The long path to Kip Andersen and Kameron Waters’ new investigative documentary film Christspiracy: The Spirituality Secret began with a single thought-provoking question: “Is there a spiritual way to kill an animal?”
Waters, an aspiring filmmaker at the time, posed the question at a Q&A session with Andersen, a director and producer already known for his coverage of human health, environmental issues, and animal rights in the documentaries What the Health (2017), Cowspiracy (2015), and Seaspiracy (2021).
“I’ll put it this way,” Waters told Andersen at the Q&A. “How would Jesus kill an animal?”
That provocative philosophical question was the catalyst for five years of investigation, research, and filmmaking by Andersen and Waters as they explored how religious teachings, practices, and lore intersect with industrialized farming and large-scale animal exploitation.
Christspiracy carefully documents that journey, depicting Andersen and Waters traveling from continent to continent and interviewing experts of all kinds – from world-renowned theologians to Christian farmers and Indigenous shamans.
The two co-creators say that their new film will finally conclude the series that Andersen began with Cowspiracy nearly a decade ago, and could revolutionize the way viewers “think about faith, ethics, and our relationship to animals forever.”
Plant Based News spoke to Andersen and Waters to learn more about the upcoming documentary and to find out why this is the first of Andersen’s films not coming to Netflix.
Christspiracy: where animal rights meets theology
Andersen (a self-described non-religious quasi-spiritual documentarian) and Waters (a Southern Baptist gospel musician) aren’t the first to delve into spirituality and the ethics of eating animals. In fact, debate over modern interpretation and potential misinterpretation of religious texts and ideas is one of the key concepts at the heart of Christspiracy.
Andersen and Waters believe that modern spiritual leaders are simply ignoring the pressing issues of industrial animal exploitation – which impacts human lives and the planet along with animals themselves – despite historical and theological precedents for engaging with them.
“In a way, this film was the most dear to me,” Andersen tells Plant Based News. “Because it touches on the subject that was most personal for me and dealing with animal ethics. We feel it’s gonna make the most impact globally and in a lot of different ways—historically, and for the movement, and rewriting history in a way. It’s a very, very important film.”
This intersection of theology and animal ethics hits particularly close to home for Waters, who grew up in Georgia and spent the majority of his childhood in church. He comes from a long family line of ministers and church music leaders and was actually a professional gospel songwriter and performer himself before becoming a documentarian.
As a teenager, Waters was involved in a Christian hunting and fishing club, and at the time he accepted his peers’ attitudes towards animals at face value—until he eventually asked himself the same questions he would put to Andersen years later. Is there a spiritual way to kill an animal? And if so, how would Jesus kill an animal?
Waters’ awareness of meat consumption and animal agriculture first began to change when he participated in something called the ‘Daniel fast’ – a partial fast based on the lifelong Kosher diet of the biblical figure Daniel – and stopped eating meat. (For most folks, the fast typically means no meat, no dairy, no rich foods, and plenty of vegetables.)
“These characters from the Bible were like my superheroes,” explains Waters. “I wanted to be like Daniel, and I didn’t realize that aspect until I was old enough to comprehend. I started asking questions, [and] those questions made my peers uncomfortable, which made me want to ask those questions more deeply.”
Despite the title Christspiracy and Waters’ personal experiences, he and Andersen are quick to say their work goes “way beyond” just Christianity, exploring all the ethics of different religions as well as the psychological, sociological, and philosophical factors at play.
“We’re not pointing fingers, we’re asking questions,” adds Andersen. “It’s a very full spectrum discussion and exploration of this subject. What’s been really fun [in test screenings] is that from atheists to hardcore conservative Christians, any walk of life, they love this film.”
‘Why we turned down Netflix’ for the Christspiracy documentary
Despite the extremely positive test screenings reported by Andersen and Waters, theology and animal rights are two topics that will always have the potential to be divisive. (During production, the pair had their homes ransacked and Waters even moved into his van.)
So while Netflix was set to distribute its own edit of the new film, which was at the time called Cowspiritual, the filmmakers ultimately chose to retain creative direction and release Christspiracy themselves, independently, with the help of a crowdfunding campaign. This was to avoid proposed redactions from Netflix.
“[We are] super grateful to Netflix for providing a platform and releasing the other three previous films,” says Andersen. “With this film it is a little challenging, as some of the subject matter is so bold and so controversial.”
In the two weeks since launching a Kickstarter campaign, supporters have already donated over £290,000 GBP, and fans will have until December 1 to back the project. The filmmakers are also using a “Pay-It-Forward” model, meaning that the film will theoretically be available to billions of people for free or pay-what-you-can, rather than just to Netflix’s subscribers.
“It was a gut-wrenching decision to step away from Netflix,” adds Waters. “But now that we’ve sat with it—and have considered how much more reach this message will have with people around the world by doing this independently—we’re very excited.”
Christspiracy is coming to theatres and streaming platforms internationally in 2024 in line with global demand. You can back the project and find out more on Kickstarter here.