Movie : Journey to Reformation
Director : Jeffrey Scott Richards
Jeffery Scott Richards is a director born in West Virginia, U.S. He is presently based in Texas. As a director Richards has made sure to portray the fractured relationships of human beings with utmost care. He also tries to explore how the internal belief systems contribute a lot in shaping their worldview.
Hello Jeff, it was nice seeing your journey! I would like to know what inspired you to create this documentary?
I would get asked all the time, “How do you go from being an Atheist to being a ‘believer’?” It was a question I was answering a lot. So, as a filmmaker, it only made natural sense to commit that to film. But, if I was going to make this into a film, it needed to have style. So I sat down and watched “The Last Picture Show,” and said “I want to make my documentary like that.” Deep focus black and white. Now I want to film everything like that (laughs).
Your documentary is named “Journey to Reformation”. How would you define Reformation?
From a historical sense, people view the Reformation as what happened when Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five theses to the All Saints’ Church, Wittenberg. Christianity is constantly reforming, this is why the hub of Christianity is in the “global South” now as opposed to the West. In the film though, reformation is more personal. I went through the transition of being an atheist to being a Christian, to being disillusioned and then looking at Christianity through a new lens.
Jeff, you seem to be a very positive person from the way you present yourself. What keeps you going during the tough times?
(laughs) Sorry secular magazine, I am going to have to throw a Bible verse at you. Plain and simple, Corinthians 12:7-10. In this, Paul talks about his thorn and how he embraces it because it reminds him of his dependence on Christ. So that became a mission statement for me during “tough times.”
Now that you’re living life in a very different light, what significant changes are you noticing in your way of living?
The thing is, people view Christianity as restricting and it’s not. You are shown love on the Cross and you react in kind. So an example is , I spend my time helping the forgotten, the abused and even those the church has hurt. Today, I have an event at the Mall for a secular media company I work for and then I will go and help the homeless. The church I am serving for now, buys houses for the homeless, as well as covers their living expenses.
You mentioned that for a significant amount of time you were an atheist. What used to be your worldview then? How did you used to look at things? Was detaching yourself from your religion a tough thing to do?
I think I thought Christianity was restricting and wasn’t helping our fellow man. I think it became a “cash grab” in many places in the US. This turned me off and I became an atheist. I wasn’t putting myself out there. I was a social media warrior. I mouthed off at my keyboard and thought I was doing my part. To answer the last question “was it tough to do?” On the surface, no but all of my films have religious subtext- so subconsciously yes it must have been tough (laughs).
If you were born somewhere else outside the US, do you think your religious orientation would have been a bit different ?
Christianity in the US is what turned me away from the belief system when I was an atheist. Look at Jim Bakker embezzling from PTL and raping Jessica Hahn. Look at Jimmy Swaggart’s sex scandal or Joel Osteen being money driven. How political and power driven Christianity is in the US drove me away. Dr. Tim Keller talks about how Christianity, more so than any other religion, will evolve so that the geographic center will be transient. He goes on to say that the average evangelical Christian is “non- Western and non-Caucasian.” He feels that Christianity’s message works best “away from power.” So simply put, to answer your question, I would have probably been Christian much sooner had I lived somewhere outside the US (laughs).
When you look back, what do you think of your atheist self? If you could suggest something to comfort him, what would you say?
Nothing (laughs). If you are asking if I went back in time, I would probably encourage my younger self to be the husband and father I am today. Star Trek 5 is the worst Star Trek movie but it has one of the best scenes. When Sybok tells Kirk he will remove his past pain, he says he knows he made wrong choices in his life. He goes on to tell McCoy “You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. …If we lose them, we lose ourselves.” Every choice I made is a part of the journey. I would not change anything.
It won’t be an exaggeration to say that Religion is still the basis of the world. Are you familiar with other religions? If yes, then what’s your view on them? How does Christianity stand out to you?
Yes, obviously that is a part of my Master in Theology but I am in apologetics as well, so I like listening to people and understanding their story. I was talking to this cool cat the other day who worshipped Norse gods. I was super fascinated by that. I just wanted to understand more. Why that worldview? It is no different than you asking me that question. So to answer why my worldview stands out – Again, I go back to Tim Keller and one of the things he says over and over- at the heart of Christianity is a man dying on the cross and when his followers pull out their swords, he tells them to put them away and to forgive our enemies. How can you NOT be drawn to that?
Another thing that tickles my interest is your daughter’s name. Such a sweet child she is! I’d love to know why did you name her Asia?
(Laughs) Asia Argento. I am a huge Dario Argento fan. I bet that shocks you (laughs). I love the Giallo genre. The way he owned a camera back in his heyday. It gives me chills. Yes, Asia is a sweet child- except she is going to be 15 later this year and hates my guts (laughs).
Jeff, it’s inspiring how you have gone through so many transitions in your life- and I am sure they have taught you a lot. It’d be great if you could share where you see yourself after ten years? Are you settled or are you planning to journey more?
Never settled (laughs). At 44 I am a hot mess and I still need a lot of work. That is the great thing about Christianity, it allows me to be a mess and to continue to grow.