Faith, for the Bookworms, for the Writers

6 Defenses of the Christian Horror Genre

This is part of a series. To read “In Defense of Christian Romance,” click here. For “In Defense of Christian Fantasy,” click here. Check back later for “In Defense of Christian Fiction.”

“[Big-name author] writes Christian Horror….whatever that means.”

 

Add a tone of disdain to the above. That’s what a friend said of an author I happen to enjoy. I’ll admit, I chickened out in the moment and said that I enjoy the author’s older work with less of a horror aspect. Which is true, but I didn’t have an actual problem with the more recent stuff.

But I definitely don’t have an issue in general with horror; in fact my WIP has an aspect some may label as horror-esque. (Although, it is by no means actually horror. I just know people who have a problem with Christian Horror may also have a problem with a graphic, disturbing aspect of my story.)

Perhaps my chickening out though was because I wasn’t sure I had a quality explanation on hand. Now with some time to think about it, I feel like I have something to say besides, “I disagree with your insinuation.”

1. Some books, some people…

I stated this in defense of Christian Romance and Christian Fantasy. It’s as true a statement – perhaps even more so in my potentially inaccurate opinion – for Christian Horror. I am not defending every book in the genre, but the genre as a whole. Some Christian Horror books may not be Scripturally sound or beneficial material to expose oneself to. Also, some people may have personal convictions or experience that causes them to never read Christian Horror, and I’m fine with that. Just don’t throw out the entire genre for everyone while you’re at it.

This post is not to argue over which books should not be read or which people shouldn’t read Christian Horror. Rather this is just some thoughts to start a discussion about the view of the genre as a whole.

2. “God has not given us…”

I’m pretty sure if I were to engage in a conversation with someone who refuses to read a horror book as a Christian, that this verse would come up. “God has not given us a spirit of fear…” Also, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

An excellent point. We don’t have to fear. In all the horrific things we may face in this life, God has given us joy and love. Did I say that terrifying moments won’t occur? No. Did God say that terrifying moments won’t occur? Absolutely not. The stories of martyrs and even Jesus’ own death shows that fearful moments may arise. We can just have peace through them. We will not avoid opportunities for fear.

For that reason, there is no reason to fear in reading horror. We can see how God delivers His saints from all their fears. Or we can see how much is lost, but God is with them through it. All depending on the storyline. Christian Horror is an opportunity to see evidence of “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

3. “Think on these things.”

Here’s the other verse you may use to say that Horror is not material a Christian should be exposing themselves to. Let me list off the things you should think on and explain how horror can fit into them. Note: This does NOT mean that all horror will. I agree that some horror is not beneficial under this verse.

• True – there is the real world that we live in, where bad things happen, terrifying things even. There is also the truth that good overcomes evil, light overcomes darkness – either in this life or the life to come. These truths can be often seen in horror.

• Noble – often horror portrays the contrast between a character who responds ignobly and a character who is proven noble in the face of crisis. Sometimes it is difficult in the day-to-day to see clearly the difference, and horror (or any form of trial) can be a great testing ground of character.

• Just – once again, good does overcome evil and light does overcome darkness. It does not mean we pretend there is no darkness or evil, but that we are always aware of the greater force.

• Pure – just as the noble and ignoble are pitted against each other, often horror provides a great testing ground to see who is pure to the core, rather than who can give an appearance of purity in daily life.

• Lovely – There is a difference between pleasant and lovely. Horror novels are rarely pleasant. The torture and crucifixion of Jesus wasn’t pleasant either. I would not stretch this so far as to say that Christian Horror and Jesus’ crucifixion are one and the same, but enduring torment with honor is a tragic yet beautiful thing. Because if we were only supposed to think on pleasant things, we couldn’t think about Christ’s crucifixion in too much detail beyond “He saved me.” But since we are to think on “lovely” things, the whole process and the truth of what He’s delivered us from and at what cost is more realized.

• Of Good Report, Virtuous, and Praiseworthy – What does the horrific story reveal about the protagonist’s character? Is there a hopeful or just ending? Is there some good outcome or some good action to be honored? What does this trial reveal about a character’s virtues?

The point of this verse isn’t to turn a blind eye to pain or fear or struggle. The point is to find the things worthy of our thoughts, especially during difficult times. Philippians has two big themes – rejoicing and suffering. Paul doesn’t ignore his imprisonment or persecution, but acknowledges and brings up reasons to rejoice through it.

