Is This Your Child?

My heart was heavy when I saw this video. I really identified with its message. Have a look…

I was born and raised on a farm loving the outdoors and playing non-stop with my horses, cats, dogs, and friends on our property. I wasn’t into sports as much as our kids, but still preferred to be outside rather than inside, and invented very simple games to occupy my time.

But today, to be completely honest, I do enjoy my time in front of my screen, with FB, emails, or whatever. I can certainly see the draw of watching youtube videos and movies, but can’t say that games are much of a temptation.

Our kids’ generation’s screen habits started gradually, but have burst into their lives with video games and phones. We tried to limit our sons’ time on the computer when they were young and they didn’t own phones. And it worked most of the time. But when they went over to friend’s houses, how could we control that? Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but kids are almost considered weird if they don’t have phones. (I won’t go into that personal pet peeve)

I feel that this draw also takes them away from reading, and as a writer, I wonder how we can recapture their hearts and time. We as parents can try as much as we can while our kids are at home, but what happens when they leave? I am trying to picture how these kids who are hooked on games etc. will bring up their own kids. I have confidence that there will always be kids in sports etc. and I am encouraged by commercials on tv. about trying to get our kids off screens. And I know that many kids are able to moderate their time on screens. But there is much that we can’t identify with as adults who weren’t raised with these temptations. There is the world of difference between how we spent our time as kids, and how our kids spend their time.

Can I safely say that if I was raised today, I wouldn’t be hooked on screens too? I can’t, in all honesty.  I doubt it, but I will never know.

As a blog writer, I feel that I should have some answers, but all I can do is present the very complicated problem, and offer what we did as parents. I’m very interested to hear what your thoughts are on this!!

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The Genre of Horror: Let’s Talk About It.

Scary Young Girls Face On Halloween Day

 

For many Christians, the idea that horror literature could be legitimate as an expression of faith and love sounds like heresy. After all, how can someone that claims to serve the God of peace and love purposely intend to terrify people? I mean, isn’t intentionally scaring people some kind of sin, or if it isn’t, shouldn’t it be?

Those questions are valid and move this discussion from mere literature into theology.  When you consider The King James Bible has 71 instances where there is a command to “Fear not.” The idea of frightening people seems antithetical to the basic tenants of the gospel.

Any student of Church History understands clergy have been scaring people into the Kingdom of God for centuries, does that make it right? No one’s figured that out yet. One of the most noted and famous sermons preached from our side of the 16th century is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. That sermon is as much a horror story as any Stephen King novel. More important, the sermon underscores the one aspect of God that people seem to forget. Life apart from God is a life of misery and loss.

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Going to Hell is everyone’s right of choice and God doesn’t mind accommodating anyone’s desire to spend eternity out of his presence. For many of us believers the idea of being apart from God, now that we have tasted his love and generosity, is terrifying. Remember Christ’s words on the cross when the full judgement of the world’s sin came upon him, and his true parent turned his back to look away from the only Begotten of God?  Jesus said,  “My  God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That’s pure abandonment and fertile ground for the horror genre.

Horror is as much apart of the Bible as faith and blessing. Consider the beggar Lazarus wanting to warn his family about the judgement waiting for them and is told “no.”

Many people consider that horror is only about frightening people.  Who wouldn’t think that when looking at pictures of Freddy Krueger, Jason Vorhees, or watching a long list of movies made for the sole purpose of shocking and terrifying audiences. What people don’t realize is that horror isn’t strictly about scaring people.

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Horror explores important topics like hubris, monsters, the unknown and our responses to things we don’t understand. This genre, when done well, allows us to explore our own darkness from the safety of our favorite chair. Some of my favorite horror stories such as  The Birthmark by Hawthorne, or Frankenstein by Shelly, or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus by Marlowe deal with the topics of unforgivable sin and hubris. These dark tales aren’t grossly gory, but they are entertaining and cautionary in nature.

Horror can also deal  with hope, redemption, acceptance and love. Don’t believe me? Read the stories I mentioned and decide for yourself. Of course not all horror is good or even entertaining. Some of it is genuinely awful, but that’s true of all the other genres too.

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There are those tender hearts out there that say,  “Fear is always bad.” To that response I’d  say fear as an emotion isn’t intrinsically a bad thing.

