The new documentary Hellbound? has reignited discussion about the perennial topic of hell as well as revealed some very bizarre perspectives.
Kevin Miller, the film’s director, who identifies as a Christian, stated in an interview that, regarding the traditional view of hell as a place of fiery torment, “I don’t see anything in the Bible that would lead me to believe that such a place exists.” Instead, according to Miller, when Jesus talked about hell, he was talking about the here and now.
Really? Jesus didn’t warn about a place of judgment to come? And Director Miller gets his denial of hell from the Bible? Perhaps he is reading into the Scriptures what he would like them to say? Warnings like this from Jesus, spoken with rhetorical urgency, are hard to dismiss: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:29)
Frank Schaeffer, son of the late and revered evangelical leader, philosopher Francis Schaeffer, appeared in the movie and is more aggressive in his dismissal of hell. He writes in his column in the Huffington Post, “People ‘defending’ God have completely screwed up America and our politics. And their version of ‘God’ f----d up the first half of my life too.”
He claims that, “Hell is irrelevant because of course there isn’t one. The movie is important though because it exposes a real question: how can we survive the God-nuts who take this stuff seriously? Hellbound? is our chance to get to know the enemies of what’s left of our crumbling ‘civilization.’”
So, those who believe in a place of future judgment are “the enemies of what’s left of our crumbling ‘civilization,’” by which he explicitly means America.
Schaeffer continues, “Talking about hell in and of itself is a waste of time because if there is a ‘God’ no one knows anything about him/her or it and they never will, let alone about what he/she or it will ‘do’ about the ‘lost.’ But there are people, lots of them, who think hell is real because it fits their kill-your-neighbor-if-he-looks-at-you-funny vision of ‘life.’”
Well, I just learned something new: If I believe that God will bring about justice in the world to come and settle wrongs at the time of resurrection, I believe this because it fits my “kill-my-neighbor-if-he-looks-at-my-funny vision of ‘life.’” Seriously?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.