Interview: Chad Ahrendt of ‘Reconciliation’ (Part 2)

Posted on May 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm

Part 2 of my interview with writer/director/producer/editor Chad Ahrendt of “Reconciliation,” a faith-inspired film about a man who reaches out to the gay father who abandoned him.

7.  For those who consider homosexuality a sin, what is the greatest barrier to finding a loving way to stay connected to friends and family who are gay and those who feel differently?

Every situation is different so it’s hard to pinpoint what the barrier might be for a particular individual, family or circumstance.  It’s important to remember we can’t change anyone else, nor are we called to change others.  We are called to share the Gospel.  God changes people.  Sanctification (becoming more Christ like) is a process of growing in holiness and obedience to the Lord and we only have control over our self and the choices we make.  So, is that Christian living a holy life or are there areas where he or she is “picking and choosing” what to follow and obey in God’s Word?  How might “picking and choosing” be viewed from a non-believer?  Does that Christian truly understand the Gospel and if so is he or she being a proper example of it?  Does that Christian remember the grace, love, patience and compassion with which the Lord dealt with him or her before coming to know the Lord and the times when they stumble?  Over and over again scripture talks about love – loving God, loving our neighbors, loving our enemies, love covering a multitude of sins, and let us never forget it is love that drew each of us to Christ.  Scripture equally talks about God’s hatred for all sin and so we should never condone any sin, but the question becomes is that Christian winking at other sins while holding homosexuality to an unbiblical hierarchy of sin?  Does a family have the same rules and standard for their daughter and her boyfriend as they do with their son and his boyfriend?

Secondly, does that Christian realize his or her sexual brokenness?  We are all tempted by sexual sin and many, even within the church body, struggle with various sexual sins daily.  The fact that we are all sexually broken apart from God’s original intention should not only humble us, it should also make us more compassionate and understanding.  As Christians we shouldn’t feel condemned by our brokenness, rather look to the Cross and praise the Lord for He has defeated sin and given us a way to no longer be in bondage to sexual immorality.  With God’s Word, Spirit and strength we can fight sin, flee temptation and press on in pursuit of holiness.  

Thirdly, while the Lord only truly knows a person’s heart He does say we can know people by the fruit they are bearing – fruit of the Spirit or fruit of the flesh.  Billions profess to follow Christ and if that were true our world would look radically different. Read 1 Corinthians 5 if one wants to see how sexual immorality of any kind defiles the church and destroys families and read verses 9-13 carefully to see how God calls the church not to judge non-believers, but to judge believers and “purge” the sexually immoral from the church.  If the church obeyed these verses we’d either see repentance on a grand scale or the church pews would almost be empty.  As a church body I encourage us to get back to the Gospel, raise up men and women to be obedient in the Lord’s ways, take the plank out of our own eye when it comes to sexual immorality, and humbly fall on our face before the Cross and repent of the judgment, hatred and condemnation we’ve cast upon those with same-sex attraction – and then start loving them as Christ loves them and desires to be reconciled to them.

8.  Is the forgiver or the forgiven the primary beneficiary of forgiveness?

Every situation is different, but speaking of forgiveness from a purely broken world perspective I think both can equally be the primary beneficiaries for different reasons.  Take the examples of forgiveness in the movie between father and son.  The father abandoned his family causing the son to say some very hateful things to his father, even denying his dad’s existence.  Their choice to sin against one another brought about guilt, shame and loneliness.  Through love, compassion, and listening that brought about better understanding of the circumstances they were able to extend grace and forgiveness and reconciliation was possible.  Each benefited equally as father and son reunited.  The bondage to shame and guilt were broken as love and grace abounded.

In the situation of the Cross there is only one offended and sinned against party – God.  God, being perfectly holy and blameless, is entirely dedicated to reconciliation with the offender – all of humanity.  Mankind, irrefutably guilty, rejects God and His holiness instead choosing to seek their own path.  Injustice cannot just be overlooked, there must be a price paid.  In God’s steadfast love for His disobedient creation He takes that penalty upon Himself by sending his Son, Jesus Christ, who voluntarily took mankind’s punishment as the perfect intermediary.  At the Cross God’s wrath for sin meets God’s love for mankind.  Who is the primary beneficiary in this instance?

9.  Why is forgiveness so difficult?

Usually when we are sinned against there is a consequence whether it be financial, emotional or both.  We want the other person to pay a price for the damage done.   We want them to feel similar heartache as they caused us.  We think, “Why should the offender get a free pass?”  The irony is that’s exactly what God gives each of us – in essence a “free pass,” because Christ took our penalty upon Himself.  Christ took the wrath each of us deserves.  Jesus, completely innocent, was made guilty for our sake.

