I’ve been a little confused lately when I observe the things in the media that Christians decide to rally against, the things they latch onto believing are wrong, and the things they seem to let slip under the radar. Here’s a quick summary of my observations.
I was a teen when Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series was coming out, and I remember all of my friends and everyone on the internet rushing to buy the new books when they came out. I only read the books myself in order to satisfy a friend who thought I would like them. I didn’t, but unlike most people who don’t like things, since I have read them I know why. Many people replaced the names of their previous favorite books with those of Meyer’s. This occurred equally within Christian circles as it did outside them. Very few families saw anything wrong with the books, and some even encouraged their daughters to read them. One pastor who did speak out against the series was Mark Driscoll, who was then attacked by many who did not share his view. One observation he made, correctly, was that “many [young girls] will be driven by their parents, including some cougar moms encouraging and joining their daughters’ obsession with handsome young males” to get the newest books and see the newest movies.
Lets just think for a second. In the words of Stephen King, Twilight is “about how important it is to have a boyfriend.” The entire second book revolves around whether Bella will kill herself because her boyfriend – who thinks her blood smells tastier than anyone else’s and is approximately 100 years older than her – isn’t around. She spends the third book trying to convince him to bite her so that she can become a vampire, too, and they can live forever in perfect harmony. All of this was written by a woman who is a proclaimed and observant Mormon and who got the idea for the pivotal scene in the first book from a dream. I will be the first to say that most writers get some ideas from dreams, but in light of all these facts, isn’t it a little odd that a pastor would be so attacked for arguing that Christians should be worried about their daughters reading these books?
Moving on to the adult realm, the reactions of Christian circles get even more odd. I have much less experience with these two series because I haven’t read them. There are facts, however, that cannot escape even the uninitiated such as me. A massive series of books that has enjoyed new popularity with the release of an HBO series, the medieval fantasy drama Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin, has captured audiences that grew up watching the Lord of the Rings and reading Eragon. The show, as evidenced by the costumes, set props, and cast is well made, and based on fan reactions to season finales suspenseful and well told. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, however, there’s one big difference between this story and the fantasy stories that came before: sex.
I love a good fantasy, and when more and more of my Facebook friends and relatives began posting about how much they loved the show, I gave it a try. And I couldn’t even make it through the first episode. Nudity, nudity, nudity, sex is what this show is about – and I couldn’t look at some of those friends the same way. Even more shocking to me, when I thought about it, was that even the small outcry that came from Driscoll and few others against the Twilight books seems nonexistent when it comes to this show. Christians watch this show without thinking, and no one is there to make them think twice. There is an article from Desiring God that addresses Game of Thrones directly, but it hasn’t been widely spread.
Finally, lets look at what Hollywood hopes will be the next big draw – E. L. James’ Fifty Shades series. Described by many as soft porn, these books enjoy the popularity they do because they were originally available only in e-book form. Anyone could read then on an e-reader or tablet without worrying that someone might see what they were reading. Additionally, the original manuscripts of the books were blatant fan-fiction of the Twilight series, using even the same character names. Thus, the middle-age women who were delving into their daughter’s vampire books now had a book of their own to read. This “love story” is insultingly slated to release on Valentines Day. Before you go to see it, read this blog about why shouldn’t. But before you judge too harshly, read this, too, and realize that the percentage of practicing Christians who have read these books is the same as the percentage of all Americans. Then feel free to ask why there aren’t more Christians speaking out against these books. Could it be because they have read and enjoyed them, themselves?
These three stories have a lot in common, not just when it comes to content, but also when it comes to criticism (or lack thereof). But lets think of an example of something Christians have latched onto and spoken out against – for more than a decade.
The Harry Potter series took the world by storm and encouraged an entire new generation of young readers. With these books, J. K. Rowling instilled the concepts and values of chivalry, bravery, friendship, loyalty, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, social justice, equality, reading, learning, justice, standing up for what is right, sacrifice, and love – specifically and incredibly platonic love… I could go on. Over and over again characters in these books put their friends – and even their enemies – before themselves. They choose to do what is right instead of what is easy. They choose to fight back against evil even at the cost of their lives. They choose to do what is right instead of what they want. They choose to do what is right instead of being with a significant other. These are incredible decisions that are not present in much of today’s entertainment.
In spite of all this, unwitting Christians have vilified this series for years. They banned their kids from reading it. They tried to persuade as many other parents as they could to do the same. They railed against this story more strongly than perhaps any other entertainment in the past half-century. The attack on Harry Potter has died down as of late, but I still see comments such as “Have your kids read the Chronicles of Narnia? Better a story with a Christian message than one about demonic spirits,” and “Do you have the Narnia movies? Need Christian shows for kids.” Anyone familiar with the books knows that there are no demonic spirits in Harry Potter. Anyone familiar with the Narnia books knows that there is magic in them, too.
Most baffling of all, anyone who has read Harry Potter can tell you that the most powerful magic in that world is love. Platonic love. The love of a mother for her child, the love of a friend for a friend, the love of a man for everyone. Hm… does that sound familiar? A great theme in the seventh book is what Harry finds carved into his parents’ gravestone: “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” That sounds familiar, too? That’s because it’s 1 Corinthians 15:26. And Harry, for all of his human flaws, is as much a literary symbol for Christ as Aslan, or Gandalf, or many others. I could go on and on about how wonderful I think these books are, and the valuable beliefs they have instilled in many children from my generation – whatever their faith. As a Christian reading with a Christian perspective, I find in each reading some new way in which these books point to truth.
So why? Why are many Christians so adamantly opposed to something that, in dozens of different ways, illustrates their Gospel? And silent on so many others that don’t – or even participating in them?
Your guess is as good as mine.
A Confused Christian