At the end of last year, I was given a significant amount of book vouchers. For someone who often prefers to hang out with books rather than people, having this much to shamelessly spend on books was understandably a really exciting prospect. So, people were surprised to hear what I purchased with a decent chunk of that book money to say the least.
I bought the entire Twilight series.
Because of this, I've had comments from people questioning my sanity, religious convictions and even my sexuality (possibly understandable). People can't understand it. If they aren't mocking me when I bring it up, people seem to want to know why I would do this to myself, from what seems to be genuine concern. Hilarious.
Well, while it is an unavoidable truth of reality that 'haters gon' hate' I would like to explain myself because what I am actually trying to do is more than just indulging my inner 14-year-old female self.
For better or worse, Twilight is a cultural phenomenon. I have a lot of friends (sure, they're all female) in their mid-twenties who love the book series. They couldn't put it down. One friend finished all four books in five days. I almost considered challenging that bench mark.
The movies followed fast and for a period of time there was a lot of talk about 'Team Edward' and 'Team Jacob', closely followed by remarks from incredulous young men along the lines of "Isn't it just a story about one girl's choice between necrophilia and bestiality?" As it turns out, kind of.
It seems that some Christian friends of mine cast a disapproving eye on it all, simply because it contains characters that are vampires and werewolves, and fear for my inner spiritual life while I read it. What if I get caught up in it all and develop an unhealthy fascination for the occult? What if I develop a bizarre fetish for lathering my body in party glitter? Isn't it true that what goes in comes out? That if you put evil stuff in you're gonna turn evil?
My thinking is that if I want to understand the culture that I live in, and to be able to communicate the True Story of love well, I have to be familiar with stories that shape thinking. And unfortunately, the Twilight series is one of them. It has helped to shape the way that millions understand true love, and to a lesser extent ideas about insecure mythical creatures. So it wasn't enough to do the research. In order to get my head around the way in which the saga has become such a phenomenon I had to get into the books. Because I would rather stick pins in my eyes than watch the movies again. I have to engage.
James Davison Hunter describes four main ways in which Christians can respond to culture:
Defensive Against—set ourselves up as an opposing force, kind of like a morality police where the other team gets demonised. Culture outside of Christendom is just bad, we are the goodies and so it is time to be grateful for a life watching Sunday School Musical and enduring endless movie nights crying along to A Walk To Remember.
Relevance To—in order to communicate well to those outside of the church, we pretty much have to look just like them. Lifestyle choices are secondary to being able to relate. Heaven forbid that people would think that Christians are different! No way babe, it's all good if we hook up at this party as long as we talk about Jesus afterwards.
Purity From—think Amish. The world is beyond redemption so the best thing to do is separate ourselves from it completely so that we don't get defiled. Your school friends are dirty. Stay at home and watch Shine TV, there's a good girl.
Faithful Presence Within—and here we reach the jackpot. Really, there is no 'us and them'. There is a good and loving God desperate to be in relationship with all of humanity and we happen to be the current lucky recipients of that. The problem is, not everyone has seen what we've been shown and so we need to be able to take stories, ideas and symbols and reorient them around the person of Christ.
This is why I'm going to read Twilight, and you should too. I have a hunch that some of the ideas about love and relationship and spirituality that are presented in the book are distortions of the truth, but I can't really comment unless I know what I'm talking about.
Pray that I won't fall for Edward. It's hard. He sparkles.
Sam Burrows is an ex-Middle School teacher (he made it out alive) who is currently working in Young Adult ministry while completing a Graduate Diploma in Theology at Laidlaw College. In his spare time he likes to pretend to be a rock star and writes for enjoyment and in order to impress a potential wife.
Sam Burrows previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/sam-burrows.html