In our judicial system if we are caught breaking the law we expect there will be a penalty to pay depending on the crime.  In the situation with God, He excuses our sin because the price has been paid, but this is hard for many to accept because they want to “repay their debt.”  God gives it as a free gift, knowing there is nothing we could do to ever repay and if we could then we would feel entitled.  That’s love.  That’s true forgiveness.  That’s the example we should never forget.

10.  What is the importance of the chaplain’s comments?

The chaplain’s words are very challenging for everyone, because they make everyone stop and think.  The chaplain is a man that has been transformed by God and His word, and he does not cater to the left or right wing agenda.  His only agenda is to share the Gospel and God’s transforming power which is counter intuitive to the American culture that is increasingly becoming more and more all about “self.”  If one really listens to all his words they will have a better understanding of the Gospel, the brokenness of this world, and how we can better become the hands and feet of Christ to a broken and lost world.  There are two kinds of people in the world: those that are broken and following Christ, and those that are broken apart from Christ.

11.  What did you learn from making this film and what do you hope people will learn from watching it?

Homosexuality is a polarizing topic that isn’t going away so Christians need to educate themselves properly from a Biblical and Gospel point of view.  Today we see major denominations straying from God’s Word to appease the masses.  As individuals we must decide where we stand on God’s Word, even when it means opposition from the world.  As Christians we must ask ourselves if we are living a holy life and being a Christ like example or is their sexual sin we need to repent of?  The church has been losing the battle on sexual purity for a long time now.  Pastors must be proactive and talk about the difficult topics and educate their congregations on God’s standard.

We have two hopes for the movie:  First, is that people will be reminded or introduced for the first time to the true essentials of the Gospel:  God created all of us.  He loves all of us.  We have all rejected and turned away from Him and despite our rejection and disobedience He loves us so much and desires to be reconciled with each of us that He took our penalty upon Himself.  It’s our choice to accept or continue rejecting what Christ has done for us and then because of our gratitude for what He has done we will gladly learn to walk in obedience to His ways.  We must remember it is Christ that heals and changes a person and these changes begin after a person has surrendered his or her life back to the Creator.  If people could truly change themselves what was the purpose of the Cross?  Secondly, that as we all start to realize our own sexual brokenness apart from God’s original design we will repent of it and turn to the Lord and become more understanding and compassionate to those that don’t know the Lord.  God did not intend for mankind to be in bondage to all the sexual immorality listed in the Bible.  God does not call people to be straight, gay, or bisexual.  In Leviticus 11 and 1 Peter 1 God says “Be holy, for I am holy.”  We have all missed God’s mark for “Holy Sexuality.”  Lets not be condemned of our sin, rather repent and turn to the Lord’s ways and walk in obedience to His calling on our life.  Lets stop identifying ourselves with all these man made labels that only separate us and instead look at the Cross that unites us.

 

People can watch the trailer & find out more or follow the film on FacebookBuy “Reconciliation” on DVD.

I have one copy to give away to the first person to send me an email at moviemom@moviemom.com with “Reconciliation” in the subject line — don’t forget to include your address.

 

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Interview: Chad Ahrendt of ‘Reconciliation’ (Part 1)

Posted on May 15, 2011 at 8:00 am

Chad Ahrendt is the writer/director/producer and editor of a new film called “Reconciliation,” about a man named Grant whose impending fatherhood causes him to think about repairing the rift with his gay father.  He was kind enough to answer my questions about the film and its messages of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

1.  How did the project begin?

In some respects the project began four years ago when I surrendered my life to Christ, but really it began when my parents starting dating in the early 70’s and had me soon after.  I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, nor did we talk about God often.  In college I was introduced to Christianity, but I didn’t come to know the Lord and fully surrender my life to Him until four years ago.  Prior to that I had been working at Columbia Pictures for over a decade on 15 big budget studio films from “Jerry MaGuire,” “As Good As It Gets,” to “Dreamgirls.”

After coming to know the Lord, He started revealing His desire for me to make this movie.  People have said this before, but I truly mean He wanted this story to be told – because I had ZERO interest in making this movie knowing what a polarizing topic homosexuality is and the repercussions that might come of it.  The movie is loosely based on my own life and the reaction I had when I found out in the late 70’s that my dad was gay.  I was teased and bullied at school when a few friends found out about my dad and I remember rumors being spread that I too was gay.  I’ve never had same-sex attractions, but I surely didn’t want to be guilty by association so when my mom and I moved away I made sure nobody would know about my dad.  Then in the 80’s I started hearing homosexuality wasn’t genetic, but it was a choice and my fear turned to anger because he left my mother and I to pursue his desires, in my mind making the conscious choice I was less important.  Often we hear “Christians or God hate(s) homosexuals,” but the irony in my case is it wasn’t until I surrendered my life to the Lord was I finally able to fully love my dad.  The Lord was very clear that He wanted me to love and forgive my dad as God has loved and forgiven me of all my messiness…not only that, but as I read and researched all of Scripture the Lord exposed my own sexual brokenness as a “heterosexual.”

