During the fall I got to sit down with Kevin Miller for an interview for his upcoming documentary Hellbound? As you can see from the just-released trailer, there are some pretty big names in the documentary so I don't know if my interview will make the final cut. Regardless, the documentary looks to be a provocative discussion starter. You can follow the film through the final stages of production at the Hellbound? website with its associated blog. The film is scheduled to be out in September.

Shortly after our interview Kevin and his crew were heading to New York City to film the remembrance of the 10th anniversary of 9/11. They were looking for footage to raise questions about the ultimate fate of people like Osama bin Laden. People like bin Landen and Hitler often come up in conversations about hell as hell is often posited as a mechanism of revenge and retributive justice. As Kevin and I were talking about this I pulled Miroslav Volf's book The End of Memory off the shelf and gave it to him to read. In the book Volf talks about the healing of memory, particularly the memory of victims, in the act of ultimate reconciliation with perpetrators. It seemed a particularly good book to have in mind when thinking about 9/11, hell, memory, justice, healing and reconciliation. Kevin shot me an email saying he was reading the book on the flight out to NYC and was, indeed, finding it helpful. More, he got Volf to be a part of the film.

So, even if I don't make it into the final cut I might have contributed in more indirect ways. I'm looking forward to the film coming out.

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30 thoughts on “Hellbound?”

  1. "In the book Volf talks about the healing of memory, particularly the
    memory of victims, in the act of ultimate reconciliation with

    This is an interesting idea.  I'm trying to imagine how a painful memory involving an injustice and hurt/harm could be healed in order to bring about reconciliation.

    I always imagined that God would make it possible to see the other more fully, and to have a limitless capacity for compassion and love (both of which we lack at this earthly juncture of our eternal existence)...the seeing face to face, and knowing even as I have been known (vs. seeing through a glass darkly.)

    I'm not sure that I would want my memories, even of painful events, relationships, personal failures -- to be erased or manipulated.  In some cases, wrapped up in those painful memories are other memories.  Great joy and meaning is woven in with great sorrow and and loss.  How might God heal or alter memories to fix brokenness?  I have never thought of this way as a possible solution to restorative justice and newness.  ?

  2. As Volf imagines it in the book, memories aren't altered, erased or manipulated. They are, rather, healed in experiences of reconciliation. The process is therapeutic in nature.

  3. Just watched the trailer...  Cool!  'Hellbound' ought to be an interesting segue to 'Love Wins!'

    My favorite contributor, from the trailer, is ... Frank Schaeffer.  Hands down.

    Knowing that Dr. Beck was a contributor and that he personally endorses the film will also incline me to pay attention to the message.  Some of the others involved, I'm either skeptical or ambivalent about.  I don't know enough to be that loyal.

    Did anyone see the documentary, 'Lord, Save Us From Your Followers' (from filmmaker Dan Merchant)?  The most memorable part for me was a "confession booth" in which Christians heard from LGBT individuals the explicitly personal ways they had been hurt and excluded, and were then asked for forgiveness on behalf of all Christians.  It was so powerful and moving, emphasizing the ways that we send people to "hell" right here and now.  Bono said (sang) it best in 'One:'  "You ask me to enter, but then you make me crawl; And I can't keep holding on to what you've got, when all you've got is hurt."  Lord have mercy...

  4. I would like to see this. I'm currently reading Love Wins. I'm still amazed at how Rob Bell was treated before it even became available. It certainly doesn't seem worthy of the burn-him-at-the-stake reaction he garnered. But, I also know the cult-like mentality of a death-centered Christianity.

    I'm very interested in the concept of healing memories through justice and reconciliation. This life can be so heartbreaking, and that's often dismissed in the "God's in control so just be happy" camp.

  5. Hope you make it into the final cut - but to end up as a signpost, rather than the destination, is still pretty neat!

  6. Fascinating.  Not so much the people who have caused the harm, but this is the Christianity that I would love to be able to erase from my memory.  How could so many people "get it wrong"?  What I have learned, and continue to do so, is that many words were once written into a book.  That book, though in many ways plain and simple, was then made complex and interpreted so as to give different and diverse meanings to all of its words by each person who read it.  When challenged, explanations are dutifully trotted out, or, in the end, the inexplicable is labeled "a mystery".  But the place I am headed is not pretty.

    Now thousands of other books have been written to help humanity understand the original book.  What once may have been simple is now intricate beyond human reasoning and understanding.  If placed onto a graphical chart, the entire thought process would probably look exactly like a fractal, each new permutation repeating over-and-over the same pattern as its predecessor, down to the sub-atomic level.

