Miller and co-producers David Rempel and Brad Jersak just didn't lay out a case for rethinking hell but forced viewers to face the conventional dogma of eternal damnation head on. We heard straight from the mouths of conservative pastors and evangelists (from the whole spectrum--right-wing wackos from the infamous Phelps church to hip but hyper-conservative Mark Driscoll to moderate-sounding theologian Kevin DeYoung), without interuption, where the notion of hell leads. They let the doctrine speak for itself, in other words. That's when the emotional disconnect between everlasting punishment for one half to 99.99 percent of the human race (depending on who was defending it) and an unconditionally loving God hit viewers like a ton of bricks, kiln-fired to 2000-degrees Farenheit. Huh?, was the unspoken response, just as Rob Bell had asked.
But Miller and company don't leave you there. Just when you were thinking, there must be a better way, through theologians, scholars, and studied authors,* they piled on the preponderance of evidence that hell is a modern misinterpretation of religious narratives anchored in an ancient history we know little about. Gehenna, erroneously translated as "hell" in the New Testament, is a metaphor for judgment in this life, God's justice is restorative, not retributive, the term "everlasting" is mistranslated, and much of the early church embraced the idea of universal reconciliation. The overall impression the film leaves is inspiring and redemptive. Cries of heresy by convervatives are misplaced as should be a sense of superiority by Universalists. So much of this stuff is a mystery. The question boils down to, what kind of God do we think we serve?
Run, don't walk, to see this film. It's an important commentary on our religious divide. It fairly lays out a continuum of positions. It opens up a vision for the nonviolent paradigm Jesus espoused.
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Thursday, October 25, 2012
Hellbound? Lake of Fire Bound?
Michael Camp, author of Confessions of a Bible Thumper, has an entry on his Deep Thought Pub blog about an upcoming movie that has been made about the concept of hell. For COGers that would be the "Lake of Fire." The COG has loved to throw that phrase at anyone who disagrees with it, it's doctrines or it's ministers. Disagree with HWA and you are damned to the lake of fire for being in rebellion. Buy a hamburger on Saturday and you will fry in the lake. Keep Christmas or Easter and you will be assured to go there.
In Armstrongism the threat of damnation has always been a weapon. It holds great power over members who are live in constant fear of being separated from their God for even the slightest mistake. Parents have used this against their children when they do something really stupid. Flurry uses it against his present members if they dare have contact with lapsed family members who have left the Church. On and on it goes.
The concept of hell has always been used as weapon. The difference now, in the 21st century that it is also a marketing tool used to sell books, bibles and other things promoted to help save one's life.