Movie Review: “Hellbound?”

29 Sep

dead body with toe tag

God is gonna getcha!
Welcome to the movie Hellbound?

The film begins at Ground Zero in New York City. It’s the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Guess who shows up? The “damn everyone to Hell” folks from Westboro Baptist Church!

Where others shed tears, Westboro offered cheers.

Where others offered compassion for the victims, Westboro offered their 100% certain judgment, “God is gonna getcha!”

We see Director Kevin Miller patiently attempting to reason with the Westboro folks. His curiosity is met with scorn. They accuse Miller of being a wimp. In addition, the church members announce, “99.99% of humanity is going to Hell. That’s how God made the universe, if you don’t like it, then create your own universe.”

Soon, we see Pastor Mark Driscoll from Mars Hill in Seattle, seconding the Westboro motion, although in more sophisticated theological fashion. Driscoll argues that humanity is in rebellion against God, and God hates those in rebellion against him. From there, we hear other kinder, gentler voices who nevertheless vote for Hell as “eternal conscious torture.”

Gradually, the film introduces us to other voices in the “Hell debate.”  A second view called “annihilation” is considered. In this perspective, those in rebellion against God face a choice, repent or face destruction. Instead of eternal torture, rebels are wiped out of existence.

The final view explored by the film is called “ultimate reconciliation”. Here, believers hold the hope that eventually “Christ’s love wins all.” in this view “God is gonna getcha” is transformed into God’s ultimate, victorious embrace.

At this point, the waters are muddied. On screen, Miller lists Bible verses supporting all three views. All three voices are found in the scriptures! Whatever perspective one chooses, one will find both support and objection. There is no easy, simple harmonization. Not only that, but there are different Hebrew and Greek words, such as Gehenna, that are translated “Hell” in English. We learn that these words do not always fit our “traditional” definition of Hell.

So, why make this movie about Hell? After all, in the end, it is all speculation.

Miller’s film suggests that Hell does matter, because it shapes how you experience God’s character. Is God finally about love or punishment? Retribution or reconciliation? And, if God is someone who terrorizes and tortures, then the Osama bin Ladens of the world have their justification. We become like the God we adore. If God plans to torture evil people forever, then we can blow up evil people today. On the other hand, if God is out to get and embrace everyone, then Christ’s followers imitate Jesus is naming evil, judging wrong by making things right, offering healing to the hurts of the world, and bringing about reconciliation through forgiveness. The Crucified One says, “Father, forgive them,” and the Risen Lord says, “Do not be afraid!”

This movie ends with humility. We have three different versions of “God is gonna getcha!”: eternal conscious torment, annihilation, and ultimate reconciliation. Whatever view one brings into t he theater, Miller invites us to us to think again. We all agree, “God is gonna getcha!” The question is “How?”
The film opens Friday, October 5, 2012 at 7 p.m. at the Regal in Lancaster. Following the film, there will be opportunity to talk with those involved with making this movie. Check out the movie’s website at http://www.hellboundthemovie.com/

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