Been thinking a little bit about the horror genre and Christianity, prompted by a couple of articles I read about whether or not the term “Christian horror” is an oxymoron. While I would include “Christian horror” to include such things as memoirs of people who grew up in certain churches, horror and Christianity in fiction rarely seems to go together unless its a former Christian writing horror but touching upon concepts and ideas of Christianity that they grew up with, such as wars between demons and angels, for example.
If you are interested, here are some of those articles: The Real Divide in the Christian Horror Debate (takeaway section - “The truth is theology doesn’t matter. The real divide in the Christian horror debate is not between whether the horror genre is compatible with Christian fiction, but whether Christian horror is compatible with the current religious market. Those like myself who hope so, may be spinning our wheels. Apparently, no apologetic in the world can overcome our insatiable appetite for “pretty” covers.”), Stoker’s Dracula as Christian Fiction, The Argument Against Christian Horror: A Response, Can Horror Fiction Be “Redemptive”? Part 1 and Part 2. Most of these articles are all by the same guy, a Christian author, so take them with a grain of salt, since everyone has an opinion and the unwashed masses may disagree with him.
I was a fan of Frank Peretti growing up. One of my sunday school teachers gave away a box set of his children’s books as a graduation gift (from the younger classes to the older ones), and I absolutely loved them and begged my parents to buy me the books not included in the set. A lot of my interest in speculative historical fiction can be originated with Frank Peretti. And when I was older, I read his adult books, and was absolutely terrified by them (and of course, loved them). Pieces of them have stayed with me my whole life: the town in The Oath became real to me when I visited several tourist trap villages in Massachusetts, and his depiction in The Visitation of a woman dying of a heart attack in a pentecostal church service while the protaganist of the story frantically tries to get the worshippers to recognize she needs medical attention and isn’t getting “slain in the Spirit” is especially poignant to me still today. I’d firmly say Frank Peretti writes Christian horror, both the supernatural kind and the kind that arises from observing human nature, human’s inheritant illogicallness, and so on.
The argument that the Bible may be the greatest horror book ever written is a good one. We’ve tended to sanitize or hold at emotional arms length most of the horror in the Bible. It’s a pretty dark book, even if it is ultimately “redemptive”. I’d chalk this all up to an influence of feminist theology and Feminism into the Church, but it could also be more. As great as God is, as loving and kind, so also he has a “dark side” that should rightly scare us, and we should always be conscious and on guard against the true evil and wickedness that is in the world.
I don’t normally read a lot of horror literature, but in recent years I’ve become more open to it. Stephen King in particular, while not particularly terrifying, is a horror author that I enjoy. His The Dark Tower series, while flawed, is nonetheless some of the best writing that has ever been done, and I’d recommend The Gunslinger, book 1 of The Dark Tower, to anyone. I’ve also become a fan of zombie novels, which bring up their own morality and ethics arguments within them. And don’t forget the classics like The Picture of Dorian Gray and Dracula and Frankenstein. I think Christians should read horror fiction and watch horror movies, perhaps not the exploitive types, but movies like The Exorcism of Emily Rose should be on every mature, discerning believer’s movie shelf. These stories should be rites of passages for believers and children growing up into adulthood, as parents take the time to show and demonstrate these truths to them.
And Christians should write Christian horror and embrace it. It probably won’t be a tremendous best seller, but it should always be there on the shelf. But Christians should write horror responsibly; this whole Harold Camping business was partially incited by the terror and uncertainity that the Left Behind series brought about. Irresponsible Christian horror with horrendously faulty theology. As decent of a story those books were, they were utter works of fiction, but due to the amount of damage they’ve caused…we’d probably have been better off without them.
Anyways, go read or watch some horror!