Hellrazed? — edited by Kevin Miller

November 16, 2017
Posted in Blog
November 16, 2017 Editor

Hellrazed? — edited by Kevin Miller

Please click on audio of post. NOTE: only main text read; no links, text markings, images, videos, footnotes, etc. read aloud.

WN: Kevin Miller produced the movie Hellbound? five years ago to look at changing views on the doctrine of hell. As he began “exploring” hell, partially motivated by having read his friend Brad Jersak’s book, Her Gates Will Never Be Shut: Hope, Hell and the New Jerusalem, he was alerted to the publication of Rob Bell’s Love Wins. (A play, “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath, based on Rob Bell’s experience of losing his own church after publication of that book, is well worth taking in.)

Eventually Miller’s documentary showed in movie theatres throughout North America in 2012.

List of Contributors:
Frank Schaeffer
• Brad Jersak
• Ron Dart
• Michael Hardin
• Archbishop Lazar Puhalo
• Julie Ferwerda
• Sharon L. Putt
• Joshua Tongol
• Brian Zahnd
• Randal Rauser
• Jaime Clark-Soles
• Robin Parry
• Thomas Talbott
• Kevin Miller
• Adam Ericksen
• Jackson Baer
• Rayborn Johnson
• Andrew Klager
• Heath Bradley
• Richard Beck
• Christopher Morrissey
• Eric Reitan
• Matthew Peter Klein
• Wayne Northey
• Derek Flood
Five years later, Kevin assembled 24 voices in addition to his, representing all the major Christian Traditions, to be included in a new book entitled Hellrazed?

Kevin took a lot of flak from production of the movie. He possibly may be similarly vilified with this new publication. He talks about this and his movie, and other things, in a compelling interview, October 9, 2017, here.

He introduces the new book thus:
In September 2012, the feature-length documentary Hellbound? was released in theaters across North America. Joining a growing chorus of voices that were questioning the traditional view of hell as a place of eternal conscious torment, the film asked a handful of “burning” questions. Does hell exist? If so, who goes there, and why? More importantly, what do our views about hell say about us and our understanding of God? And how do our beliefs about these issues affect the kind of world we create, the kind of people we become?

Five years later, the debate over hell is far from settled, but the landscape in which such questions are being asked has changed radically. Hence, filmmaker Kevin Miller decided it was time to go back to some of the people who appear in Hellbound? and others he met along the way to get their input on how the debate has shifted and how it’s remained the same. The result is a plethora of voices offering all sorts of perspectives, some highly academic, some polemic, some intensely personal, and all bound to impact how readers think and feel about this issue.

My contribution is basically a book review. I will supply an excerpt from that, then you are encouraged to order the book. This note from Kevin supplies the info:

The book is now live on Amazon.com. It is also available on Amazon.ca, Kindle version soon to come; it will also be available at several bookstore outlets, including Chapters/Indigo, Barnes & Noble, Ingram, etc. In the meantime, here are additional links where it can be purchased. Please feel free to share them. Also note that I’m offering a special deal on my websites (below) where people can buy the book and the DVD together for a discount.

United States

Canada

United States and the rest of the World

Below the excerpt from my chapter is an excerpt from a much longer essay I updated in working on the Hellrazed? chapter. I have a link to that longer paper, entitled: “WAR AND HELL – and Exception-Clause Footnote Theology”.

As well, in my novel, Chrysalis Crucible, highlighted on this website, “hell” recurrently haunts the

Columnist Matt Miller wrote ironically of Evangelicals’ take on John 3:16, the all-time most quoted Bible verse by Evangelicals,

For God so loved the world that he temporarily died to save it from himself. But none of that really matters because most people will be tortured for eternity anyways.

I had looked for this quote to include in the chapter I contributed. It captures the essence of the horror god so widely worshipped every Sunday.

protagonist’s faith challenges. This comes to a head in Chapter 63, which you may click on here.

I have also raised that theme numerous times on this website.

Now for an excerpt from my chapter in Hellrazed?, entitled Hell and Its “Other Side”:

The grand and joyous paradox of the gospel, for those with eyes to see the wildly liberating “picture on the box cover,” is: God’s final judgment/wrath is his mercy¹, just as the doctrine of original sin is a post-resurrection Christian doctrine of grace and forgiveness according to James Alison in The Joy of Being Wrong². No contemporary biblical theologian I have read captures this eschatological insight better than James Alison in Raising Abel3, drawing on the work of René Girard. The book is a sustained call for Christians in their conversion journey to acquire an “eschatological imagination” that subverts inevitably an anti-Christian “apocalyptic imagination” such that,

“The perception that God is love has a specific content which is absolutely incompatible with any perception of God as involved in violence, separation, anger, or exclusion.” Therefore:
The commonly held understanding of hell remains strictly within the apocalyptic imagination, that is, it is the result of a violent separation between the good and the evil worked by a vengeful god. It seems to me that if hell is understood thus, we have quite simply not understood the Christian faith; and the Christian story, instead of being the creative rupture in the system of this world, has come to be nothing less than its sacralization. That is, the good news which Jesus brought has been quite simply lost.4

To repeat: In the end, the greatest critique of Dixon’s thesis is simply this: there is biblically no “other side” of the Good News! There is Good News, period! Hell too is ultimately embraced by God’s love, its other side.

