I suppose I should have seen it coming, but in all honesty, I had no idea that Holy Ghost would be the most controversial film I have ever made. I didn’t think anything would get as close to Finger of God in the controversy department, but I suppose the long reach this new film of mine has had has brought a lot of new eyeballs to the scene, and many of those eyeballs are attached to people who are not happy about my new movie, and are going out of their way to let me know that fact.
Normally, I would ignore the naysayers and mean spirited critics, but for this film, I’ve pushed the limits so much that more than a few genuine fans are even struggling with some of the things portrayed. So I wanted to take a moment to explain my reasoning behind some of my decisions with this film, as well as give a little more context and artistic explanation for the handful of “hot topic” points in the film. While I realize this will in no way call off the religious watchdogs who so loudly proclaim me as a heretic, I hope that it will provide some relief for those “with ears to hear” so to speak. Many of you have contacted me not out of a spirit of smug spirituality, but of genuine curiosity and questioning. Hopefully, this will help you.
The first thing I need to point out is that I am, first and foremost, an artist and a storyteller. I am NOT a preacher, and my films are not designed to be tracts. They are stories that are deeply personal to me, and follow my own wanderings and journey into what I refer to as the “more” of God. I grew up fairly conservative, so anything outside of basic, bland Christianity that is centered around the evangelical church experience pretty much falls into this category. That being said, as an artist, I consider it my job to poke you. Christ spent much of His time pushing the limits of what the religious folk considered “normal” spiritual life. They called Him a drunkard, demon possessed, a charlatan, and a lunatic. When everyone got too comfortable with His message, He upped the ante and told them they had to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and pretty much everyone was pushed over the edge and left. If Jesus wasn’t afraid of pushing the religious limits, then I’m not going to be afraid of it either. So the fact that this film is causing a wide variety of discussions is wonderful to me.
When you are telling a story, there are certain things that need to be cut out in order to keep the story moving. What you are seeing onscreen is a fraction of the things we filmed, and an even smaller fraction of the conversations and encounters we had along the way. Just because the gospel isn’t clearly spelled out in the Salt Lake City sequence, for instance, doesn’t mean it wasn’t off camera. If I were to put in every instance of this happening, the movie would be hardly watchable. A story needs to move, and that means some things need to be sacrificed for the good of the story. While you may disagree with this because you want this to be a gospel tract, my first priority is as a storyteller, and I’m not in the business of making tracts anyway.
With this understanding that I am telling a story in place, let me now deal with a few of the more common complaints/questions I have heard about the film, and hopefully explain to some satisfaction why it is the way it is.
1. The gospel is not presented in the film.
I find this one interesting, as it seems to me that a large portion of the Korn concert is given over to Todd White doing just that! He explains at length about the saving work of Jesus, the need to repent of your sins, and the need to have a relationship with Christ. So I have to assume that one of two things is happening with people who are making this accusation: either they want the gospel message proclaimed clearly in EVERY situation of the film (see my answer to this above), or they aren’t happy with Todd’s explanation of the gospel. If this is the case, there is not much I can do for you, since we simply have a difference of opinion on how the gospel is presented. Many people, it seems, prefer their gospel to focus on God’s coming judgement and therefore want to push people to repentance right there on the spot. I much prefer to focus on God’s love for people, and the offer He is making to save them from their sins and His desire for relationship with them. I prefer to let the Holy Spirit convict them of their sin (which is what the Bible says He will do, by the way), and am fully confident that He will do what He says He will do. I think many people simply don’t trust God to do God-type things in people’s lives and hearts, so they feel the need to do it all themselves. This, in my opinion, is a mistake.
2. Will and Jamie are just doing what mediums do, and it’s all about the experience with no gospel message.
I will agree that there is definitely a skew towards “experiencing” the Holy Spirit in the Salt Lake City portion of the film, but I chose to focus on this for two reasons.
First, this was the beginning of the film, and I wanted to knock over some religious pedestals right off the bat. It is my belief that God is to be loved, worshipped, obeyed, and believed in, but He must also be experienced. If the entire film was made up of this type of ministry, then I could begin to see where that might be a problem, because I wouldn’t be showing any other way to do things. But again, I am a storyteller, and I think a lot of the problems people are having is because they are not seeing the film as an overall story made up of different parts that lead to a basic conclusion: that God is alive and well and working in the world today, and He wants His children to know that so much more is available to them.
