Vampire Pulp & Pop-Gnosticism
- I love a good vampire story as much as the next human, but the proliferation of vampire pulp fiction is becoming a pain in the neck for pastors. I am by no means an archenemy of sci-fi/fantasy fiction. I’m not of the same ilk as cultural fundamentalists with no fun, too much damn, and not enough mental. It was the fantasy genre in my preteen years which transmuted me from a video-gamer to a reader.
- Bram Stoker served up my first bite of Irish literature, a taste I acquired at age fifteen, much to my bemused parents’ surprise. But herein lurks the real danger: parents are so overjoyed that their skater dropout kid is finally enjoying a book without pictures, that they don’t notice the camouflaged doctrines stashed within the pages.
I know that getting teens to read is like getting a vampire to eat his veggies. So when the truncated-text-savvy generation finds a literary genre with which they can identify, parents are loath to squelch this new appetite for full sentences. When dad discovers a copy of Twilight under his son’s mattress, he sighs in relief, without considering that this may merely be a different flavor of Satan’s bait. It may not be feeding lust or sloth or anti-establishment sentiments (the trinity of teen temptations), but vampire fiction can titillate an appetite for the occult that is even more devastating. It is naïve to say, “Reading anything is better than reading nothing.” Books are the gateway to the heart. Satan will use any slipway he can to smuggle curiosity for the occult into young minds. The bait is a book, the hook is curiosity.
I awakened to the popularity of this sanguine genre when I overheard young adults engrossed in Twilight banter after a Bible study (Team Edward??). These were mostly mature believers who were taken with the “innocence” of this particular saga. I was told it’s not childish or gross, it’s more of a love story. With sheepish foot-shuffling they explained how our virtuous vampire hero guards the purity of his love by refusing to sleep with her. His reasoning is simple: “If I kiss you, I might eat you.” How romantic. Am I the only one who finds it creepy that when the protagonist compliments his girlfriend’s scent he doesn’t mean “Like Channelle,” but rather, “Like a medium rare steak”? This gives a whole new meaning to treating a woman like a piece of meat. Nevertheless, I was assured that it was all harmless fun…for discerning adults. But my concern is that this genre’s teeth have sunk deeply into the preteen market. It’s twelve-year-old girls who are imbibing these macabre doctrines. “Oh please, what doctrines?” you say. A mindset in which a) immortality is fictitious (“It’s just a story, Dad”), or b) if immortality is real, it comes with undesirable consequences (like being 300 years younger than your boyfriend), c) love is expressed through becoming like your partner (even if he’s a bad apple and it costs you friendships, family, or your soul), and d) that excitement is found in knowing secrets to which the rest of the world—especially your parents—is oblivious (what I call pop-Gnosticism).
In Mark 9 we meet a desperate dad who presents his demonized boy to Jesus. This is a poignant portrait of the only boy in Scripture to be possessed (and a girl in Acts 16:16). We are not told how it began, but the father explains that the symptoms have been haunting him since “childhood.” This proves that Satan does not consider minors to be off limits. Somehow a demon got his clutches into this kid and would not let go without being forced to by Jesus. The scars of the demonic attacks are manifold. He has been near-drowned, burnt, bruised, and battered by gran mahl seizures. This is what the immortal, damned do to people. It’s not romantic.
The most simple application of this text to us is this: teach our children that evil spirits are real and dangerous. Don’t wait til their discernment is disarmed by tales of dreamy shirtless werewolves and benevolent vegan vampires. Ignorance may lead to damaging experiments with spells, Ouiji boards, and other sinister paraphernalia available from entrepreneurs who prey on allowance money. When I worked in a secular book store, I noticed that the vast majority of purchases from the esoteric section were made by junior high girls. It starts with the innocence of Bella and Buffy, and often descends into Wicca and Ouiji.
It’s bad company that corrupts good morals. Company includes friends and books. Feeding your youth group garlic may ward off bad friends, but you’ll need more than that to guard against the undesirable company of bad books. You need to teach youth the truth, and equip the parents to do the same at home. Being a kid does not come with diplomatic immunity from demons. The commands in Scripture about how to deal with Satan are words like “flee” and “resist.” We are never issued with instructions to become au fait with the occult or familiarize ourselves with the jargon of the spiritual world. I believe it’s good for children to be genuinely scared of the genuinely scary. And we don’t want young people inoculated against the “boring” version of the story, i.e. the biblical truth. The only reliable source of the information about the paranormal is the Bible. So Christian teens should know more—not less—about the spirit world than their peers who cut their teeth on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Pastors, please don’t go to the other extreme and start a banned book list without bothering to teach the parents and their children. Curiosity is the tastiest bait the occult has. Forbidding a child may just enflame a desire for that mysterious knowledge. The best way to quench the thirst is to satiate it with truth. When the kids at school talk about white witches and Wicca magic, it should be the Christian child that knows the truth and is not fascinated by speculation, but wisely fearful of it. Teach them to drink deeply from the source of truth, and they will find vampire pulp distasteful. If that doesn’t work, you can always try garlic.