After much research I finally sat down and began writing the script, praying daily for the Lord’s supervision over every word.

2.  Did you have difficulty getting support for it?

Absolutely.  Although the story mainly follows an estranged father and son struggling to overcome the heartbreaking consequences of their past as they seek forgiveness and reconciliation, all everyone could concentrate on was the homosexual aspects in the movie and whether homosexuality is perceived as a sin or not.  Studio and faith-based production companies enjoyed the script, but didn’t want to touch the project for very different reasons.  Secular executives were more interested in a form of “universalism” and not talking about “sin,” whereas faith-based companies were excited the movie clearly presented the Gospel they had concerns about alienating a portion of their fans who might have varying opinions about homosexuality being a sin or not.

I knew the Lord wanted the movie made which gave me confidence He’d open the right doors at the right time to get the project financed and distributed – and He blew the doors wide open bringing together an amazing cast, crew, locations, and independent financing that allowed us to tell the story He wanted to tell, a story focused on the Gospel and no other agenda.  The Lord’s ways are so much better then our ways!

3.  Why was it so hard for Grant to forgive his father?

Jeff’s choice to pursue his sexual desires over his family set off a chain of events that would leave lasting repercussions and ultimately break the father/son bond.  Divorce, no matter the reason is very difficult for a child to understand.  Jeff lied to Grant about the reason for the divorce causing Grant to feel even more betrayed, ultimately losing trust in his father.  Jeff’s sexual desires being exposed at Grant’s 10th birthday party, caused Grant to be bullied and teased at school.  Grant already felt the consequences emotionally, now he experienced them physically from his peers.  What had Grant done to deserve this?  He didn’t choose his father and mother, but nevertheless he paid for their choices.  Consider all the emotions of abandonment, deceit, embarrassment, shame, confusion, fear, anger, physical abuse and teasing from peers, the era of the 1970’s and one starts to empathize with Grant’s broken and hardened heart.  One might even begin to understand, not condone, Grant’s unchecked anger that festered into hatred.  Grant’s choices to hate and disown his father were also sinful and led him to deceive others.  Grant’s lies and hatred of his dad were confronted when he came to know Christ.  As the Lord exposed areas of Grant’s life that needed to be brought to the Cross and repented of, He also softened Grant’s heart by pouring out His unconditional love and forgiveness upon Grant – a Father’s true love that Grant had never known growing up.  The hatred and anger were being transformed by God’s Word and the Holy Spirit, but because Grant didn’t come clean to his wife about his dad Grant felt shame and guilt for the way he treated his dad and the lies he told, instead of God’s intention for grace and freedom that comes from repentance.  Eventually, the Lord made a way for everything to be worked out for good.  Grant really needed to forgive himself and truly understand God’s grace and forgiveness, and once he did he could extend the same forgiveness.

Life is messy and it takes work, sometimes-uncomfortable work, for reconciliation to be possible.  Yes, reconciliation will look differently for everyone depending on the wound and situation, but no matter what we are called to forgive as we have been forgiven.  Let us never forget the amount of grace, compassion, patience, love and Truth with which the Lord has dealt with each of us.

(more…)

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Interview: Laura Waters Hinson of ‘As We Forgive’

Posted on February 26, 2010 at 3:59 pm

Laura Waters Hinson is the director of “As We Forgive,” a compelling and inspiring documentary about the rebuilding of communities in Rwanda. Many of us struggle to forgive the driver who cuts us off or a family member who said something hurtful. This is the story of people who had to find a way to forgive the truly unforgivable.

In Rwanda, where 800,000 people were massacred in 1994, everyone who is left is either a perpetrator or a victim. There were simply too many people to jail, and so the government has released 50,000 prisoners back into the communities populated with the survivors, every one of whom lost friends and family members and must now live as neighbors with the people, sometimes the very individuals, who were responsible. As the movie’s website says,

Without the hope of full justice, Rwanda has turned to a new solution: Reconciliation. But can it be done? Can survivors truly forgive the killers who destroyed their families? Can the government expect this from its people? And can the church, which failed at moral leadership during the genocide, fit into the process of reconciliation today? In “As We Forgive,” director Laura Waters Hinson and narrator Mia Farrow explore these topics through the lives of four neighbors once caught in opposite tides of a genocidal bloodbath, and their extraordinary journey from death to life through forgiveness.

