Friday, April 23, 2010

Twilight: A Christian Adaptation on Modern Vampire Lore

Vampire lore and history thereof is not something I've spent much time studying or know much about. But, from what I've read, historically the term "vampire" only came about a couple of centuries ago. Prior to that, there were various versions of the demon-like raised corpse that consumed the life-force (usually blood) of living people. In Europe it was common to believe such risen corpses came about because the person when they were living were witches or had lived sinful lives and such. Cultures all over the world for millenia have had legends along the lines of vampires. However, it seems to be only in the past couple of centuries that legends have had new vampires created by being bitten by a vampire.

I find this especially interesting. It seems like, for millenia, whether or not a person or a body could become a vampire depended upon the choices of the person or those who buried the body. It seems (please show me if you think I am wrong) a recent interpretation that a new vampire could be created by the vampire's bite or, in other words, against the the consent of the victim. This is evident in the most well-known vampire story, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and it continues today. But to the Christian, it is problematic. The Christian believes in a loving and merciful God who gives every human being free will to choose salvation. The very idea that a human being could be damned without being able to choose otherwise is incompatible with Christian theology.

In some sense, this is where I think Meyer's Twilight puts a Christian adaptation on the modern vampire lore. In The Twilight Saga, the question of whether or not vampires have lost their souls and are damned or whether or not what they do as vampires matters is a crucial question. Meyer accepts the interpretation that some vampires are created against their own consent, indeed most of them. But, by any Christian interpretation, it then becomes necessary to conclude that Edward and the other vampires are not automatically damned by a merciful Christian God and their judgment has not yet happened. Though they are dead, their soul remains unjudged and because they are not automatically damned, they retain the reason and conscience of their human souls. Thus Carlisle, Edward, Rosalie, Emmett, Jasper, Tanya and her sisters, Alice and Bella can choose to "live" on animal blood and not hurt any human beings.

Some of the criticisms I've heard about Twilight are that Meyer takes a "traditional villain" and confuses the reader by making him a hero, suggesting that evil things can be good or that the heroine choose "damnation" just to be with Edward. Meyer directly addresses the concern of the second criticism within the book and although she doesn't give the reader a complete and direct answer, she does explain, particularly through Carlisle, how things seem to be and, it seems for her, should be. The first criticism is more complicated. In some sense, yes, it is true she does that. But, likewise, in some sense I don't think she is to blame. It seems to me that she is simply following through on the modern interpretation of vampires through the lens of Christian truth. Either a person has some choice about whether or not to become a vampire or they have some say in their eternal destination after they become a vampire. Any Christian who believes in a merciful God who gave free will cannot have it any other way. In Dracula, Mina is every bit the victim of Dracula and never chooses to suffer as she does nor would she choose to become a vampire as Lucy does. If Van Helsing and Jonathan and the others had not acted, where would the Christian God be for Mina? (And anyone who has read Dracula cannot doubt Stoker was a Christian.) Dracula presents a very real dilemma for the Christian. Maybe not everyone would come to the same answer, but Meyer's answer is that vampires have not been judged and have a conscience such that they still can choose salvation or damnation.

Personally I find this makes the existence of a vampire so much more difficult than a human. A vampire's nature is indeed to hurt human beings but likewise a human being's nature is fallen and naturally inclines toward sin. BUT! Human beings only have to strive to be holy for one lifetime. A vampire would need to persevere through that daily struggle for "eternity" or until he or she were destroyed. That is a long struggle.

As I said in my original post about the Twilight Series, I don't think it is for children. I don't think the books are perfect. But I do think they are an enjoyable read and have some good and even fascinating considerations. I thought I'd share this one with you and see if anyone else had any thoughts on the subject, especially if that someone is more verse in vampire lore than I am. In general, it isn't a preferred subject of mine, but I cannot help but appreciate The Twilight Saga Series.

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