Busted Halo
feature: entertainment & lifestyle
February 16th, 2009

Twilight Zone

Christians grapple with the messages in this teen generation's defining book

 
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twilight-inside

“He grinned his crooked smile at me, stopping my breath and my heart. I couldn’t imagine how an angel could be any more glorious.”

Bella never had a chance. The protagonist of the breakout bestselling young adult novel Twilight falls in love under the gray, rain-soaked skies of Washington State unthinkingly and unerringly.

It’s just too bad her love is a 108-year-old vampire.

Twilight is the first of a four-part series by Stephanie Meyer and has spawned a blockbuster movie and millions of swooning fans; the movie grossed over $35 million its first day in the theaters and more than $300 million worldwide over the course of its run. Much to the delight of fans, producers are currently casting for the movie based on the second book, New Moon, slated to begin filming in March.

Twilight — book and movie — has become the topic of discussion for Christians: a Google search for Christians, Twilight and vampire finds four million results.

Many find the book to have teachable Christian values. Vampire themes aside, it tackles the subjects of lust and love. It has a male hero, Edward Cullen — the vampire — who refuses to have sex with Bella until they’re married. Good triumphs over evil.

But without motives rooted in Christianity directly, and with a cast of characters literally lacking souls, the book is sparking discussion, and some disparate opinions, in Christian communities.

‘The characters are tempted, and they must resist’

Nancy Capentier Brown is a Catholic homeschooling mother of two teenage girls in Chicago’s North Suburbs. She’s also a blogger, www.nancy-brown.com, and author of the book The Mystery of Harry Potter: A Catholic Family Guide.

She and her 17-year-old daughter both read Twilight and saw the movie. While she has some concerns about them, she embraces the opportunity for discussion and education. Brown has not yet allowed her 13-year-old daughter to read the books; she said many of the themes and scenes in the later books are too mature.

“It does present a challenge to teens to resist temptation,” Brown said. “One of the themes I think that is in there is that the characters are tempted, and they must resist.”

The millions of teen girls lusting after fictional Edward Cullen, says Brown, are reading and seeing an unusual message in today’s culture, which is usually a barrage of blatant sexuality. “There’s some inner longing for girls for a man or a male to hold a standard up,” Brown said. “They should be getting that from their boyfriends, but how many boys are resisting temptation? It’s actually a very counter cultural message in Twilight.”

The millions of teen girls lusting after fictional Edward Cullen, says Brown, are reading and seeing an unusual message in today’s culture, which is usually a barrage of blatant sexuality. “It’s actually a very countercultural message in Twilight.”

That Bella does not want to resist temptation, and that she so badly wants to become a vampire, to join the undead, does raise concerns for Brown and other Christian parents.

“It’s one of those things where we need caution but I don’t think we can put it in the category of ‘absolutely forbid it from our kids,’” Brown said.

‘What we have is an equivalent to soft porn’

Marie Pitt-Payne is the coordinator of religious education in a parish of the archdiocese of Chicago. She would disagree with Brown. If Twilight is intended as a book about chastity, she says, it goes a long way instead to achieve the opposite effect.

Women, Pitt-Payne says, “are aroused through first person descriptive narratives of erotic encounters — thus, the ‘romance’ novel.”

“Because society’s standards regarding literature have sunk so low,” Pitt-Payne adds, “parents are now grateful when their children are reading anything – as long as they are reading. In the case of Twilight, however, what we have is an equivalent to soft porn … for girls.”

Further, Pitt-Payne criticizes Twilight for portraying its main character, Bella, as “pathetic.”

Twilight appeals to what is worst in women and — like the main character Bella herself — makes women and girls appear somewhat pathetic,” she said. “But society is glossing over this fact in a spurious appeal to the value of reading ‘literature.’”

So strong are Pitt-Payne’s convictions about this, she has been writing a blog called Spes Unica, criticizing what she calls the books’ anti-feminist, anti-Christian and anti-chastity message.

‘Yes, even Edward’

But it is mostly Brown’s sentiments that echo around the internet. Christian blogs and websites are seeking to find lessons in the books, if not actual Christian messages.

“How can we, in our day-to-day life, respond to temptation without sinning? Well, for starters, we take a cue from Jesus and, yes, even Edward,” writes Stacey Lingle in an article from Christianity Today‘s Campus Life, Ignite Your Faith site.

She continues, “Was it filled with a Christian worldview? Definitely not. The saga of Bella and Edward contains some elements that I know aren’t part of the Christian life. When I weigh things presented as true in the books to the Truth of the Bible, they don’t measure up. For instance, I cannot agree with Bella’s attitudes towards spirituality or sex.”

‘All fantasy has to be judged on a case-by-case basis’

Richard Abanes: “A good balanced Christian perspective is that fantasy in general is a great genre for children. For teaching, for expression, for entertainment.”

Richard Abanes, like Brown, said the Twilight series presents the opportunity for discussion, and little erosion of Christian values. The evangelical Christian writes about the occult, fantasy, religion and pop culture.

