'Hellbound?' an entertaining look at notions of Hellon October 18, 2012 @ 7:32 am (Updated: 12:16 pm - 10/18/12 )
There must be something in the air. Last week, Newsweek's cover story was titled "Heaven is Real." And this week, we have a documentary out called "Hellbound?"
This new film is an entertaining and surprisingly rigorous look at various notions of Hell. Although other religions are referenced, "Hellbound?" is primarily a look at Christian beliefs in the afterlife.
By the way, among the many theologians, religious writers, and pastors interviewed is Mark Driscoll, the well-known pastor of the Mars Hill Church in Seattle.
"Hellbound?" divides the Christian interpretations of Hell and the afterlife into three basic categories.
The first are the traditionalists who see Hell as an eternity of pain and torment. (By the way, Driscoll is in this camp.)
The eternal torment crowd argue that of course Hell has to be this way to deal with all the truly horrible people in the world like Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot.
But a lot of religious people think an eternity of suffering is just too cruel.
A second group of believers, called Annihilationists, agree it's too hard to reconcile a loving God with this never ending pain. They believe that God, in the end, just obliterates the bad people.
And the third way of looking at a Christian Hell is Universalism. This takes the objections of the Annihilationists one step further.
"For many people, Hell tells us that God is eternally violent. That says something about the nature of God that some people are happy to accept, others of us were happy to accept it and then started seeing real problems with it, especially when we compare that image of God with the image we see in Jesus," says writer Bruce McLaren in the film. Universalists believe that ultimately all of us will eventually make our way to some kind of Heaven, and that Hell is more like a kind of purgatory where we work through our "badness."
To this nicey-nice version of the afterlife, a traditionalist might retort:
"The notion that there really isn't hell is simply a wussy effort to make God a nice guy," says one film commentator.
"Hellbound?" opens Friday at the SIFF Film Center at the Seattle Center.
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