An Obsession of Darkness

9:30 AM

(NOTE: If you are thirteen or under, please double-check with your parents before reading.)

When a bookworm gets a $10 Wal-Mart gift card, the obvious department to shop is the book section. Maybe a hidden gem hides there that one has met before at the library; maybe that classic one always wanted to explore quietly awaits on the shelf. The possibilities...they are endless.

So I thought.

I regretted walking through that section. I regretted taking my little siblings with me even more. But I think I was the one most disturbed - what with the trashy romances on one end, the vampire love sagas on the other, and all sorts of werewolves, zombies and bloodstains in between.

I was disturbed most, because this is the industry I want to break into. Recently I've been flipping through publishing manuals, and the examples of the author's bestsellers or her favorite books are sickening. An interview with a vampire. A ghost possessing a girl in order to be with her ghost boyfriend. A tender scene between a serial killer and her victim. Not to mention every other sort of vampire crush, zombie killing and murder mystery of a supernatural twist that a dark heart can crank out in volumes.

The kids section of Wal-Mart and the local bookstore are chock full of this stuff - vampires, mostly, horror, mostly, demons, maniacal clowns and evil, mostly. The teen section is worse, combining blown-up romance with chilling supernatural thrill - think a million different versions of Twilight.

Look, I hate sentimental fluff as much as the next person. I don't like feel-good Christian twaddle with impossibly happy endings either. This world isn't a Pollyanna reality and I realize that. Neither is reality demonic, magickal and convulsed with conversations with the underworld. That sort of fantastical evil is fake and entangling. Why the obsession of darkness? If the world is dark - and it is - why celebrate its darkness? Why capitalize on the sickness of humanity's soul? Why court and create new evil? Why must we?

Darkness is not, of course, merely a result of Twilight's or Harry Potter's skyrocketing success. This has been around for a very long time, whether in actuality or in fiction. Shilling shockers like the now-turned-literary-classic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were read even in that prim Victorian age. Frankenstein, Dracula - who hasn't heard these mentioned among the ranks of literature's finest? Indeed, we cannot wholly blame this rise of obsessive darkness with modern mass-marketed media. Man's inner darkness is timeless. Jeremiah lamented, "The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can know it?"

As discerning Christian readers, we must recognize two things that should send up red flags. First of all, while I am all for realistically (yet sensitively) portraying evil and sin, Christians ought to be adamantly opposed to obsessive darkness - darkness for the sake of darkness. Unrealistic darkness. Creating new kinds of darkness. There is a cavernous difference between portraying a man's struggles with real sin for constructive purposes and inventing a horror world of vampires, demons and murders for entertainment purposes. In Frankenstein, there is a monster and there is darkness and murder but the focus is on human pride - not a monster-horror story for the reader's pleasure. (And quite frankly, Frankenstein's monster turns out to be not so different from his human maker after all.) That's a far cry from struggling with vampire love. The former makes one wrestle and think. The latter encourages a courting of evil for evil's sake. "Let not my heart be drawn to what is evil," was David's cry in Psalm 141. "My eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord."

Secondly, even if one does choose to sprinkle one's novel with darkness, Christians should insist on evil being called evil and good being called good. "Woe to those," Isaiah warned, "who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."

That verse is key.

On the back of Twilight, it claims that it "captures the struggle between defying our instincts and satisfying our desires. This is a love story with bite." That bite is its appeal. It's what it is selling on. And ironically, the struggle of the story should be the struggle of everyone who enjoys that suspenseful bite of evil - do we defy our conscience or satisfy our desires? If one thinks about it objectively, there is a huge repugnance to falling in love with a vampire, no matter how beautiful and chivalrous.

That's calling evil good.

That is not to say that nobody should ever read anything with vampires, ghosts, horror or your old regular sinfulness. The act of picking up the book, turning the pages and enjoying a good read is not the problem. The problem comes when one's thrill, obsession and applause is stimulated by the evil itself. Why are vampire novels so "in"? Good writing? Great plotting? Sure. I'll grant that. But that's not the core of their appeal - it's the novelty. The darkness. The secrecy. The bad girl, bad boy flavor tinted with danger and toeing the line. Why else the Wal-Mart shelves overflowing with images of passion, blood and black?

The bottom line is this: "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. ... I want you to be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil" (Paul, Romans).

Nothing's shocking about the every other dark novel hitting the bestsellers list. What's disappointing is the storehouses packed with them. After all, publishers know the culture best.

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13 impressions

  1. What made me sick was a picture of these five-year-old girls sitting with some older gals watching Twilight. Honestly, five years old?

    It's is just digusting how people could indulge in such horror. How edifying is a vampire who looks like he lost tweleve million years of sleep? (He really needed some Pine Oil, it relieves stress.)