 

4. An all-seeing eye

Speaking of turning a blind eye….

We don’t want to do that. As Christians, we want to acknowledge and even empathize with the pains of this world. I am not saying that you must read horror to empathize, but that can be one way to understand situations we hopefully are never personally placed in. Understanding confusion and terror that God has offered us freedom from. Having compassion on those still in chains to that. We want to be aware of the pains of this world that we do not personally experience.

By no means does this mean I encourage everyone to read Christian Horror. What I am saying is that this genre is a legitimate Christian genre that can be beneficial to those who thoughtfully read from its literature. If this is not your cup of tea, do not feel obligated to read this genre just to gain empathy. There are many ways to develop compassion and empathy, and Christian Horror does not have to be one you personally endorse.

 

5. Great and Terrible

The Bible talks about the “great and terrible day of the Lord.” I think of it as the time that the war that’s been waging under the surface of our day-to-day life escalates to its pinnacle and is visible for all to see. It’s great – God’s judgement is pouring out, He’s purifying His bride, and miraculous signs are happening right and left. But it’s also terrifying – God’s judgement is pouring out, Satan is personified, taking over the world, and waging war on God’s bride. Everything is coming to a grand finale that is so majestic and gripping. Kinda like the last 20 minutes of a thriller, where you’re gripping your seat, sitting up, and freaking out – knowing everything will turn right in the end, but not sure how it’ll happen – and slightly worried the director may be throwing you for a loop. Only this isn’t a movie – it’s real life. But I feel like I can see this grand battle played out on a smaller scale in the Christian Horror genre. Horror isn’t something to dwell on, but goodness in the midst of terror – that’s worth pondering for hours. Most of those verses about the end times, I see it as God saying over and over “It’s terrible – and great! Don’t forget it’s great!” That’s the type of Christian Horror I like – that pits good against evil on a grand stage we don’t generally see in our ordinary life.

6. The purpose-driven horror

I feel like many Christians write off things based on content. For instance, books with magic are demonic. Well here’s an issue then, because the Bible has magic, psychics, and ghosts in it. How unScriptural – oh, wait.

So here’s a new way of looking at things. Why is this material in the story? What’s the purpose of it? If the horror content is to incite fear and despair, not quality material to be dwelling on. If the horror is to contrast with noble characters or a just end, there is a book I can rally behind. For me, it’s not necessarily the content, so much as the purpose or outcome of the content.

What are your thoughts? Any additional comments or disagreements? Let me know!

Faith, for the Bookworms, for the Writers

9 Defenses of the Christian Fantasy Genre

This is part of a series. To read “In Defense of Christian Romance,” click here. Check back later for “In Defense of Christian Horror” and “In Defense of Christian Fiction.”

Magic. Dragons. Witches and wizards. Vampires. Zombies. Mythological beings. These words can cause some Christians to immediately write off a book as demonic, Satanic, immoral, or a waste of time. Here’s my defense of the genre.

 

1. Beyond our understanding lies…

Remember when the earth was flat and we could fall right off?

Remember when flying was humanly impossible?

With a clap of my hands I can make light appear. There was a point in time where that would have been seen as magic. Now it’s called tacky electronics. In fact there’s a lot of things so common now that are beyond history’s understanding.

Similarly, there are things believed in the past (falling off the earth) that seem preposterous now.Some fantastical elements can just be a shift in understanding. Suspend disbelief. This is the world that these people live in.

2. God is into the inexplicable

Do you know how many times God asks us to suspend disbelief in His book? Over and over and over. Dragons, leviathan, Sheol, ghosts, miracles, talking animals, animated detached hands, immortality, the “sons of God” and “daughters of men” creating Nephilim. There’s some weird inexplicable things in there. And God seems just fine with His book having supernatural occurrences we can’t explain.

I especially love that there’s a ghost in 1 Samuel 28, and God doesn’t stop the story to say “Hold it. This is not actually a ghost, but a demon masquerading as a ghost.” That may or may not be the case, but that’s not the point of the story. Sometimes God tells the story and lets the story speak on its own, without worrying about what exactly is going on supernaturally.

