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!