I suggest that no genuine love affair, human or divine, is imaginable with Dixon’s depiction of a divine time-limited vicious threat hanging over one’s head. Surely it evokes only abject fear, not love.

__________________________

¹See theologian Klaas Goverts on this here: https://waynenorthey.com/vengeanceis-love-klaas-goverts-trans-floris-and-judith-kersloot/.
² James Alison, The Joy of Being Wrong: Original Sin Through Easter Eyes (New York: Crossroad, 1997).
³ James Alison, Raising Abel: The Recovery of the Eschatological Imagination (New York: Crossroad, 1996), 48.
4 Ibid, 175, emphasis added.

an excerpt from WAR AND HELL – and Exception-Clause Footnote Theology:

Yet this very phenomenon of misunderstanding the texts, so eloquently presented by Richard Hays, so compellingly exegeted by Willard Swartley, so dismissed by Dr. Packer, seems precisely the reality when war is at issue. Why should it not be surprising therefore that hell should for two thousand years likewise have been misunderstood? Especially when “war is hell”, and vice versa. One may ask with terror, horror and revulsion: Just what “face” of Jesus has the Church been seeing since the era of Emperor Constantine?[1]

With that terrifying question in mind, I am struck by the thesis of Constantine versus Christ: The Triumph of Ideology (Kee, 1982). The author writes:

But there is one conquest made by Constantine, the effect of which still continues to the present day, his most surprising yet least acknowledged… He conquered the Christian Church. The conquest was complete, extending over doctrine, liturgy, art and architecture, comity, ethos and ethics. And this is the greatest irony, that Constantine achieved by kindness what his predecessors had not been able to achieve by force. Without a threat or a blow, and all unsuspecting, the Christians were led into captivity and their religion transformed into a new imperial cult…. But this achievement, unheralded then, unrecognized now, represents Constantine’s greatest conquest, the one which has persisted largely unchallenged through the centuries in Europe and wherever European Christianity has spread (Kee, 1982, p. 154).

The writer adds that:

…the reign of Constantine is a fundamental turning-point in the history of Europe, and not only Europe. From that time the imperial ideology, with all its implications for the accumulation of wealth and the exercise of power over the weak, was given religious legitimation by the Church (Kee, 1982, p. 168).

The persecuted Church too easily became the persecuting Church in its response to pagans, Jews, other outsiders, all rivals dubbed “heretics”, external enemies, and eventually domestic state enemies: criminals (see below). There has ever since been (thankfully not only) a tragic Church legacy of violence.[2]

“The corruption of the best is the worst”, Ivan Illich has taught in The Corruption of Christianity and The Rivers North of the Future (Cayley, 2000; 2005). Is this what has happened since the fourth century when the cross was inverted from a sign of foolishness/weakness (I Corinthians 1:18ff) to a symbol of state power? (This became the sword of Peter wielded by the Church in endorsement of the state, of Empire/colonialism, etc., after all, despite for the Church Jesus’ definitive sheathing it (John 18:11), as Tertullian observed. “If only!” one can plaintively exclaim!)

Can it be that mainly another “(anti-)Christ” has been seen and projected by much of Christendom, instead of the face of Jesus? Unthinkable (Dr. Packer)? Then why do Protestants almost slavishly honour the Reformation? And what was one of the Reformation watchwords?: Ecclesia semper reformanda. The Church must always reform itself: must ever seek to see Jesus anew and aright.

It must amongst other things rediscover the anthropological thrust of the Gospel, brilliantly presented in René Girard’s I See Satan Fall Like Lightning (2001) and a vast array of related publications by and about him and his insights[3].

And if the Church has after all seen and shown for centuries another Christ with reference to the enemy? Then it must repent and rediscover a Jesus that it largely never knew. Else the Church perpetuates heresy (again, in this context, heresy means wrong choice/direction). It embraces hell. It rejects Jesus, while all the time protesting vociferous allegiance to him. It is otherwise the naked Emperor and his sycophants in The Emperor’s New Clothes (2001). It needs instead to “clothe [itself] with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12).” – in other words “with Christ[4], in particular towards the enemy.