Remember when Job is attacked by Satan? What is God’s response. It’s not, “Oh well see here, Satan came to Heaven, I was asking if he’d noticed your righteousness, and he challenged me.” Instead He says, “Where were you when I formed the foundations of the earth?” It seems God’s point isn’t to explain all the inexplicable in the universe, but rather to say that there are things in this life we’ll never understand – and that’s okay with Him, in fact, it’s His plan at least for now. To trust Him despite the weird, absurd, or confusing moments in life.

3. Some books, some people…

I stated this in defense of Christian Romance, and it’s as true a statement in Christian Fantasy. I am not defending every book in the genre, but the genre as a whole. Some books that claim to be Christian are not, and should never be read by a Christian. Also, some people may have personal convictions that cause them to never read Christian Fantasy of any type, and I’m fine with that. In addition, I’m aware that overexposure or worship of the genre can be unhealthy, escapism in the sense of neglecting this world for fictional worlds. But don’t throw out the entire genre quite yet.

This post is not to argue over which books should not be read or which people shouldn’t read Christian Fantasy. Rather this is just some thoughts to start a discussion about the view of the genre as a whole.

4. In defense of magic in fiction

To be clear, I am talking about magic in the sense of witches, wizards, incantations, and the like. Supernatural occurrences that are inexplicable are not magic per se, and are fair game in my book, due to reasons 1 and 2 above.

Here’s my stance on magic. And I know you may disagree with me. Magic is evil according to the Bible. Magic is in the Bible, depicted as evil. I am completely fine with books having magic used by “bad guys.” I’d even be okay with magic being used by “good guys” if it was not the end-all be-all solution. Because that distorts the truth. As soon as “bad magic” and “good magic” are pitted against each other, I can’t support the story personally. If there is magic used for bad purposes, I can totally read a book with that, because if I couldn’t then I wouldn’t be allowed to read the Bible. But I will not personally perpetuate the lie that magic can be good.

5. In defense of dragons

I’d say, “Poor dragons, why do they get such a bad rap?” Except, I know why. It’s the whole Satan is depicted as a dragon in the Bible argument. In this case, it may seem that I would only be in support of dragons depicted as evil, just like magic in reason 4 above. Except….

Instead let me say this. God never created a creature that is purely evil. There in fact, as far as I can tell, is not a single thing on this earth that is evil in and of itself. Everything was designed “good,” and then Satan comes along and messes things up. Humanity. Animals. Romance. Alcohol. Emotions. You may think you have a rebuttal by bringing up Satan and demons, but remember what they once were? Angels. Designed for good, but chose bad.

So don’t count dragons as always evil – give them a choice like angels and humans, or have them live in this fallen world as animals groaning for the restoration of creation, but don’t make them all evil. Or, if you make them all evil, have them be Satan’s spawn or something I guess. But the point is, they don’t have to be all evil. They can be good creatures in story without the story being demonic.

6. In defense of Damon, Klaus, the Byronic Hero, and the Anti-Hero

Vampire Diaries (the TV show) just happens to be one of my obsessions. And who do I root for? Damon and Klaus. There was a point where I wondered if this was a problem. That maybe I liked the idea of having an excuse for evil behavior, a reason that being bad can be acceptable or even justified.

You may have a similar issue with this new anti-hero fad (Wicked, Maleficent, Once Upon a Time, and other villains’ stories explained) or with vampires or creatures that go against a certain moral standard. I prayed about this and even stopped watching Vampire Diaries for a time.

I received my answer a few different ways. Here’s a new perspective of this phenomena.
• Hurt people hurt people
• The Misty Edward’s song: “For all men are broken/And broken men break their children/Who grow up to be broken men”
• We all have a fallen nature in us, we all have a tendency towards wickedness until redeemed

You see, the reason I root for Damon and Klaus is because they own their bad choices. They aren’t afraid to admit it. Stefan, Matt, Caroline, Elena – often they act as if their choices are good when they’re just as broken as the rest. My qualm was not with them choosing good, but with them pretending to be better than they are.

Just something to think about when you encounter a fallen creature in a story. What is this story saying? Could the theme actually be Scriptural, even when the character is not?

7. Speaking of vampires….

Funny how some creatures get special dislike from Christians. Not just that it’s a waste of time to read about them because they’re fictional, but that they’re inherently evil, perhaps even demonic.

I’m speaking specifically of vampires with this defense, because that’s where the dislike most commonly manifests right now, but this can be the case for many a mythological creature.

