With friends like this, God needs no enemies. People "defending" God have completely screwed up America and our politics. And their version of "God" fucked up the first half of my life too. Yes, this IS a movie review as well as a theologically-induced PTSD-unhinged RANT. I could have been painting a picture. I could have been playing with my grandchildren. Instead I was talking about God because I'm in a movie about hell.
So I was in Nashville at the premier screening of the documentary Hellbound? Next week I'll be at the opening in New York City. (Cinema Village, Friday, Sept. 21st Q and A with Director Kevin Miller and Cast Members Frank Schaeffer and Michael Hardin.) Why can't I be invited to gala openings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art instead?
I like Hellbound?. I'm interviewed in it. (I have no official connection with the movie and was not paid for being in it.) I enjoyed the screening and the questions from the audience that packed out the theatre. (There was a panel discussion after the show.) But then came the next day sitting with my friend the director Kevin Miller and Mike Hardin, another one of the people featured in the movie. And we were talking about theology -- seriously. I began to have PTSD-type flashbacks.
Hellbound? is an important movie not because of its subject -- hell -- but in spite of it. Hell is irrelevant because of course there isn't one. The movie is important though because it exposes a real question: how can we survive the God-nuts who take this stuff seriously? Hellbound? is our chance to get to know the enemies of what's left of our crumbling "civilization."
Talking about hell in and of itself is a waste of time because if there is a "God" no one knows anything about him/her or it and they never will, let alone about what he/she or it will "do" about the "lost." But there are people, lots of them, who think hell is real because it fits their kill-your-neighbor-if-he-looks-at-you-funny vision of "life."
And they think they know all about God too. They think they "know" so much that they burn down American embassies to defend their God and his prophet against some half-assed loons who made a fake 14-min movie and put it on YouTube. They think they know so much that they steal land from Palestinians based on Bronze Age myths in their "Bible" that "gives" them the land. They know so much that they bully the gay boy or girl in their high school somewhere in that desert called "Middle America" in order to do their dumb "god's" will. It doesn't matter what label these people claim -- Muslim, Jewish or Christian -- they are all really in the grip of the same delusion: we have THE TRUTH and you don't!
Because I was born into a big time evangelical God business family (that I describe in my book Crazy For God about how it was very much like being born into the Mob and/or a nepotistic North Korean dynasty) even though I "escaped" -- and have had a respectable career as a writer -- my brain is still in captivity. So dipping back into the God-nut world (even for a good cause like launching an important movie) is toxic for me and I get the shakes and spew rants like this.
Even though the makers of Hellbound? are sane and nice and smart (and Canadian) and in the case of the director, and producer brilliant, being involved in "discussions" about theology of any kind gives me a bad case of PTSD. I just sat through too much of this meaningless crap in my youth. I'm 60, a father of 3, a grandfather of 4, have been married for 42 years to my San Francisco Hippie Princess, Genie, and yet I come out of those sessions feeling like I'm still a deranged 14-year-old trying to find a safe place to masturbate.
I mean who gives a flaying shit about what John Calvin really "meant" when writing about predestination and his insane "god?" I just know too many people who have literally wasted their entire lives by worrying about things no one can know and/or lording it over others with their secret God-revealed "information" used as a weapon of domination. And when I meet people still in that "world" it scares me and I feel like they could suck me back into their snapped religion-infected brains.
The whole unwashed mob that is now the "Republican Party" -- a theocracy movement dedicated to imperial world domination, greed and gated communities, all in the name of a half-baked "Jesus" serving "his" masters on Wall Street who hate the rubes who vote for their bought and paid for "family values" candidates -- is struggling in the grip of their collective God-delusion. Or they are pretending to share that delusion even if they believe in none of it so they can stay in good with the mostly evangelical fact-deprived "Tea Party" crowd.