______________________
[1] One of the protagonists in my novel, Chrysalis Crucible (2015, https://waynenorthey.com/chrysalis-crucible/, last accessed November 15, 2017), reacts in this very way (chapter 76) as the searing horror of Christianity’s mercilessly violent past sinks in.

[2] Please see the recent publication by Wes Howard-Brook, Empire Baptized: How the Church What Jesus Rejected 2nd – 5th Centuries (2016).

[3] See Williams (1996) for an extensive introduction to, and bibliography on, Girard. See Bailie (1995) for a contemporary cultural application of Girard’s anthropology. See Williams (1991), Alison (1993; 1996; 1997), and Bellinger (2001), for sustained theological presentations of the anthropological thrust of the Gospel. See Girard (2001) for an anthropological presentation of scapegoating theory with reference to the New Testament. Finally, see this website, with its myriad links: http://violenceandreligion.com/ (last accessed July 1, 2017), for understanding all human culture as foundationally scapegoating, the Hebrew Scriptures in recurring travail to break free from such a dynamic, and the revelation of Christ seen to finally subvert scapegoating violence in favour of love.

[4] See my essay on the implications of “clothing oneself with/putting on Christ”, “Christianity and the Subversion of Just About Everything!” here: http://waynenorthey.com/christianity-and-the-subversion-of-just-about-everything/.

