movies that I saw inside of Hellbound. One is about three biblical views of hell, with a strong slant towards one of them as the best choice. One is "rhetorical burning" ( a phrase from an article by Frank Schaeffer which I will get to in a second ) against particular reform theologians. One is about how certainty can turn reasonable people who try with all their hearts to serve Love, into raving lunatics.
Hellbound, when it is the first movie, is excellent. It lets the holders of the various views speak their piece, it makes room for you to disagree, it gently but honestly suggests that the film makers prefer one of the three, but leaves you with a human and acceptable choice to disagree.
When it is the second movie, it makes me sad. In the article "Resisting Condemnation to Save America", an ex right-wing mouth piece talks about having to leave behind not only his theology, but also his previous mechanics of argument, in order to find a hopeful way. I'm with Frank Schaeffer on this one when he says
Instead of damning each other, maybe we can learn to show mercy to those with whom we disagree, taking our cue from a teacher who said that love of enemy -- not correct theology or politics -- is all that can make us whole.
( this is me getting on my soapbox )
When "Hellbound" is the third movie, I want it to be much much better. It is only 1/2 finished. It shows raving lunatics, it shows reasonable sounding people becoming lunatics, and it demonstrates a beautiful way to consider a divisive topic, and still hold an opinion. However, it fails to make the most important point, that it isn't only the people that we disagree with that do this, that we are all in danger of letting our certainty turn us into monsters.
The real "Hell" that we are bound for is the world we create when we fail to acknowledge our own eagerness towards this evil.
( now climbing down from the soapbox )
I liked Kevin Miller ( film maker who made the movie ), and I hope his film does well. It isn't really fair for me to dislike his movie because he made the movie that was interesting to him and not the one that is interesting to me. So I guess I am giving thumbs up to "Hellbound", it does cause conversation.
If anyone wants a writer to work on a script for a film about the dangers of certainty, I'm interested in that job.
UPDATE! I traded some e-mail with Kevin Miller, and while I still think that the third movie that I wanted Hellbound to be wasn't very well made, Kevin makes a a strong defense of his telling of that third story:
I appreciate your honest response, Michael--and for dialoguing with me personally. I'd urge you to watch the film again, because to my way of thinking at least, it is an argument against certainty. But not just in "the other." As Michael Hardin points out in the film, any time any of us is pointing the finger, we become "the Satan," the accuser. I agree that we are somewhat hard on certain types of theology, but once again, the purpose is to reveal the paucity of their certainty--and its potentially destructive real world outcomes.