“A good balanced Christian perspective is that fantasy in general is a great genre for children,” Abanes said. “For teaching, for expression, for entertainment.”

“But,” Abanes adds, “all fantasy has to be judged on a case-by-case basis.”

Abanes is an outspoken critic of the Harry Potter series, but this is due to the possibility for imitation. Children who read Harry Potter, he says, were able to go out and find neo-pagan and Wiccan books instructing them on how do practice the magic in the book.

Abanes says no such threat exists with Twilight, and, if anything (once again), it presents rich opportunity for discussion.

If Twilight fans are “going to go out trying to bite people in the neck … something is wrong,” Abanes said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with spirituality.”

And the teens at whom the books are aimed are far too into the books to stop adoring them, or the upcoming movies, anytime soon. The MySpace page for the movie had, as of Feb. 4, over 54,000 comments, mostly from smitten teens — over 40 people commented on the site on a single day. One 17-year-old girl said she saw the movie 23 times. “omg twilight was the best movie i ever seen,” wrote one 14-year-old girl. “edward cullens i love you.”

 
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The Author : Cara OBrien
Cara O'Brien is a daily newspaper reporter in Northern Colorado. Her previous freelance work appeared in the Syracuse New Times' Family Times magazine.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • leo

    Concerned Parent has merely compiled a number of posts from other sites in order to make a point. The contradictions are from the different posters, not Concerned Parent. But Sarah’s cavalier attitude towards older men who claim to want to be a benevolent and ever-present ‘friend’ and
    ‘brother’ to toddlers until such time as they can claim them as sexual partners illustrates beautifully the inherent dangers of this book. It takes desensitization to new heights.

  • .:Sarah:.

    I love you “Amused”. You have it right. *Gives you a big hug* Unlike “Concerned Parent” (who later in her comment claimed to be 16- what kind of message is that? Pretending to be a parent?)since “Concerned Parent” has not even READ the books, she has absolutely no right to misrepresent facts as truth!
    1- Excuse em, if you had read New Moon… or is it Eclipse… yeah, it’s Eclipse, then you would know that the imprinting is NOT pedophilia! Oh wait- you DID read it… funny, you don’t sound like it… They have absolutely no desires to rape or have sex with their little friends, they simply want to be that older brother, that best friend, yes, perhaps even the perfect husband to her when she is a fully grown adult. But Jacob makes it VERY clear it is entirely her decision, not the imprinters. And the glimpse you see of what’s his name and the little girl he imprinted on, you see her gleefully pointing out stones and making him pick them up while she rides piggyback. They could be siblings. The relationship depicted is sweet and brotherly, fully innocent in fact.
    2- Are you serioussly upset about a gory birthing scene?!?!? IT’S A BIRTH SWEETIE! Why is the book inappropriate because of a God ordained practice of getting a baby out of Mommy? Too gory for little ones? Of course. It makes it a bad book? Nope.

    But why bother to argue all your incorrect points? Your own comment contradicts itself causing you to lose your credibility.

    For example- you said-
    “I am a 16 year old, and I have not read these books. But I have read so many reviews on them, that I know plenty. ”

    Then later-

    “It wasn‚Äôt until I got to Eclipse‚Äôs 258th page that I jotted down my first significant note about blood and gore.”

    Saying in the same comment you first HAVEN’T read it, then a few paragraphs later you HAVE, and you say you’re a “concerned parent”, then later contradict that by announcing you are 16. Though the last contradiction MAY not be, but I doubt YOU would be a 16 year old Mom. (Though teen moms are just fine, please don’t get me wrong) Just please don’t post such an out of context, warped comment about a book again please.
    .:Sarah:.

  • Amused

    From one who has read the series to those who haven’t:
    None of the characters are christian (except maybe the vampires)- and as such, cannot be expected to follow christian teaching. That said, the vampires themselves didn’t choose to become what they were- it was a choice between that or death, and I believe the Catholic church and most other denominations teach that you should choose life whenever possible.
    The only reason Edward himself is only not Christian (as he statistically probably was when he was ‘alive’) is because he thinks he doesn’t have a soul. Well, he has no idea, does he? Nothing in the bible teaches that when you die you lose your soul- the opposite, actually. The human soul is eternal- after life, you live forever in heaven or hell, right? And moreover, Edward is quite distressed about this! He cares, a lot, about whether he has a soul, and cares a lot about Bella’s soul. He, and the vampires in his family, do their best to do the right thing. Even when it is very, very hard for them.
    Example: Say you haven’t eaten for a long time, and when you do eat, it’s never quite enough. Your body puts you through enormous pressure to get that food any way possible. Most people won’t fault someone for stealing food if they are starving, even though stealing is a sin, right?
    Vampires are under the same compulsion, if not worse. Yet the main vamps in the book *don’t* cave in. Their entire lifestyle is based on trying to avoid doing wrong…
    Which can’t be said for most humans. Let’s not vilify these vampires as if they were fallen angels- they aren’t! From a Christian perspective, they are still God’s children. Let’s take the good things- perseverance, strength, love, and remember that the bad things are part of what make them human, and just like us. Honestly, people. If you want children to read books about characters that are Christian, go out and write one. Otherwise, stop vilifying something that has not done anything wrong.