They don't want gay people to marry in case God doesn't like it. They don't want peace in the Middle East in case it screws up God's timetable for his "return." They don't want to believe our President is a "Real American" because he's black and he's the "wrong sort" of Christian. They won't believe that global warming is real because the two groups they hate and fear most -- scientists and the US government -- say it is. They believe in a vengeful retributive nasty god who will send everyone not like them to hell.
In the name of serving this "god" -- created in their own hell-bound image -- they have tolerated two 10-year wars, the wasting of 4 trillion dollars and the killing at least 250 thousand non-US humans, and the needless killing over 10 thousand Americans (counting our military and "contractors"), destroying our economy and all the rest -- from military suicides to national near bankruptcy -- because 19 other God-nuts flew a couple of planes into some buildings 11 years ago. And 10 years of global conflict and turning our country into a national security state and turning our military into suicidal wounded legions of suffering vets was their "answer" to the God delusions of some God-nuts who wandered out of the desert to attack the God-nuts wandering out of our churches here at home.
So we went to war with the wrong people for a decade in "response" because we had to "defend" a country -- not the USA but the State of Israel -- because some God-nuts here very much like the God-nuts there (and/or their neoconservative shills for the crazies occupying the West Bank) and they said Jesus can't come back unless the State of Israel hangs in there until the book of Revelation is fulfilled. And Iraq was a "threat" then, like Iran is now so...
Thank you John Hagee! Thank you AIPAC! Thank you St. John (or whomever) loon was the author of the "book"/acid-trip of Revelation, for giving us a deluded roadmap so that the Americans who can't find France on a map can get their foreign "policy" marching orders direct from a "prophet" huddling in a cave alone with his odd brain 2000 years ago.
My son was a Marine in those needless stupid murdering wars. My friends went shopping. Mitt Romney's strapping sons went into banking. I wrote a bestseller about the military family experience and Oprah interviewed me. I went on Nightline and the Today Show. More insanity!
And now because I wrote some other books with a "spiritual component" -- a nice way to say I'm a God-nut too and still worried about if Jesus loves me or not -- I get to go on MSNBC and talk about the Religious Right and politics because I'm an "expert" on delusion -- mine and other people's.
I get to go to Nashville and talk about a hell that isn't there with people who are professional theologians. I might as well have been to an alchemy conference to "seriously" discuss how to turn "base metals" into gold.
So let's be clear the line between rioting God-nuts in the Middle East trashing our embassies and killing our ambassador and our own God-nuts here who are worrying about hell and the human life of fertilized eggs and how to "heal" gay people of the gay, while refusing health care to grownups, is so thin that there is no daylight between us.
We are fixing to bomb the crap out of the God-nuts in Iran so our Christian Zionist God-nuts and their Jewish Zionist God-nut friends can (spending 100 million per casino-owning zealot to elect Romney) feel good about fulfilling "prophecies" of dubious origin. And THIS is the 21st Century!?
Meanwhile on the actual planet where us semi-evolved vicious primates live the oceans are rising because we went to Disneyland and Walmart in our cars while sipping bottled water out of Styrofoam cups, we accept a gun "culture" whose "answer" to country-wide epidemics of mayhem is that everyone should carry more guns, and we're watching an election being hijacked by billionaires pandering to the halfwit boobs who watch the excrescence of moronic fact-less homophobic, racist detritus also known as Fox "News."
Want to know just how crazy all sides -- including mine -- in this "hell debate" are? Watch the movie and take a peek into the asylum that is housing the people who are destroying the world. They now own a major political party and are running a Mormon opportunist who believes in nothing and his Ayn Rand/Jesus/God-nut sidekick who believes in way too much and who wants to take what little the poor have away in the name of opportunity.
I'm no better off. I still duck and cover when I hear words like "salvation" and "election" and "Jesus." You can waste your entire life pondering the unknowable and if you go to too many events pandering to the sort of people who really think a delusional fictional approach to life is the key to "salvation," you come home in a very, very bad mood. You also experience envy of your sane friends who were raised as atheists. Then again, they ago to psychologists for counseling because they feel spiritually empty and some of them are even considering God.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and speaker and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back.