A few weeks ago the much anticipated release of the follow-up tobruno-one-sheet Borat hit the movie theatres. You’d have to be blind or not exist to miss the adverts that adorn virtually all of the double decker buses in London of Sacha Baron Cohen’s waxed buttocks clad in ridiculous gold shorts. Yuck.

The reviews are mixed on the film and despite opening on three times as many movie screens it only took in slightly more money than Borat did. The reviews are also revealing that SBC is having to work extra hard to dupe unsuspecting americans with his humor and the results are apparently less memorable and lower quality.

While I’ve heard from a number of people who have seen the movie that while they think the rating on the movie was not restrictive enough (an edited version more suitable for 15 year olds has since been released…wow the movie industry has a bit of a conscience?), most of the people I talked with about the movie still thought it was very funny even if it wasn’t quite as good as it’s predecessor.

What does it say about us as people when we are not just smiling along painfully, amused, or even out right laughing our heads off…sorry LMAOROF…that we get such satisfaction and good times out of humor that is based solely on someone else’s ignorance? People say sarcasm is the lowest form of humor, but could it be that the humor that SBC employs is even lower? Humor that is really only funny when someone is duped, manipulated to look stupid and plays on the emotions and reactions of people who do not know what is going on is the best way to get a laugh these days? The cheapest and easiest I suppose.

I won’t even bother to quote scripture on this one…it’s pretty obvious to even the most consumeristic sunday Christian that this humor and even the appreciation and participation in it isn’t consistent with the teachings of Jesus. I’ll bet that even people who aren’t Christians and even the most blantant atheists can tell you that they see the incosistency of this with what the Bible says.

I don’t want to come off as one of ‘those’ Christians either. You know the type…the kind that sound righteous and holy, but seem to be more motivated by a fear of culture than anything…don’t watch it unless it Christian, don’t read it unless it’s Christian, don’t listen to it unless it’s Christian, and don’t educate our kids in a public school because that’s the den of Satan…no, i’m not that way at all. But where do we draw the line in regards to the kind of humor that we’ll enjoy? Where do we draw the line in regards to what we teach our own kids and in my case, kids in the youth ministry that I lead, about what is good humor, good culture and what is worth paying money to watch? For me the line is somewhere well behind SBC.

There is no doubt that relevatism is alive and well and the entire concept of truth is up for grabs. I don’t think relativism is any stronger here in the UK, where I currently live, than it is in the US. But in the US there is still an ardent belief that ‘right’ beliefs and conservative beliefs are still the rudder for the country (which anyone with a pulse can see is no longer the case).

Lately I’m struck with the number of convenient things that I(we) believe. One that has especially jumped out to me is in regards to what people think about the afterlife. Most people, if gently pressed, will agree there is an afterlife. More and more people are inclined to think though that an ‘afterlife’ is pretty much limited to ‘heaven’ or a ‘better place’ than this. Even when pressed most people can’t tell you what they think ‘heaven’ will be like or even tell with any accuracy at all what the Bible says about ‘heaven’ (here’s a hint, it doesn’t say much and doesn’t say anything about it in the way that we think it does).

Not that I want churches to preach on this more. If churches teach drag_me_to_hellon the afterlife, it’s almost exclusively about ‘eternal life’ in ‘heaven’ and ‘receiving our reward’ (thanks Joel Osteen) where what is mostly said is regard to the kingdom of heaven coming on earth. But most churches won’t even talk, preach, discuss the concept of hell anymore…in some ways this is a great move because we can’t be selling fire insurance, can we? I think one of the significant reasons why the concept and reality of ‘hell’ as a place and eternal destination is not in our thinking, conversations, preaching, and churches is because there is a recognition that people in the 21st century don’t respond to such messages (I know I wouldn’t if I was not a Christian). NT Wright says that hell as a concept and belief started to dissapate shortly after the first World War because believers saw so much ‘hell on earth’ during the war that it begun difficult to believe in a place like that in the afterlife.

According to one website (I need to research this more effectively) 93% of the American population believes in heaven, but the only 39% of people believe in hell and even then ‘hell’ is more of a conceptual idea that represents separation from God not an actual place. This doesn’t honestly sound that far off from what I know to be true based on personal experience and interaction with people I know.

So hell is not something people, even Christians, generally believe in anymore. Unless it makes for a great horror movies. In the last month, a movie called Drag Me To Hell has been released in the US and the UK.
The movie is about a woman named Christine who has a great job as a loan officer, she has a boyfriend, life is good. Until a ‘gypsy’ comes in and Christine denies her a loan. As the ‘gypsy’ leaves the appointment she curses Christine with ‘Lamia’ a spirit who is intent on draggin her to hell.

Aside from the theological issues with the idea of a spirit being able to drag someone to hell and that that is how ‘Christine’ is deemed ‘hell-worthy’…it is very interesting to me that the theological concept and belief of hell is largely disavowed by non-Christians and Christians a like, but it is still embraced by Hollywood when it makes for a good movie. And apparently horror meister Sam Raimi embraced his vision of hell well enough to make for a great horror movie as it is receiving great reviews from critics and viewers alike.

I sincerely hope that churches around the world aren’t taking the release of this new movie to do a ‘Drag Me To Hell’ night like all the lame ‘Da Vinci Code’ sermon series. The church and Christians have already done enough bad movies ourselves with ‘Thief in the Night’ and the ‘Left Behind’ movies to have lost our rights on this one.

But it doesn provide Christians with some interesting insight about people in our community doesn’t it. People generally don’t believe in hell anymore, but are willing to believe in it just enough to have a movie ‘scare the hell out of them’? Viewers conveniently check any beliefs about the afterlife and, specifically, hell at the door just long enough to have a good scream.