Unreasonably Compelling

This week I heard a radio interview with documentary film producer Sheila Nevins in which she begged for the gospel to be true.  

Nevins has produced more than 1,000 documentary films. She is President of HBO Documentary Films and, according to Wikipedia, “one of the most influential people in documentary filmmaking.”  

She is also an atheist. Or at least an agnostic. During the interview, she stated flatly that she doesn’t believe in any origin story aligned with religious belief. For her, there is no master designer of our world, no God to oversee our beginning or end.  

And yet, toward the end of the interview, Nevins responded to a question about philosophy with a revealing contemplation. When I heard it, I turned off the radio and repeated the sentence aloud. Then I grabbed my phone to record it word-for-word.  

"It's a terrible thing to be alive and human and not know why you're here or who put you here.” 

What a remarkable insight! And she’s right. Our world is murky and mystifying, terrible and terrific. It is unreasonably compelling to be human. And to find yourself in this bewildering place without any explanation — without any larger story to make sense of your own — is a terrible thing.  

Even in the confessions of atheists, there are to be found signposts that point us to God’s truth.  

Nevins was doing the radio interview to promote her new book, You Don’t Look Your Age…And Other Fairy Tales. I found myself wishing for five minutes in the radio studio with her to talk about fairy tales. If I were there, I would put my hand over the microphone, lean into the ear of one of America’s most brilliant filmmakers, and whisper the best news she’s ever heard.  

“Be not afraid. There’s a fairy tale story that explains why you’re here and who put you here. And it’s a story that’s too good not to be true."