    If I have eyes to see and ears to hear, that more than anything else is the lesson of religion.  One more book or film will only reinforce this notion.  It can only tell me about Man, not God.

  7. I saw this on the "Hope Beyond Hell" site. It looks very interesting. It's gotten me interested in this subject again. I wrote an article called the "unforgivable sin" that covers some of the issues:


  8. I think this will be the main fruit of people finally being able to fully forgive, in the experience of realizing the depth of God's forgiveness and love.

    Our forgiveness of others is so important, and most Christians have no clue as to how to go about it, if it's even on the radar.  Those who do see its importance, beginning even now, grope about blindly...  There are some resources out there, but they are few and far between.\


  9. looks great. will allow me to converse on the topic with my friends who won't pick up a book and read it. maddening folk, they are!!  

  10. I chuckle & shake my head, because you're right -  Hilter always comes up as the ultimate argument for the necessity of eternal-conscious-torment-hell.  But is salvation works based? Hitler claimed to be a born again Christian, did he not?  So, if our theology is to be sound/consistent... he's in heaven, and all the Jews he murdered are in hell.

  11. Thanks for posting this, Richard! And yes, Volf's book was much appreciate. Much appreciated. Definitely the right book at the right time. It opened up an entirely new line of inquiry for me. BTW, you are definitely in the cut... So far! :)

  12. "This life can be so heartbreaking, and that's often dismissed in the 'God's in control so just be happy' camp."

    I hear you, Patricia.  There's nothing simple or easy about making sense of suffering, and coming to terms with it, individually or collectively.

  13. Hi Kevin, great to hear from you! Hang in there with all the editing. Can't wait to see the film.

  14. Well, I go to Alcoholics Anonymous and they believe God is in control as well. It gives many people hope in the midst of heartbreak. I'm not sure what you mean by death centered Christianity. I've never heard that before and I use to be a Calvinist. I'm not a Calvinist anymore but I still like some of John Piper. He said something interesting one time:

  15. Cole, here's a link to Dr. Beck's post about death-centered Christianity. http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2011/03/musings-about-universalism-part-5.html

  16. Hi Patricia! What do you think of "HOPE" being the motivation of love? I know for me, when I'm in the presence of "beauty" it stirs within me a longing for the transcendent. Something just tells me that there's got to be more than just this finite existence. If God is in control and He promises to work everything together for good then I have hope. My future is secured by Christ's love. I would agree that hell is an unjust doctrine as eternal concious suffering. I don't think it can be proven by the Bible. But I'm also not sure that this is what motivates all Christians to love who believe in the doctrine. To se  

  17. Cole, I don't think I have the attention span for that article. Piper isn't my cup of tea anyway. I'm glad you found what clicks for you. The idea of healing one's history and memories with justice and reconciliation, rather than wiping one's internal hard drive with reformatting (death centered Christianity's idea of "heaven"), seems more just, hopeful, and non-violent. Also, more in line with the Biblical verses about the redemption and renewal of all things. I can't speak for how hell motivates all Christians, but from my point of view, Dr. Beck's article is spot on..

  18. Well, I understand your hate that you seem to have against Calvinists and other Christians. And from what you've said above you wouldn't like the spirituality of A.A. either because they believe God is in control. This teaching has bothered me at times as well. As someone who goes to A.A. we have made an inventory of our past and made our amends. I've even forgiven those who have hurt me as well. I guess I don't see it as either/or but both/and. Although I no longer believe that hell is eternal conscious suffering.

  19. Cole, I don't think this conversation is going anywhere.  I think you've missed the point of what I was saying. And to accuse me of hate is just inappropriate. I've never dealt with addiction, so AA isn't on my radar. I'm glad you found what you need, but I need to ask you to back off. I'm just not interested in point-by-point doctrinal debate. There are others who are willing and capable if that's the kind of conversation you enjoy, and others who would affirm everything you believe. 

  20. Thanks, Patricia.  I did have a lovely day yesterday.  I hope your week is going well, too.  ~Peace~

  21. Well, I'm going to have to ask you to back off of attacking Christianity as being focused on death then. I'm not a big fan of Christianity either but your claims are bizzare. 

  22. Last post: you failed to make the connection between my comment and a previous post by Dr. Beck, which I linked for you. It's not "my" claims.

  23. Richard I've written a piece about the psychology of belief in Hell over at Two Friars and a Fool. It's substantially inspired by your Slavery of Death series, so apologies to you for my amateur explanations of psychology.

  24. Have you read Hugh Hollowell's sermon on Hell? Good stuff. http://www.hughhollowell.org/227/go-to-hell/

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