    If this doesn't get any angry comments...nothing will. :)


  2. Well put! As you know, I too 'struggle with' (*cough* hate?) what this industry of ours is pushing -- I have my particular pet peeves as well.

    I do have one question for you though:
    Have you actually read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde?

  3. LOL Floppeth. I think Mr. Edward is a hopeless case, pine oil or no. Bella might need the stress relief more, from all I've read.

    Ah, I knew this would attract your attention, dear Lizzy! No, I haven't read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde but I'm going to...someday. I regret the way I made it sound like those classics and Twilight are the same sort - they're not. I only meant to say that horror and that sort have been around a long time and it does have a certain appeal, good or bad. No intention of knocking Robert Louis Stevenson. ;o)

    Love you!

  4. I agree about your post! I believe you about your experience in Walmart book isle... been there, seen that. Not very good stuff. The world is obsessed with sin, darkness, etc. It definitely doesn't help our culture to strive against sin. It just increases desires, and justifies it. People wonder why people could do such crimes, think such way... (can we put some blame on the media and literature?)
    Personally, with the Twiglight... it seems kind of scary,discusting, and unrealistic to have a girl falls in love with a vampire. A love story with a vampire... really? Great post!!! Love, Stacy

  5. Very insightful comments... I am concerned that this fascination with the dark has infiltrated the church. I am always amazed by the number of Christian youth that read Harry Potter books for their personal enjoyment. God has made it very clear that we are not to dabble in witchcraft, wizardry, sorcery,or spiritism in its various forms (Deut.9-13).Clearly, reading books that promote these abominations is SIN. I liked the reference you made in Romans. We are to be wise to what is good, and simple, like babies, concerning evil. Where are the Christian parents in all this?? We are commanded to think on whatsoever things are pure and lovely in God's sight. Depart from evil,abhor and hate what God hates,abstain from every appearance of evil...I could go on!! Thanks for being courageous enough to rebuke the dark. May someone be moved to repentance and restoration with God. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). May God's grace continue to help you be an overcomer for Him. To God be the Glory!!
    Lovingly yours, Mrs.Holly Reinke

  6. You're right, Stacy. I think there's a tug-o-war between what the media pushes and the consumers imbibe...both are to blame in this. (Personally, I want to point fingers at M rated video games for the increase of violence but that's another post.) ((hugs))

    Mrs. Reinke, I so appreciate your input. I often wonder if people would defend the use of some other sort of sin in a fantasy world with the argument, "Well, it's just a story." Er, well, sin is sin. And as for parents - what ticks me off most is that the mothers are the most vocal in defense of Twilight. It's terrifying. :P


  7. I know what you mean about that...thing...that looks like it needs sleep! Mom and I saw a poster of him in a restaurant yesterday - It's ugly enough to give you nightmares! Authors these days.


  8. Ho, ho... yes, you know me quite well. ;)

    Oh don't worry, :) I didn't think you were saying anything against R.L.S -- IMHO, Frankenstein and Dracula are the same as Twilight, and not only are they simply vile and absurd, they are completely impossible. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is, in contrast, as you will see when you do read it, very possible, and rather than sick horror trash, it is a study of human nature, even relative to the 'sin nature' -- I found it interesting, even touching, though it's certainly not my favorite of his.
    And you know, they often lump him with nutcases like Edger Allen Poe - *coughfreak-ocough* I do however think (and I might be biased, ever so slightly,) that R.L.S is equal to Jane Austen and Sir Walter Scott!

    Love you too.

  9. *applause*

    luv, Carilee

  10. I missed your comment, Sarah! Thank'ee and thank'ee again! Flop has told me about your ecstatic fan mail. Luv you, girl!

    Ah, yes, Anna, Edward Cullens's sleeplessness is probably mirrored by all the girls who stay about past midnight reading about him. Just a guess.

    LOL Now that I'm not charged with blaspheming a favorite author, I'll say that I do not like the looks of Dracula but I've read Frankenstein close to three times (with exhausting study guide questions) and loved it. But, er, Poe? I read a short story of his, sat there and tried to figure out what in the world he was talking about. There's such a thing as being too literary.

    Carilee - *bows*

  11. The worst thing about books and movies like Twilght are that I hear of so many so-called Christian who watch and read this stuff.They claim they love God but run with the world!
    -A sister in Christ

  12. I totally agree with you. To be fair, though, discernment in reading can be tricky - I know I've experienced pitfalls in discernment (and paid some pretty prices too). And personally, if someone told me to stop reading a series I loved, even backing it up with Scripture and reason, I would still balk. It's tough to die to the flesh. That's what the body of Christ is for...we've just got to keep on pushing for righteousness together!

    Thanks for commenting, by the way. :o)


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