Some of our mates noticed Mark Driscoll’s take on Twilight.
No, no, no…
Driscoll’s approach to Twilight is the same one he took with Avatar (we discussed it here). It seems to boil down to:
- Thinking about culture = ‘discernment’…
- So find the bad stuff…
And where does that leave us? The take-home message is — what? Stay away?
Now, maybe he’s just trying to raise people’s awareness about some of the themes in pop culture. But is that it? Is that really all there is? What are we meant to do with that? What are we to say to our friends who are into Twilight? What are we to do when the next movie comes out? Just hide our heads in the sand, or dismiss it as ‘satanic’?
So far, this is just fearmongering. If this is all we’ve got, we’re heading straight into sectarianism. It’s the same line of thought that leaves people banning Harry Potter from schools!
This version of cultural criticism leaves us with a blunt ‘No’. That’s half-baked at best.
Christians need to cut a path between syncretism and sectarianism to be ‘in the world but not of the world’. What does that look like, though?
The problem with the above version of ‘discerning culture’ is that we end up labelling everything as good or bad. That’s a pretty shoddy theology of creation.
For one thing, although Satan is ‘prince of this world’, there is a distinction between the fallen creation and the realm of Satan, not a one-to-one correspondence. Secondly, Satan’s influence is on human persons. This means that Satan isn’t ‘in’ Twilight any more than he’s in a piece of furniture.
Of course, Twilight is not neutral. Nothing is. Sure, Satan might have a go at us through Twilight, but Satan tries to use just about anything against us — even an angel of light, as it says. For example, reading ‘Christian fiction’ will not protect a woman from cherishing an obsession with the perfect man, for example.
This means that Twilight isn’t bad, but messy. It’s a mash-up of good and bad at every level. Maybe there’s more bad than good. But what if we were mindful of both the good and the bad? What if, instead of fearfully reacting out of our own concerns, we considered others?
Telling a better story
I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
CS Lewis pointed out that texts and stories lure us in through our Sehnsucht — our deep, indefinable sense of longing for meaning and purpose. All those vampires, sorceresses, spells, and otherworldly dimensions are not simply evil. They’re hooks for people’s sehnsucht. These are the things that capture imaginations and animate lives!
A basic Christian approach to culture, then, cannot be to bash stories but to see stories in light of God’s greater story. How can we reveal the story that is truly worthy of our imagination? How can we reveal the One who truly answers our longings and inspires our futures?
Jesus is not the ‘No’ to our imaginations so much as the better story. Instead of bashing Avatar’s Pandora, plant a thought: Pandora is more real than we know. Instead of bashing vampires, plant a thought: a life of glory is more real than we know. We know Jesus as the key to the cosmos, the key to history, the key to our past and our future — so instead of trying to contradict people’s sehnsucht, let’s tap into it!
This is not a simple task. It’s a slow work of great subtlety. It’s a work undone with every blunt ‘No’. It’s not a job that’s easy to describe, either. As you might have realised, it’s the kind of thing that the church really needs Arts students for!
However, there are plenty of good examples of Christians doing this. As a first port of call, I always recommend Damaris, whose Culturewatch provides a basic Christian perspective on all the popular stories.
Arthur Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.