The mythology of vampirism is that they’re humans turned immortal surviving off of the blood (life) of others. We can see why this is unScriptural. I would not argue that this creature is holy and pure by any means. But there is a Christian perspective to this mythology that can bring clarity and depth to these stories.

This is what I think is the strength of vampire stories. A new way of seeing the Romans 6 struggle. For instance, my favorite vampire fix would be Vampire Diaries. On the show, some vampires drink animal blood, some drink “fresh” human blood, from the vein. Others only drink from “blood bags,” taking from blood donation locations and hospitals. Some vampires have embraced this part of their new life, while others are wracked by shame and contempt for the very nature they can’t seem to escape.

Just as humans daily have a struggle between their sin nature and the glory God has designed us for, vampires have a struggle between their vampirism and their humanity – restoring what was lost in them. You see, vampires for the most part have NOT chosen this lifestyle; like humans are born with a sinful nature and choose to sin, vampires are forced into a vampiric nature and must make their choice from there.

Each of these “dietary” choices come with their own dilemmas at different times. The shame and guilt of breaking your own standards. The problem of stealing blood from hospitals. The manipulation of drinking from the vein. And what if the strength of animal blood is not enough to fight off an enemy, and the friend tells you that you should drink from their vein – is it okay then, to save your friends? You see what I’m getting at – no longer black and white issues, but daily areas that appear so grey at times.

It’s easy to say “Thou shall not steal” and the set standards of living for God. The day-to-day living gets harder to see where the black and white is. I thought of this when I read “The Land of Stories” and the brother lies to his teacher to help his sister. The narrator says “it was the wrong thing to do as a student, but the right thing to do as a brother.” I won’t say whether that is justified in God’s sight or not. I’m just saying getting into the gnitty-gritty of life, sin gets a little confusing. And vampirism shows this struggle with a new perspective – a little more distanced, but also a little deeper. Vampirism is an analogy for humanity’s inward life in many ways.

8. I’m so lost I don’t like Lost anymore

And herein lies so many people’s problem with the tv show Lost. Let me be clear – I am obsessed with Lost. I’m completely fine with its unanswered questions and layer upon layer of what’s really going on. Because that’s the point of Lost. That there’s always something you can’t understand, there’s always more going on than meets the eye, there’s always unanswered questions (see my reason 2 above.)

Switch to something more Scriptural. If you recall, there’s this thing where we’re supposed to worship God for eternity and never get bored, because there’s always something more to discover. And the apostolic prayer from Ephesians about “knowing the love that surpasses knowledge.” Some things aren’t meant to be explained. There’s always going to be something more. So in the case of vampires, zombies, mermaids, faeries, hobgoblins, will-o-the-wisps, time-travel and parallel universes – just enjoy the mystery. Don’t explain away how they aren’t real, because yeah, that’s not the case (or is it? Muahaha.) Enter the story and enjoy the inexplicable for what it is. Or don’t read it, if it’s not your thing.

9. We don’t fight against flesh and blood

Ephesians 6 describes a supernatural war that is going on that we are a part of. This can be seen all throughout the Bible, I would say especially in Revelations, where crazy crazy stuff goes down. Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, to forget the battle that is going on around us that we can’t see. More importantly, it’s easy to forget about the battle that we are constantly a part of. We’re called to something great and epic, beyond this flesh and bones daily living stuff.

I don’t know about you, but reading a story so much bigger than one character – especially if it includes elements I don’t see in daily life – reminds me of the life I’m called to, the life I’m daily living and so easily forget about. It sparks the need to be a part of this invisible supernatural battle – because we are natural beings, but we are also supernatural beings. And it’s war time.

What do you think? Tell me in the comments below.

Faith, for the Bookworms, for the Writers

8 Defenses of the Christian Romance Genre

This is the start of a series of defenses I will be posting – check back later for “In Defense of Christian Fantasy,” “In Defense of Christian Horror,” and “In Defense of Christian Fiction.” As I’ve been hearing a lot against these genres recently, I thought it was about time to start the conversation.

“The romance genre is like emotional porn for women.”

 

“I just wish there wasn’t romance in every single book…it’s not all about romance, ya know.”

Heard either of the above? I have – multiple times by multiple people. I’m not one to curl up with a romance generally, but I wanted to refute these claims on behalf of those who do. Excuse me, while I get opinionated. I am fully aware that disagreements will pop up, and I’m willing to admit I may have missed something in this post. Now I will go cower in the corner while you read.

1. Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater

I am by no means defending every single book out there labeled “Christian Romance.” Nor am I saying that it is always beneficial to read Christian Romance. What I’m saying is that I feel like many Christians are throwing out the entire genre based on
• Some books
• Some people
Yes, some books can be ungodly, immoral, sensual, or leading to temptation.
Yes, some people – whether due to their past, personal convictions, or any other number of reasons – have an individual issue with the entire genre.

I am not here to argue over which people or which books are okay. I am writing this to suggest that we not write off an entire genre based on a percentage.

2. Fiction is written to represent reality

In response to those tired of romance being in just about every book, guess what? Romance is a part of life. Romance will be and should be in almost every book out there, because it is all over the place in real life. Most people have crushes, dates, love interests, marriage, or romance in some fashion. To have an entire story that is totally absent of romance is so unlikely in real life that to have that in fiction is usually asking your reader to suspend their disbelief a little too far. Romance – real people are usually thinking about it, fictional characters probably are too.

3. Fiction is written to escape reality

On the opposite end, the Christian Romance genre can often be so focused on the romantic side of the story that there’s nearly no other story present. This is not usually a portrayal of reality. Real life has so much more than romance to it.

But here is where the paradigm comes in – fiction is, well, fiction. It’s not supposed to be entirely real. Fiction is for the purpose of entering an unreal realm for a moment. This can mean that fiction zooms in on only one aspect of humanity or it can mean that it spans more of human experience than any one person would typically encounter. Regardless, fiction is not entirely about reality, and that’s the point of fiction. So a book devoted entirely to romance is no less acceptable.

4. God likes romance

Dare I say it, God isn’t avoiding any mention of romance. He likes romance. He likes it between Him and the church, of course. More than that, He likes it between a man and a woman – it’s the representation of His romance with us. Just as it’s healthy to see a couple romance each other as a picture of Christ and the church, it can be healthy to see a fictional couple representing the divine romance between us and God. Yeah, I went there – romance can be healthy – uplifting, encouraging, challenging.

5. Speaking of health, romance is like food

I am aware that this genre can become an area of addiction, where reading it becomes unhealthy due to overexposure, when human romance becomes the end-all-be-all of life. This is not an issue with the genre any more than food is an issue because of obesity. Both are good with a proper understanding of how they should relate to our life. Our world should not revolve around either of these, just as it shouldn’t revolve around the fantasy genre, alcohol, friendships, or any number of good and bad things. That place should be reserved for God. But that does not mean we have to abandon food, or romance, altogether; in fact, that would be very unhealthy.

6. God Writes Christian Romance

Heard of the Bible? Ya know, the anthology of books written by men and compiled with the belief that God directed their every word? One of those books is Song of Solomon. You can argue all you want about how it’s talking about God and the church – and it is – but it’s also just a view of what God designed romance to be. And He planned on it being read. There needs to be books that show true romance as God designed it.

7. Satan likes to mess with God’s plan

This is where the issues come in. Romance points to God. Satan doesn’t like that. Whether real couples or fictional, Satan wants to distort our view of God. Once again, the fiction can represent reality in having flawed couples or the fiction can completely distort reality by making romance something God never designed it to be. Either way, I won’t deny that Satan likes to get in there.

But flawed people are inevitable. Reality. God still uses flawed people, and in the same way, stories of flawed people can be used. Just because the couple does not perfectly portray God’s design for romance does not mean the book has to be burned. God put the story of Adam and Even in the Bible. Tamar. David and Bathsheba. Hosea and Gomer. Those just off the top of my head – flawed people, flawed romance, that God specifically chose to speak to us with. So don’t throw out a book just because there is a flawed romance.

8. What’s with all this friendship nonsense?

Friendship. Best friends, old friends, new friends, building friendships – and don’t get me started on betrayals. It seems like there’s always friendship in every book out there. Can’t we write a book with no friendship whatsoever? Just for once I want to read a book where there aren’t friendships on every page.

I think you can see where I’m going with this. Friendship is an inevitable part of life, so nearly every book you read will have it. You will rarely find a book with a complete loner doing everything on his/her own with no camaraderie.
Romance is another inevitable part of life. So while the above complaint seems ridiculous, consider the fact that ditching romance is almost as crazy.

What are your thoughts? Did I miss something? Or do you disagree? Hold on while I crawl out of my corner to converse with you.