Here is PART 1 of this interview.
3. This movie has definitely started a firestorm of debate and conversation. Was this your hope? Was this about what you expect would happen?
I think it's more accurate to say that when I embarked on this film, I rather unwittingly walked into a firestorm of debate and conversation, a long smouldering debate that was sparked into flame by the publication of Rob Bell's book "Love Wins." Hellbound? was merely another log on the fire. It became clear to me early on that for many people, an individual's theology of hell is one of those litmus test or boundary marker issues separating conservatives from progressives and liberals. I admit to being rather naive starting out. I was simply excited about sharing some of the things I had been learning and thinking about. But almost immediately I realized how political this debate is and how much is riding on it for so many people. That said, right from the beginning, I intended for this film to provoke informed discussion on the issue. Having been involved in documentaries on a lot of controversial issues in the past, I had witnessed a lot of uninformed, emotionally charged arguments but very little in the way of reasoned dialogue. In fact, one of my pet theories argues that there is an inverse relationship between how emotionally attached someone is to a particular belief and how informed they are about that particular belief. At any rate, provoking informed discussion and debate was my intention starting out, and we sought to do that through the production of our trailers and other marketing materials. To be honest though, I actually expected a lot more vocal criticism than we have received.
4. Why is this conversation so important in your mind?
What someone believes about hell is far from an abstract theological discussion. The reason being, what we believe about hell is a direct reflection of who we believe God to be. And as A. W. Tozer says, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." This is true, because we tend to become like the God we believe in--valuing what God values, condemning what God condemns, and so on. Therefore, if we believe God hates certain types of people, we will hate those people. If we believe God's ultimate way of bringing about his purposes is separation, incarceration and (in some people's view) perpetual torment of individuals who refuse to bow to God's authority, we will set up similar systems "on earth as it is in heaven." However, if we believe that God's ultimate way of bringing about his purposes is forgiveness, enlightenment, transformation and reconciliation, we will seek to build such structures here on earth. So what starts out as seemingly abstract and possibly pointless speculation about what happens after we die has very real world consequences. This is why we begin and end Hellbound? at Ground Zero. The people who flew the planes into those buildings were seeking to conform the world into the image of their God. Thankfully, few people go to such extremes in the service of their beliefs, but no matter what our particular belief system, we are all striving to recreate the world in the image of our god or whatever we deem to be the greatest good. Therefore, I think it's important to have discussions not only about what we believe to be true but also about which interpretations of various theological issues promote the well being of conscious creatures and which tend to diminish it.
5. Some would argue that this topic is already settled and to venture into this conversation only muddies the water on the topic and even the Gospel. How would you answer that?
My response is simple: Such a statement can only come from someone who is entirely ignorant of Church history and current theological discussions. I'll defer here to the late Michael Crichton who once said, "Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled." Crichton was referring to science, particularly climatology. But I think the point applies here as well. Anyone even slightly conversant in the history of theology knows that contrary views re: hell and virtually every other theological issue have always been present within the various strains of what we call orthodoxy. So rather than muddy the water, I think discussions of this nature can actually help to strain out some of the silt and debris that obstructs our view. That being said, I think this conversation does threaten or muddy some interpretations of hell or the gospel as a whole. But I see that as a good thing, because we can all point to rather toxic interpretations of these things that all of us would be better off without.
6. If someone has not seen your film and is about to watch it, what would you want them to take out of it and what things would you want them to know before going into it?
Going in, I suppose I'd like them to know that the film will probably provoke and challenge their thinking about hell, violence and a number of other issues, so be prepared for that. In terms of what I'd like them to take away, I break the film down into three acts: Certainty, Ambiguity, and Humility. So I hope that no matter what people believe about hell going in that they realize a strong sense of certainty on these sorts of issues is unmerited and, in fact, can be highly problematic and destructive. Rather, whenever we encounter a number of well informed, well intentioned people who disagree on such an important issue, it should give us pause. What are my opponents seeing that I'm missing? How did I arrive at my current view? Based on what evidence and arguments? How are my own personal biases and preferences playing into my need to defend my view? Why am I so emotionally attached to a particular way of seeing the world? Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. I would say the same thing about our beliefs. The unexamined faith is not worth sharing. Whether or not people like "Hellbound?", I hope it will provoke them to reexamine their own beliefs about hell and spur them to learn more about the issue.
7. Thank you Kevin for your time and your thoughts, it is always a pleasure. before we close our time together, do you have anything else you would like to share in a closing thought perhaps.
Just a word of thanks for your interest in the film. Making this movie has been one of the great joys of my life, so I'm always excited for an opportunity to share it with a new audience.
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