OK, so seriously, I’m going to stop my Twilight obsessing after this post. Promise! I’ve just finished reading the final book anyway so there’s no more left (although the movie comes out soon….) There’s no doubt that I enjoyed reading them, not for their literary value (I don’t need to add my voice the many denouncing the writing) but because they tapped into something primal and essential for women (Karen Beilharz is interesting on this issue.) But I’ve felt vaguely guilty for that – what is it that makes them so captivating?
Part of it is that there is so much good in Twilight, as I was trying to suggest with the porn vs. classical art analogy. When I was describing Edward to my small group, someone asked if he was like Jesus and, in many ways, he is, loving Bella just as she is, sacrificing himself for her. And there was plenty for me to reflect on in my own life as well. As I read of Bella’s love affair with and marriage to Edward I was reminded of the first heady days of my own relationship with Arthur and got to think about all the things I adore about him. So I wondered, was my earlier assessment of Twilight too harsh?
Karen Beliharz is not that keen on Bella as a character. She considers her selfish, although I have to admit, I think I was identifying with Bella too strongly to feel the same way! But Twilight seduces the reader into a world where selfishness is wholesome. Thus, as Bella comes to love, marriage, sex, motherhood and immortality, she is gently eased into this world by a loving family and, what’s more, finds it completely natural. Being with Edward is life itself, even when he’s frustrating; her in-laws are cool and fun and accepting; sex is always exquisite and ecstatic; her child is a delight at all times.
There is little sense of Bella having to deny herself for the sake of others. Far from putting to death her selfishness, she can indulge in whatever she feels and that will be the right decision for everyone. At one level, this sounds like paradise, a heaven that Jesus will some day bring on earth when our bodies will be perfected, our emotions redeemed, our relationships healed. And yet, Bella’s world of immortality is focused on herself and her family, not on the glory of God and his family.
In essence, the world of Twilight is easier to handle than Jesus’ call on my life, this side of his return. Because the world of Twilight is one where I can bumble along in my sin, being loved anyway, until I am magically changed so that I no longer desire to sin. And one day, it’s true, I will be changed in the twinkling of an eye. Longing for that is a good and right thing. Come Lord Jesus! But this view of the future, that is ours and yet, not yet ours, ought not to lead us to despair, not to despise that which is here. After all, this is not Jesus’ attitude to the world. He is still busy at work by his Spirit, changing, renewing, redeeming. Rather, knowing what is to come ought to lead us to know more of what it is we are waiting for that we should live well now.
This is the element missing from Twilight, the sense of hard work, of self-denial. Where Twilight teaches me to love others because it’s easy or fated or imprinted, Jesus teaches me to love others because he does. We work together, his Spirit sanctifying me, me choosing to live for him. So one day, I will love others because it’s easy. In the meantime, Jesus loves me enough to teach me how to love others as he does – when it’s hard.
Categories: Written by Tamie
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.