My family owned land and horses in Southeastern Washington State. It’s very arid and dry and home to rattle snakes, scorpions, millipedes, and a few other venomous creatures, Bringing the horses in from pasture could be an adventure as it sometimes brought me face to face with this innocuous little rattle from the tall grass or from beneath a sage brush. That little sound could make my heart stop, not to mention my feet.

I would turn around, and go back the way I came, why? Because I stood a good chance of getting bit by the thing making that sound.Was I afraid? Yes, but in a good way that kept me from harm.

Before we dismiss all instances of fear as ungodly. Let’s not forget that running away from temptation because we fear entanglement is completely encouraged. (1 Cor 6:18, 1 Cor 10:14, 1Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22).

There are things that should genuinely should frighten us, like hardening our own hearts to compassion, kindness, and the leading of God’s Spirit. We should always fear injustice, bigotry, and genocide. The violence of Fergeson and Baltimore were far more horrifying than any zombie apocalypse, but very similar to those stories – except no one was eating brains.

Digital Illustration of a Dragon

The genre of horror serves a cautionary purpose, useful for discovering our own personal evils as well as exploring our own redemption, forgiveness, and pathos. I maintain that horror has as much place in Christian fiction as romance, fantasy, mystery, and any other genres you can mention – maybe even more so.

Click on the link below and be prepared for a pleasant surprise. It’s an award winning zombie short film that will surprise you and make you rethink the uses of horror.

Can you define the components of  horror as a genre? Do you think it’s appropriate for people who call themselves Christians to read it, write, or watch it? Why?

The problem with Christian speculative fiction

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Don’t get me wrong – I’m a strong advocate for Christian speculative fiction. Not only do I read it, but I write it. And most of it, I like a lot.

Write about vampires, elves, alternate reality, virtual reality, dystopian futures, new worlds, aliens, werewolves, zombies, shapeshifters, magic umbrellas, time wrinkles, or invisibility cloaks and I’ll read it.

But write about angels, demons, or the devil, and I am extremely hesitant to pick up your book. Why? Because unlike vampires, werewolves, zombies and the rest– angels, demons, and Satan are real.

Let’s get one caveat out of the way right now: the Bible mentions witches and witchcraft too, and condemns them, but I don’t have a problem with most witch stories. Fanciful Harry Potter-like good vs. evil stories are not the kinds of witches the Bible talks about. What Scripture prohibits are people that mess in the occult- communing with the dead or diving the future. In other words, fiddling with the very real supernatural realm.

I have to wonder about Christian authors who write stories about angels, demons, and the devil. I’ve read books where they are portrayed very well – for instance, Tosca Lee’s Demon:A Memoir, or Shauti Feldhahn’s Veritas Conflict. In these books, we have stories showing how biblical supernatural beings might interact with our world as suggested by the Bible.

Demon Veritas Conflict

But in other Christian books, we have themes that are very troublesome to me because of their lack of biblical basis:

  • Stories about people becoming angels after they die.
  • Paranormal romance between humans and angels.
  • Stories with characters that are half-human/half-demon, or (even worse) half-human/half-angel.
  • Stories where the devil is portrayed as a joke.
  • Stories where a character dies and goes to purgatory, and then has to work to get to heaven. And (even worse), decides once they earn heaven that they don’t want to go there.
  • Stories where angels or demons die. (Where do they go if they’re killed?)

Maybe you remember these two films: Michael starring John Travolata as an irreverent Archangel Michael from the Bible. He’s dirty and nasty, but smells like cookies so women follow him everywhere; and City of Angels with Nicolas Cage and Meg Ryan. Here, Nicolas Cage is a guardian angel that falls in love with a human. (The movie was ok, not great.)double featureI actually liked the movie Michael, it was funny and heart warming at the end. Did I think it correctly portrayed Michael from the BIble? No. But then, I didn’t expect it to because the people weren’t marketing it as a Christian film.

But if a book or movie is marketed as Christian in basis, I expect it to adhere to biblical themes and teachings. How does a reader reconcile Christian fiction where the story contradicts what the Bible teaches about angels, demons, and the devil?

Is it just me, or are others bothered by this?

If the theme of the book is biblical (sacrifice, redemption, forgiveness), does that make it okay to portray real supernatural beings contrary to biblical teaching? Should some leeway be given for literary license?

Please comment because I’d love to hear what you think.

Lisa Godfrees

Lisa Godfrees