The Good Vampire Debate
Last night I had a neat opportunity to tour a movie theater and walk through the projectionist’s booth. In the course of that I saw some posters for the new Twilight movie coming out. I talked with some theater workers about their thoughts on the New Moon movie (which I watched with my wife—we’ve both seen them in order to be able to conversate intelligently with sects of Youth Culture that (too) often find the movie/book series integral to their lives. As a vampire/werewolf movie/story aficionado I was hoping that New Moon would contain enough action to keep it interesting (which it didn’t). I often describe the movie series as “Dawson’s Creek with a Vampire.” Yeah, that reference will date me, I suppose, but it’s meant to reflect one thing: the movie is a teenage “Soap Opera” drama. I think it important, however, as someone who works with teens, to understand what/where teenage girls are coming from when they bring their angst and drama with them into relationships with friends, peers, and romantic interests. It hurt my brain to sit through the movies, but the kids I work with are worth it, and so I will probably see ALL of the movies—but not for me, for them… I’m just hoping the Twilight series doesn’t mandate a self-inflicted lobotomy (maybe I should leave my icepick at home) while I try to endure the film.
I was scanning through some of my documents on my hard drive and came across a blurb that I posted on a friend’s blog a little while back, and my thoughts returned to this threaded post from a few months back as I toured the theater with a friend. Wade Ogletree (another editor/author over at the betterfiction.com website) started an interesting discussion about the Twilight movie craze and the spiritual implications behind the subject of vampirism within Christian literature and entertainment mediums. It’s certainly worth checking out, radio personalities from American Family Radio and authors (including Eric Wilson of the Jerusalem Undead trilogy) weighed in with opinions… including yours truly. (Better Fiction blog/Good Vampire Debate)
One of the topics of discussion of course, has to do with the actual author and intent of the story itself, in addition to the very nature of what we understand vampires to be. There are a lot of interesting dynamics that you can bring into play as a writer, but the original author's intent usually holds the most sway. Who first invented stories about vampires then, we should ask. Nobody in particular: vampire myths exist in every culture in the world dating back quite far, and in all of the myths the vampire is an evil figure.
It is my personal belief that the “vampirism=evil” connection comes from two sources. The first is that there is a link between life and blood. This is a theme that runs throughout the entirety of the Christian Bible and is even rooted etymologically within the very language (with words such as nephesh: a Hebrew term that literally means "the life is in the blood."). The second issue is that I believe there is enough archaeological evidence to suggest that there is some sort of truth behind the vampire legends, even if that truth is nothing more than a mental condition similar to psychological lycanthropy which is often associated with werewolves.
Anyhow, an absolute statement is beyond my paygrade. Actually, I just don't have the time or resources to really delve into the topic. I do feel, however, that the Twilight characters show us the shifting mentality of moral relativism in western culture: we have taken something that has classically been viewed as anathema and heroised it. I could name scores of teenage girls who are "in love" with Edward Cullen, the vampire "hero" from the book/movie. That situation would've been unthinkable twenty years ago. A sidenote since my preacher side is ramping up: I don't hate or love twilight... it is what it is (a story that many love and many don't) but with a deeper issue behind it, we should remember that just because our cultural, corporate thinking has progressed, (from moral absolutism to moral relativity) that doesn't make our “new-enlightened” thinking better, like so many secularists suppose. No inpatient at the Mayo clinic gets excited to hear that their cancer has "progressed."
I don’t really care, personally, about the topic (I would rather leave the parenting to peoples’ actual parents—I do think that an open, honest discourse between teens and parents is a good thing! Both sides should be open to doing research together on a topic like this; use it as a good time to bond with children that the world tries so hard to rip away).
While this topic (Twilight/vampires) might hit home to some families with teenagers or children struggling with the nature of good and evil (and feeding their lives with a diet of fiction and entertainment that only exacerbates the condition.) This whole conversation isn’t new, either—we had the same issue when Harry Potter was the “new evil” that threatened to whisk our children off into the night and make sorcerers of our Sunday school pupils. Years later, I haven’t seen a new wave of magicians rise against the church… only disgruntled people continuing to find disenchantment within churches that spew negative rhetoric and condemn. Any literate follower of Christ can open a Bible to 1 Corinthians 10:29 and begin to ask themselves “Why is my conscience being judged by another?” Church attendance rates continue to decline and the growth of Wicca and Paganism continue to climb, but Harry Potter didn’t impact those trends.