Please also click on: War and Hell

  1. [1]Please look at several articles as well on American/Western will to world domination by clicking on "Selected Articles: Western Aggression Backed by Western Media”. The series of articles is introduced thus:
    The Western allies never run dry of resources to support their global war of terror and aggression, ostensibly an integral part of their foreign policy. They dynamically legislate laws lest the people awaken. They have the unbending support of the corporate media, which skilfully distorts reality. When will they ever back down from their destructive quest for colonies? Read our selection below.
  2. [2]It continued:
    ‘For seven months, Tiger Force soldiers moved across the Central Highlands, killing scores of unarmed civilians – in some cases torturing and mutilating them - in a spate of violence never revealed to the American public,’ the newspaper said, at other points describing the killing of hundreds of unarmed civilians. ‘Women and children were intentionally blown up in underground bunkers,’ The Blade said. ‘Elderly farmers were shot as they toiled in the fields. Prisoners were tortured and executed - their ears and scalps severed for souvenirs. One soldier kicked out the teeth of executed civilians for their gold fillings.”   The New York Times confirmed the claimed accuracy of the stories by contacting several of those interviewed.  It reported: “But they wanted to make another point: that Tiger Force had not been a ‘rogue’ unit. Its members had done only what they were told, and their superiors knew what they were doing. “Burning huts and villages, shooting civilians and throwing grenades into protective shelters were common tactics for American ground forces throughout Vietnam, they said. That contention is backed up by accounts of journalists, historians and disillusioned troops… ‘Vietnam was an atrocity from the get-go,’ [one veteran] said in a recent telephone interview. ‘It was that kind of war, a frontless war of great frustration. There were hundreds of My Lais. You got your card punched by the numbers of bodies you counted.’ Current likely Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry was also quoted giving evidence before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 1971.  He reported that American soldiers in Vietnam had “raped, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country. Nicholas Turse [later author of: Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam], a doctoral candidate at Columbia University, has been studying government archives and said they were filled with accounts of similar atrocities. ''I stumbled across the incidents The Blade reported,'' Mr. Turse said by telephone. ''I read through that case a year, year and a half ago, and it really didn't stand out. There was nothing that made it stand out from anything else. That's the scary thing. It was just one of hundreds.'' Yet there were few prosecutions.
  3. [3]Historian John Coatsworth in The Cambridge History of the Cold War noted:
    Between 1960, by which time the Soviets had dismantled Stalin's gulags, and the Soviet collapse in 1990, the numbers of political prisoners, torture victims, and executions of nonviolent political dissenters in Latin America vastly exceeded those of the Soviet Union and its East European satellites. In other words, from 1960 to 1990, the Soviet bloc as a whole was less repressive, measured in terms of human victims, than many individual Latin American countries [under direct sway of US Empire] ("The Cold War in Central America", pp. 216 - 221).
    What was true for Latin America was true for around the world: massive human rights abuses, assassinations, regime changes of democratically elected governments, etc., etc., etc. orchestrated by US Empire. Yet Americans invariably have wanted it both ways: to be seen as the exemplary "City on A Hill" that upholds universal human rights and democracy, while operating a brutal Empire directly contrary to all such elevated values, and a concomitant rapacious Empire market economy that takes no prisoners. This began of course even before the founding of the United States of America and continued apace, in its mass slaughter and dispossession of indigenous peoples, in its brutal system of slavery on which its obscene wealth in the textile industry in the first place was built. "The Land of the Free" conceit was a sustained con job on the part of America's leaders. It was also apotheosis of hypocrisy. American exceptionalism was/is true in one respect only: it was brutal like no other Empire in its eventual global reach.
  4. [5]
  5. [4] The highlighted article about renowned whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg points to again what is utterly chilling, horror-filled, exponentially beyond immoral, American (hence the world's) reality: "Daniel Ellsberg: U.S. Military Planned First Strike On Every City In Russia and China … and Gave Many Low-Level Field Commanders the Power to Push the Button". [5]He has since written The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner. Of it we read:
    Shortlisted for the 2018 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Nonfiction Finalist for the California Book Award in Nonfiction The San Francisco Chronicle's Best of 2017 List In These Times “Best Books of 2017” Huffington Post's Ten Excellent December Books List LitHub's “Five Books Making News This Week” From the legendary whistle-blower who revealed the Pentagon Papers, an eyewitness exposé of the dangers of America's Top Secret, seventy-year-long nuclear policy that continues to this day. Here, for the first time, former high-level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking firsthand account of America's nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization--and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration--threatens our very survival. No other insider with high-level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era.
  6. [6]A classic instance of this aligning with "just war" is the United States' "war on drugs" as subset of "war on crime", while at the same time the CIA was a major worldwide drug dealer in league with other drug cartels -- all done to enhance American Empire during the Cold War -- and continues to the present. The four-part series mentioned below connects American Empire drug dealing to the current War on Terror, in particular in Afghanistan. This of course is colossal hypocrisy as well. Worse: the series posits American federal government administrations over many decades as the Ultimate Drug Cartel, with Blacks, Latinos, and generally the poor directly being knowingly poisoned en masse. Then they have been primary targets of the Drug Enforcement Agency, and thereby become victims of America's too often savage prison system that oppresses and brutalizes them all over again... See: "The War on Drugs Is a Failure, So [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions Is All for It". A citation from the article reads:
    In June [2017], the History Channel aired a four-part documentary series called America’s War on Drugs.” The series asserts that the war on drugs was actually a war of drugs—and that the CIA was essentially a partner in spreading drugs and drug use. The series follows how the U.S. intelligence agency, in an obsession with fighting communism, allied itself with U.S. organized crime and foreign drug traffickers and includes firsthand accounts from many involved. In an interview with Truthdig columnist Sonali Kolhatkar on her radio program “Rising Up With Sonali,” the series’ executive producer, Anthony Lappé, explains why the CIA got involved:
    It’s actually a pretty mind-blowing story when you look at the extent to which the CIA was involved with drug traffickers and drug trafficking throughout the Cold War. … If you look at Cold War policy against the Soviet Union, we were locked in a global battle for supremacy, where we have lots of proxy wars going on. … We needed to team up with local allies, and often the local allies we were teaming up with were people who had access to guns, who had access to underground networks, to help us fight the perceived threat of communism. There are actually a lot of similarities between what drug traffickers do and what the CIA does.
    Lappé elaborates by saying the hypocrisy of the war on drugs has been evident from the start: Secret CIA experiments with LSD helped fuel the counterculture movement, leading to President Richard Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of the war on drugs. The series also explores the CIA’s role in the rise of crack cocaine in poor black communities and a secret island “cocaine base.” In addition the documentary makes the connection between the war on drugs, the war on terror and the transformation of Afghanistan into a narco state and contends that American intervention in Mexico helped give clout to Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and the super cartels, making it easier to send drugs across American borders. Watch Kolhatkar’s full interview with Lappé by clicking here. Please also see the now classic: The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, by noted American historian Alfred McCoy. Of it we read:
    The first book to prove CIA and U.S. government complicity in global drug trafficking, The Politics of Heroin includes meticulous documentation of dishonesty and dirty dealings at the highest levels from the Cold War until today. Maintaining a global perspective, this groundbreaking study details the mechanics of drug trafficking in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and South and Central America. New chapters detail U.S. involvement in the narcotics trade in Afghanistan and Pakistan before and after the fall of the Taliban, and how U.S. drug policy in Central America and Colombia has increased the global supply of illicit drugs.
    To be noted as well is Johann Hari's Chasing The Scream, which tells the tragic tale of America's long-standing offensive against drugs, and the way to end such a war worldwide -- that several nations are successfully embracing.
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Editor

Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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