Optional page text here. The Beast's Lair: Why Would A Baptist Pastor Like Horror Movies?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Why Would A Baptist Pastor Like Horror Movies?

I am occasionally approached by curious parishioners who are interested to know the reason behind my fondness of horror movies. It never seems to be a stumbling block for folks. Rather, it is curiosity and perhaps puzzlement that drives the question. At least that is my hope. There is, of course, the other possibility. The possibility that a certain person would seek a sense of admissibility for their own attraction to what might be considered an "unhealthy" past-time. That is not a healthy paradigm to live by.

So why am I a horror fan? My first thought is best reflected through the words of Stephen King in his book, Danse Macabre. In this masterful book that chronicles several decades of horror literature, King says that asking a lover of horror why they are a fan of the genre is like asking a rose why it is red. Some things just are. I have had a flare for the spooky side of things all my life. My mom and I would transform our home into a haunted attraction every Halloween. When I would draw pictures on scratch paper, many times I would draw a haunted cemetery with a full moon and "RIP" on the tombstones. When I was about 9 years old I got my hands on an orange cassette tape called "Disney's Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House."
I would sit in my room and repeatedly listen to that tape, even daring my friends to sit in a dark closet by themselves while I played it. By the time I watched my first horror movie down a holler in Thornton, KY with my sister and three cousins, I was already well steeped in the things of horror. There wasn't any reason for it, that is just the way it was. By the way, that first horror movie was the 1982 classic "Pieces." It is probably a terrible movie, but I remember the film being incredibly scary. In order to maintain the memory of its greatness, I have not watched the movie again since that first viewing. To close this paragraph, I should note that just because something is does not necessarily make it right. However, the point here is that my enjoyment of horror was not a created thing.

Another beautiful aspect of just beinga horror fan is the oneness you share with other true horror fans. This would be the place where I would define what a true horror fan really is, but you know who you are. We might not always see eye to eye on what is or is not a successful horror film, but we all strive for the same thing: that wonderfully strange and content feeling after viewing a film that has done it. For me, that first true feeling came after my initial viewing of Halloween. My favorite part of the film, which lasts a whole 10 seconds, involves no monsters, no screaming, no killing, no blood, and no scares. It is simply a scene of a girl sitting outside holding a pumpkin, waiting for her ride to pick her up. That scene gets it. I have been there with her, waiting for our ride while watching trick or treaters walk the streets of Haddonfield, IL. It is a special place my friends, a secret place. And not many people know the way.

As far fetched as it may sound, there is a theological element to the horror genre. I know of no other genre where there exists a clear delineation between good and evil, right and wrong. The viewer knows what is bad. The characters know what is bad. We are all rooting for the good. And in most cases, the good is stronger than the bad, but must learn how to overcome it. A false theological construct is to grant equality between the forces of Satan and God. We do not have a battle waging between equal armies, biting our nails to see who will win. God is greater and has already claimed the victory. Nevertheless, Satan continues, as a fatally wounded soldier, to fight and bring as many people with him as possible. We can overcome evil, but we must be disciplined. With that in mind, lets take a famous horror franchise as an a example, The Nightmare on Elm Street series. The evil character in these movies is Freddie Krueger. He is terrifying and can kill, but only when people are asleep. In the first (and best) film, Nancy Thompson finally understands that Krueger only has power if she is afraid of him. She becomes determined to defeat Krueger and ultimately does (until the 2nd film of course). Therefore, as a general rule, the horror genre clearly outlines what is evil and what is good, and most importantly guides the viewer to be repulsed by the evil and drawn to the victory of the good. Now, compare that with "harmless" romantic comedies. I certainly don't have anything against a good romantic comedy, but the reality of casual sex and relationships is not portrayed as the evil, but as the norm. The viewer is certainly not led to root against the couple. Interesting, don't you think?

Just like many avenues in our spiritual walk, we must be in tune with who we are and how we are affected. Andi (my wife) cannot watch horror movies. Regardless of the good vs. evil model I have explained, the imagery used to depict that battle stays with her in unhealthy ways. I do not believe children should be watching horror movies, but there again, there is no definite right or wrong age.

