The Value Of Monsters

MonsterI’m not a horror person. I don’t go to horror movies, and I try not to read horror literature (once in a while I’ve acquiesced and read a novel by a friend or for a blog tour). I’m not big on supernatural stories either, which usually have some type of confrontation with demons. I’ve chalked this up to the fact that I don’t like to be scared.

I figured no one liked to be scared, so I couldn’t understand why a great many people “enjoyed” horror stories. Lo and behold, when I actually took time to ask around, I discovered that a lot of people actually DO like to be scared. They get a rush of adrenaline that jolts them, and they find the experience exhilarating.

Except . . . then I discovered some people who like monster stories but not demon stories. The monsters are pretend, the explanation goes, but the demons are real. The monster stories inevitably show victory over the monsters. They help process through make-believe what we must contend with in real life. And good wins out in the end.

In the long run, I think that’s precisely the function monsters serve. We are faced with humans who act like monsters because of the corruption of sin. Sometimes we see our own monstrous tendencies. And of course there are the rulers, powers, world forces of this darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness–spiritual monsters–Paul says are our true enemies (see Eph. 6:12).

Fictitious monsters put limits on evil. They become more manageable when they have a defined scope and a finite appearance. Oh the other hand, I suspect one reason vampires (until Twilight) were such feared monsters was their immortality. If you can’t kill a monster, it becomes infinitely more frightening.

Some of the most famous horror stories were, in fact, centered on efforts to kill what seemed to be indestructible.

Perhaps the best and most truthful horror story would be the one that shows a monster that cannot be overcome, at least not by ordinary humans. We are, after all, without means to defeat sin and Satan. God alone can put an end to those we war against.

But I suppose most monster stories aren’t about ultimate victory as much as they are temporal overcoming. After all, stab a stake into the heart of one vampire, and another one creeps around the corner into town.

So we battle one monster at a time, and perhaps the make-believe stories help some to go forward into the fight, equipped and prepared and less afraid.

Me? I’ll just confess it up front: I’m a coward. I would much rather hide from the prowling lion, the wolf in sheep’s clothes, the dragon breathing fire. I have a Rock, a Fortress, a Deliverer, and I prefer taking refuge in Him. 😉

Published in: on October 31, 2013 at 5:26 pm  Comments (6)  
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Vampires and Angels – 2

We had such good discussion on the Vampires and Angels Tuesday post, I decided to blog on it again rather than responding in the comment section.

Where to start?

First, I think I’ve made my point about real beings and historical events, but what about those elements that are purely make-believe? Such as vampires.

While vampires are imaginary, they do have one thing that defines them—they ingest blood in order to survive. The myth, of course, is that they need human blood—hence their status as evil because they killed others to survive.

Of late, however, the “good” vampires found ways to satisfy their need for blood without taking human life. So the question moves to a theological one. The Bible says in Old and New Testament that Jews, then Christians, were to refrain from eating meat with the blood. So what can we assume about creatures that survive by ingesting the blood of another? I’d say, if they existed in this world, they stand in opposition to God’s law.

But what if these creatures exist in a fantasy world without God’s law? Must we, as readers, interpret such creatures in the light of Biblical reality? I don’t think so, not any more than we need to interpret physical events in a fantasy world by earthly reality. In other words, if it’s OK to include a portal between worlds or a flat earth or a sword only the rightful king can remove from its stone setting or any number of things and beings and events that do not adhere to earthly physical laws, then can’t fantasy also reinvent elements in a way that does not adhere to Biblical laws?

Understand, I’m not saying Biblical laws are to be ignored, just that they don’t apply in the same way to a fantasy world or a fantasized rendering of beings. Consequently, in a fantasy, people don’t need to become Christians. Salvation can be depicted through symbol or allegory or through what C. S. Lewis called “supposal.” (For more on this, check out my article at Spec Faith). The idea is, the author imagines a fantasy world and then asks, how would God make Himself known in this place, to these people?

So I might imagine a world where all people drank each other’s blood. They didn’t think it wrong because they all did it. How would God show Himself to those people? I can see Him coming as the only person ever born who did not drink blood. I can see a story about a group of blood-drinkers determined to take His blood by force.

