He recommended watching the Mimi Rogers & David Duchovny movie The Rapture (1991). It was bizarre, somewhat disturbing, but highly worth my time. Here are my thoughts.
[Video: a YouTube mashup of scenes from The Rapture.]
Wow. Okay. Well I just (literally just) finished watching The Rapture.
I found the repeated urging to love God to be REALLY sinister. It creeped me out! The whole time there was this urging to love God as though the sword of Damacles was hanging over their heads. God was never seen, only vaguely hinted at. Suffering was clearly present (as was the theme of the movie), but any kind of “humanity” (so to speak) to God was not. It held a very high christology. Too high, IMO, and the notion of “a god who risks” and an incarnate, suffering deity (as found in Christ) was entirely missing.
Scary spokesmen for God, cultish and secretive adherents abounded, murderously insane delusions seemed the order of the day (even on the part of the protagonist), and the main theological message seemed to be “Love God Or Die”. Such a message seems to undermine the very notion of love itself.
If I had a gun, and I was a powerful head of state, and I said to a citizen, “You *must* love me for giving you the precious gift of living within my society (OR I WILL KILL YOU)”, I don’t see how an affirmative response from them would be any kind of true example of love at all. I certainly would never believe that they loved me even if they said that they did. You can’t coerce true love, especially not through violence. Love must be earned, it cannot be forced.
The final scene highlighted this problem especially well. As her child said, “Do you love God for giving you the gift of life?” with the threat of eternal damnation literally looming behind her words. What would they expect the answer to be? The best I could muster in that scenario would be a lie: “Yes. (please don’t hurt me)”
The rules of relationship apply to God just as much as any person. Give me a reason to respect you and I shall respect you. Give me a reason to love you and I shall love you. Try to force me to do either and you will instead force me to do neither.