Lastly, we should not be stupid. Just because I enjoy horror films does not mean I should carry the "horror banner" around my congregation and preach the "okayness" of watching horror. Likewise, we must respect the opinions of those who do not agree with our viewpoint. I would never take a youth group to see a horror movie. I am completely opposed to the "Judgment House" concept. I am just a follower of Jesus Christ doing my very best to pastor a group of teenagers. And I like horror movies.


Anonymous Michelle said...

For Christians, the paramount concern in whether to view horror films or not is maintaining God’s friendship. This includes accepting his view of violence, which was made clear when he destroyed the ancient world of Noah’s day. The Bible states: “Violence had spread everywhere. God looked at the world and saw that it was evil, for the people were all living evil lives. God said to Noah, ‘I have decided to put an end to all mankind. I will destroy them completely, because the world is full of their violent deeds.’”—Genesis 6:11-13, Today’s English Version.

The psalmist thus said of God: “Anyone loving violence His soul certainly hates.” (Psalm 11:5) Hence, early Christians refused to participate in the popular gladiatorial games, which pitted man against man or man against animal in a fight to the death. True, this was an accepted form of entertainment at that time. But a second-century Christian writer named Athenagoras said: “We, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured [solemnly renounced] such spectacles.”

Not to be overlooked are the spiritistic and demonistic overtones of many horror films. Would a Christian be ‘standing firm against the machinations of the Devil’ if he fed himself on a diet of films that featured spiritism?—Ephesians 6:11; Revelation 21:8.

May 23, 2007 8:28 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

When I was a kid, I remember being terrified by listening to a "horror story" record - it was a scary story about two kids who are exploring an old house and get attacked by a banshee. I remember that was the first time I'd ever heard the term "banshee" and the kids met a particularly (for that age) grisly fate. Do you happen to recall hearing anything like that once upon a time?

May 23, 2007 8:51 AM  
Blogger The Beast said...

Thanks for your comments. In your first two examples, the "violence" you speak of is the reality of human beings bringing harm and sexual perversion to other human beings (I will grant that evil begins in the heart). Nevertheless, The focal point of the evil found in Genesis 6 is the corruption of sexual evil, found in verses 1-4. So, for you to remain consistent you must also deem any film or venue of media that depicts sex before marriage as potentially "damaging to our friendship with God." Not just horror films. Second, if you are suggesting by your last paragraph that horror films in general are satanic, then we are in great disagreement there. If you are suggesting that horror films depict a side of evil, then I obviously agree. That confrontation of good and evil goes to the heart of my argument. Finally, I agree with you that horror films should be examined by each person as to how they will affect them and their relationship with God. Thanks again for reading.

I only remember a recording of some people digging in a graveyard and then out of nowhere they are attacked by presumably a zombie. You said a "banshee?" wow.

May 23, 2007 11:55 AM  
Blogger Barry said...

Yeah, I seem to remember the kids were dared to go into this house....they're inside, nosing around and one of them gets attacked by the banshee. I would think, with a name like that it would "scream" but I don't recall that specifically.

What I do remember is one of the kid voice actors doing a blood-curdling job of being scared to death, and being captured and killed. I wish I could remember more about it, but I probably blocked it out of my memory.

May 23, 2007 3:52 PM  
Anonymous Warden said...

I would add that the bible itself reveals some horrific encounters of violence. Some have actually suggested that we, especially our children, should not read parts of the bible because it is so graphic. I do not watch scary movies but your comments are interesting.

May 23, 2007 4:41 PM  
Blogger Pastor Scott Stiegemeyer said...

One cannot make blanket statements, either pro or con, with any serious genre. Some films are spiritual corrosive to the viewer. Like Disney's "Pocahontas." The nature worshipping revisionism is pretty dangerous and harmful stuff, especially to kids.

My point is that the value of a film (or novel) cannot be determined purely on the basis of its genre.

I, too, am a die-hard horror fan. Not that all movies are created equal. They're not.

I appreciate the Beast's reviews and comments on this subject very much. And in addition to the very very important theological concept he pointed out, I would add a couple of others.

Horror films generally do have a strong sense of good and evil. In a modern church context where many wish to deny or depersonalize the devil, not so with horror.

They also often have a powerful craving to defeat death. Eternal life is constantly sought, either vampires, zombies, laboratory experiments gone awry.

And lastly, I am always intrigued by the fascination with blood. The Scripture says that the life is in blood.

June 01, 2007 12:05 AM  

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