What about beings with power over others and even over nature? How would God show Himself to them? Any number of story ideas suggest themselves.

Now what if I called those beings with power, witches and wizards?

Have I violated Scripture if some of those mythical creatures side with the good that must come if God, as He would show Himself in that fantasy, shows up? Perhaps of equal importance, must I show that their power comes from God?

I suggest it isn’t necessary any more than it is necessary to show that a character in a realistic novel can speak or think because God gave him that ability. In a fantasy world, if “special” powers are the norm, or the norm for a certain class of people, then I don’t think their power has to be shown as either from Good or from evil. Certainly a story can show this if the author chooses, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Which brings me to Lord of the Rings. The wizards in Tolkien’s work are a special class of people; their power isn’t derivative. It is power that they use for good or for ill, depending on the intent of their heart. And nothing about his imagined beings is like real humans who practice divination or witchcraft. Tolkien has invented a different being but used a familiar name.

Frodo’s buddy Sam has a familiar name, but that doesn’t mean he is human. The point is, names must be understood in context. Because Aragon is called a Man doesn’t mean he’s restricted to act like men of reality act. In fact, he doesn’t.

In the same way, the White Witch, though Lewis depicted her as evil, did not act in any way like witches described in the Bible. She was as much a fictitious construct as Tolkien’s wizards.

Well, I have more to say, but this post is too long as it is. If you’re still reading, abundant kudos to you! 😉

Vampires and Angels

Faith_Fiction2I’m late, but I wanted to add my voice to the discussion started at My Friend Amy as part of her Faith ‘n Fiction Saturday. Here are the questions:

So my question for you today is…what do you think about these kinds [vampire] of stories? Do you enjoy the fictional vampire stories or the fictional stories about angels? Are you more likely to read a story about an angel than a vampire? What do you think is the appeal of these books?

Interesting topic in light of the discussion we had centered on Eric Wilson’s Haunt of Jackals.

First vampires. Not my cup of tea. I may have mentioned a time or two that I’m not a fan of horror. I don’t like being scared and don’t understand why anyone else would. It is an unpleasant sensation, so why would I voluntarily put myself through the experience for hours on end? It makes no sense to me.

Some people have told me it’s an adrenalin rush. I get plenty of that as a sports fan (and earlier, as a coach and player) and don’t find that source to be unpleasant (unless my team loses 🙄 ).

Of late I’ve been dismayed by the “twilighting” of vampires. As I understand their original mythic role, they were evil, beings to fight against. But today’s vampires—from TV’s Angel to Twilight’s whats-his-name—vampires might be blood-suckers, but their self-restraint made them good. It’s a very humanistic message, not to mention that it plays to the “love the bad boy” syndrome too many young girls fall into as it is.

But are angel stories any better? I’ve only read a couple. I understand “fallen angels” stories are becoming more and more popular. Uh … I thought fallen angels were demons. So how can fallen angels be characters we cheer for? Perhaps the fallen angels will be beings to fear, taking the place, in essence, of olden day vampires. In that case, I refer you to the paragraph above about my reaction to horror. 😀

The larger issue when it comes to angels, however, is exactly what Amy said in her answer to these questions: angels are real. Vampires, as fictitious beings, aren’t tied to the original imagining of such creatures. Authors are free to speculate all they wish.

Angels, as long as they are not the cute and cuddly kind—in other words, angels portrayed in any way as Scripture reveals them to be—must be handled in the same way other historical beings are handled. They must be researched. They must adhere to what we know to be true.

Personally, I don’t see stories about angels being interesting at all. If we give them anthropomorphic emotions, we will be distorting reality. If we show them as single-minded servants of the most high God, then there really is no internal conflict that makes for a good story.

I’m not in anyway interested in these stories. The ones I’ve read fell far short, even when the writing was good.

So I’ll have to say, count me out of these angel/vampire tales.

How about you? Are you a fan of vampire stories? And if so, why? Have you read any angel stories? Do you look forward to the new wave of stories featuring angels?

As an aside, months ago I started a discussion over at Amazon and last week, who should make a comment but Anne Rice. I wanted to verify that this was THE Anne Rice, and sure enough, it was. In the process, though, I visited her Web site and saw the “angels are the new vampires” tag line. That was the first I was aware of the coming trend.

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