I spoke to Ms. Hinson by phone while we were both snowed in at our homes in the Washington DC area.

How do you define forgiveness?

It is complicated but forgiveness is in your heart, when looking at a wrong that has been done against you, it is saying to the person who has done that or just to yourself, “I no longer seek retribution or justice for what you have done to me. I’m letting that go. My right to be angry, my right to seek justice, I’m allowing that to go so that I can heal and move on with my life and be lifted of that burden.” You can do it therapeutically, you can do it alone, in your heart. You don’t even have to tell anybody that you’ve done it.

I would distinguish that from reconciliation, which is the next huge step where you say, “Not only have I forgiven you, but I want to work with you to rebuild to some degree my relationship with you.” That is much more difficult, much more rare.

In some cases it shouldn’t be done; if someone has traumatized you in a horrible way. But in Rwanda, these people are forced to be together. All these killers returning from prison are your neighbors. You see them everywhere you go. So what do you do? Do you reconcile, do you just forgive, or do you live isolated in your home?

I do not want to sound disrespectful to the victims of these unspeakable tragedies, but the perpetrators were victims in a way, too because they did not have freedom of choice either.

How did you find the two people who are the focus of the film and how did you get them to talk to you?

That was my chief concern going over there. This all-white American film crew — how would we gain the trust of the people? We needed a great ambassador, a translator, somebody who could get the vision of what were were trying to accomplish through a wild set of circumstances involving a recommendation on a church listserv that my roommate’s mother was on. I literally cried because he was so perfect. He himself was a survivor; he was hidden for three months protected by a Hutu friend. He went to all the people in the film and told them about what we were doing. He could relate to them and invariably they would say yes, they wanted to be a part of the film. I wrote out questions but he was the one who really interviewed them. All of the interviews ended with lots of hugs and we are still in close to those people today.

I think if you have the power to forgive, it makes you more open to people. If you can forgive, there’s really nothing they can do to hurt you.

That’s so true.

And in America, I think we find it easier to believe that something as horrific as genocide can occur than to believe that people can forgive and reach out to each other with generosity and humanity. How do you tell that story?

I watched other films on this issue and a lot of them focused on telling you many many stories of victims almost to the point where you were overwhelmed with suffering and then this rosy ending was added on. I wanted to focus on two main stories. And I wanted to give time to the perpetrators as well. I wanted people to envision themselves being those people. This was a journey I was going through personally when I was meeting those victims and then meeting the killers themselves. I was shocked that I identified with even the killers, too. Just normal people.

They just seemed like normal people who had done abnormal things.

You had hundreds of thousands of normal people who were involved in the genocide. They were farmers, they were dads, they were friends of the people in the movie. They were just normal people.

I asked a lot, “What made you do all these killings?” It’s a complicated answer. On one hand you had the mob mentality. On another level you had a corrupted government who had taken over the radio waves and the military and people were “educated” to hate their neighbors, to think of them as not actually human beings, that they were animals — the word “cockroach” was used a lot. There was physical pressure, too. The militia came to your village and said, “Hey, you, come over and help us kill these people.” If you didn’t, you would be killed, too. Many moderate Hutus were killed. And these were poor people. They were told that if they killed their neighbors, they could have their cow or their farm.

The idea of forgiveness is to see the normality in everyone, even people who do unthinkable things, the other end of the scale from thinking of them as non-human.

It was a humbling experience for me. I thought they were monsters or I would be afraid of them. But they were broken people, very mild-mannered, very ashamed. Not everyone, but many. It was very significant for them that they were trying to help, that the hands that had killed were now being used to build something for someone they had harmed. There is very little they can do, but it is something. It is important for survivors and the perpetrators. One of the survivors participates in a physical act of reconciliation to help one of the killers.

Many of these people would say to me, “I believe I have been forgiven by God. And so I will extend that forgiveness to these people even though they don’t deserve it.” That was central to those who seemed most authentically forgiving. That comes from their faith. On another level, you have the fact that the president has asked the whole country to reconcile. To forgive is not to forget. They remember the genocide and go over it and over it again to make sure no one forgets.

I’ve been given so much hope from this story. I went into it skeptically. I just couldn’t believe it. And I was so humbled, so struck by these people’s faith and their ability to act on what they believe. I was struck that they could enter into a relationship with the person who slaughtered their family. There are so many levels. It just changed me.

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