Too many people have raised a banner of war against the entertainment industry and picked a fight with a giant. This is a battle that, win or lose, we vilify ourselves for drawing a line in the sand over. Most often, we say that we are fighting this culture war to protect our young people when those people are in the midst of making their own life decisions and coming to grips with their own power of choice and learning how to stand on their own for the first time. Our battle is only driving many of those people over into destruction as they try to walk out to assert themselves and ratify their own sense of conviction. So often, if you let them be, they will return on their own terms and be more the better for it (for instance, as a teenager I disagreed with my parents about many things concerning morals and decisions at that point in my life, after leaving for college and gaining a hunger for truth and knowledge I examined issues on my own and compared them to scripture to find an answer. When I speak now, I often discover that my parents had correct answers, but now the insight and conviction I feel over things is MINE and not another’s. I speak from my own experience rather than parrot the beliefs of another.)
One thing that I do know is that we are shooting ourselves in the foot when we condemn others for their entertainment choices. I’m not condoning foul things (I often cite King David’s pledge in Psalm 101:3 to “Set no wicked thing before my eyes.”) I just know that we hurt the work God’s Holy Spirit might be doing in a person’s life when we come out and speak condemnation over the things that "pre-converts" value (whether those “valuable” things are profitable for a person or not is moot.) We “close their spirit” according to Gary Smalley and disqualify ourselves to speak into their lives (and often the Gospel becomes guilty by association.)
I’ve heard so many good things about the movie “To Save A Life.” Unfortunately, I can’t see it. I want to see it, but it’s a “Christian movie” so it won’t come into town. Several years ago (in 2001) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone came to theaters. Christians lined the streets with posters condemning moviegoers and making it difficult to access the box office. That’s what happened here anyway, and in many other communities (funny I didn’t see it happen at the last two Harry Potter movies—where did our fire and conviction go?) The “Christians” made such a fuss that it impacted the sales numbers at many local venues. Every person who wanted to see the movie saw it. Maybe they went to different city where the hubbub wasn’t so bad or they waited until it came out on video, but they saw it. The only ones hurt by our “forceful boycott” were the owners and operators of the local theaters. In my town, the theater owners were so offended that they have pledged to “never bring in a ‘Christian movie’ to our theater.” That’s right, no Passion of the Christ, no Fireproof, no To Save A Life, and none of the effective outreaches in our communities that have revolved around Christians utilizing those movies in their communities.
We Christians have picked a battle with Hollywood. This is a battle that cannot be waged in a conventional manner. Leave your picket signs and bumper stickers at home! Get out of the protesting game and take someone out for a coke and enter into a rational conversation (not debate) with him or her. We need that relational foundation if we are going to see any POSITIVE results. People often say, “Why would I want to dress/act a certain way to impress those people [Christians]? I don’t even like them, and I know that they don’t like me.” Until we bridge that gap, our protests only further widen it.
Have we forgotten our purpose on the earth? We are not here to wage war against Harry Potter and Twilight and alienate those whom we were sent to preach to (preach means to “share the Gospel of Christ with” and not “effect outward change or make someone else conform to our appearance!” Let God do that.) Romans 14:16 states that “…the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God…” The culture war is a battle that can only be won through love and reliance on the Spirit of God—not on social activism and political maneuvering or purchasing clever PSAs. And I wonder if our current methods are actually displeasing to our God.
I am an author, blogger, pastor, and musician. I love the college campus and am working with Chi Alpha to reach college students, so I can teach them something before they learn everything.
I'm the author of The Kakos Realm (soon to be rereleased by Marion Margaret Press) and keep a blog called Holy Schmitz! at http://christopherschmitz.blogspot.com. My articles posted here (and more) are also available on my blog.