Second, a little context. We were in the heart of Mormon country while we were filming this. While Mormons believe in a version of the Holy Spirit, He is not really a person of the Trinity, but is more of a Providential force working behind the scenes, if at all. And He certainly cannot be experienced. So in our ministry to Mormons, we wanted to focus more on this aspect of God—the experiential, to show them that God is much bigger than they thought.
I have also heard many people criticizing that we don’t present the gospel in this section at all. Maybe they missed the four boys getting saved? Again, while it may not be on camera, it was certainly discussed with people, which is why those four boys prayed for salvation.
3. Brian “Head” Welch and the Korn controversy.
Okay, so this seems to be the big one. There are a few things going on here, so let me deal with them individually the best I can.
First: “How can Brian call himself a Christian and pray for people, then go onstage and sing those awful lyrics and spew darkness and evil to people?”
It’s a great question, and one that I have posed to Brian directly. While you may not agree with the answer, hopefully it will help ease your mind a bit. The first thing to note, especially if you are not a fan of Korn’s music or that style of music, is the music they make is not Satanic. While it is true that a few of their songs glorify things that are truly dark and horrific, Brian and Fieldy have both stated that they will not play those songs onstage anymore, and the band has acquiesced.
Second, Brian and Fieldy are the only Christians in the band. The others are decidedly not believers, especially the lead singer, who is the one who writes all the lyrics.
Third, I gained a much better understanding of this subculture by spending a little time with them. I often heard kids telling the band how their music saved their life, kept them from suicide, etc… While the music is often dark, it deals in large part with pain, and the world is full of people who are in a lot of pain. These kids are identifying with songs that, quite often for the first time, present them with the idea that they aren’t abnormal or a freak because they have had horrible things happen to them.
That being said, this is the culture that Brian and Fieldy came out of, this is their “tribe” so to speak, and them playing these songs—the ones about pain, struggles, and anger (which, honestly, is found in many of the Psalms)—is simply them relating to the ones they are trying to reach with the gospel. I can personally speak to the fact that their presence in the band has led to the vast majority of roadies and behind-the-scenes people with the band turning their lives to Christ, and off stage it is very familial and peaceful.
The other point to note is, what is the alternative? Would you prefer there to be no Christian presence in the band at all? Is it worth it for the kids who are getting saved at every show for Brian and Fieldy to be a part of this band? For you, maybe not. For the kids getting saved, absolutely. Hopefully the rest of the band will soon find their own faith in Christ, and then the entire direction of the band will be able to change, but in the meantime, these two are doing their very best to be followers of Christ in a very dark place. And God does not appear to be afraid of their situation, as He is using them greatly at these concerts. My prayer is that the Body of Christ will stop judging them and stop throwing dirt at them, and instead start lifting them up in prayer so the Holy Spirit might do even more in and through them!
Fourth, what’s up with the middle fingers and the bras?
At the end of the Korn concert, there is a shot of middle fingers in the air and bras gathered after the concert. I knew this might ruffle a few feathers, but there was a very specific reason I included this footage where it was. You will notice that these images come onscreen precisely when Todd is leading the concert-goers in the sinner’s prayer, and I simply wanted to remind you, the viewer, exactly who was getting saved here. This is extreme light coming into extreme darkness, and I hope it adds a little emotional punch to what is going on here. Many people have no idea who Korn is, so I needed something visual to show just how radical what is happening really is.
As I said earlier, I realize this may do nothing to please many of you. If you are a cessationist, you probably have a problem with the ENTIRE film, because it goes against everything you believe the Bible says. We will simply have to disagree with one another, and I’m sure many of you will continue to write very nasty, mean spirited things to me. I find it interesting that while so many Christians are taking it upon themselves to defend what they think the Bible says, they continuously disregard Christ’s very clear admonition to “love your enemies”. It is clear that I am the enemy of more than a few Christians, and I can live with that, but I just wish those who put so much faith in the Scriptures would actually apply Jesus’ words to their interactions with those they disagree with.
But for those of you who had honest questions about the film, hopefully this helped. I’m sure I didn’t answer every question, and you may still disagree on some level, and I’m okay with that. Again, I am first and foremost an artist, and art should stretch us, provoke us, challenge us, and, yes, poke us.
If there is one thing I have realized in all this, it’s that everyone is a critic (and most critics LOVE to voice their opinions), and that God is infinitely patient with all of us. Sometimes I don’t understand how He does it, but then I am simply reminded of my own flaws, my own issues, and my own critical nature, and I rest once again in the fact that we are all wretched sinners desperately in need of the cross of Christ.