  • concerned parent

    The danger of these books it that they walk you as close to the edge of sensuality without any ramifications. The true can be said about the occult. Technically, there are no issues, but it is a dangerous curiosity that is sparked.

    The real important thing to watch out for in these books: as the series goes along it glorifies some very un-Christian themes, like abusive relationships (Edward is very controlling and not respectful at all of Bella’s boundaries), stalking (Edward breaks into Bella’s bedroom for months before they even know each other), discouraging healthy discussion about sex- even inside of marriage (Bella: Can we please have sex? Edward: No. Where is the loving discussion that brings them closer?), and worst of all, pedophilia (two of the werewolves in the series fall in love with little girls, who they then practically raise with the eventual expectation of a sexual relationship. This is portrayed as sweet).
    The women in this series lack backbone, intelligence, and initiative: the men constantly have to rescue them from their foolish decisions. Let us not forget that women were leaders of the early Church, and that Jesus’s respect for women was revolutionary. It is an unhealthy idea to place in young girls, that a man is required to rescue them, and that they should then glue themselves to this man. I would suggest that any girl who is idolizing Bella’s passiveness should be directed to Judges, chapters 4 and 5, to read about Deborah and Jael.

    Is it any wonder when we continue to “dabble” in the things of this world? Not to be prudish or anything, but our “plumb line” is not public opinion, but the Word of God.

    Am I right?

    Deuteronomy 18:10 – 14(NLT) For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering. And do not let your people practice fortune-telling or sorcery, or allow them to interpret omens, or engage in witchcraft, or cast spells, or function as mediums or psychics, or call forth the spirits of the dead. Anyone who does these things is an object of horror and disgust to the LORD. It is because the other nations have done these things that the LORD your God will drive them out ahead of you. You must be blameless before the LORD your God. The people you are about to displace consult with sorcerers and fortune-tellers, but the LORD your God forbids you to do such things.
    Psalms 101:2 – 3 (NKJV) I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away;
    James 1:26 – 27 (NKJV) Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

    Some will say, ‚Äúwe‚Äôre not practicing these things….we‚Äôre just thinking on this! Lighten up! It‚Äôs just a story…‚Äù Reading many comments, however, gets me to think that it‚Äôs ‚Äúmore than just a story…‚Äù Many are very captivated by the theme and the emotions….folks, you‚Äôre fooling yourself if you think that this isn‚Äôt penetrating to your very spirit. Doesn‚Äôt the scripture admonish us to ‚Äútake every thought captive.‚Äù (2 Cor 10:5)
    As Christians, we are to be ‚Äúset apart‚Äù right? ‚ÄúNot conformed to this world…‚Äù The scriptures also say this: 1 Peter 1:13 -19 (NKJV)
    Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
    And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

    I dunno folks, seems like to me that our redemption was too costly to pollute His work with stories, fables, lustful thoughts, passion, sorcery, and wickedness, et al….The Bible reminds us to ‚Äú Be careful! Watch out for attacks from the Devil, your great enemy. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for some victim to devour. Take a firm stand against him, and be strong in your faith.‚Äù 1 Peter 5:8 – 9 (NLT)

    Call me a prude or whatever, but ‚Äúas for me and my house…we will serve the LORD.‚Äù Run the other way‚ÄìFAST‚Äìfrom this garbage.

    I am a 16 year old, and I have not read these books. But I have read so many reviews on them, that I know plenty. Yes, it was great that Edward and Bella did not actually have sex, but that doesn’t cancel out the rest of the book. It’s about vampires. God is clearly against things such as vampires, werewolves, witches, etc…and everyone says “oh, its ok because vampires don‚Äôt exist.” well, i know that many crazy people are trying to become them, and act like them. that is spooky. One day at my church, I was talking with some of the middle school girls in our youth group. They were talking about what they wished they were…,, etc, and one girl said, “I wish I was a vampire like Edward Cullen!!!” This broke my heart. This girl is in SIXTH GRADE!!!! No adult should be reading this, let alone an 11 year old. I have watched basically all of my friends read these books, and go see the movie, and in facet, i was invited to see the movie with a group of friends, but I had to turn it down. I knew it was the wrong idea. This is not the type of thing teens….the rising generation, needs to be reading. There are plenty of other good books out there.

    What does Jesus say about lust?
    * In Matt 5:28 He says lusting is the same as committing adultery.
    * 1 Peter 1 says we are to be holy and to not conform to our lusts

    What does scripture say about our encounters with the ways of the world?
    * Psa 101:3 – I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not fasten its grip on me.
    * Prov 12:20 – He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.
    * 1 Cor 15:33 – Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
    * 1 Cor 10:12 – Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.

    Ultimately, if we are not pursuing God’s Word on this matter, then are we seeking opinions to tickle our ears the right way?
    * 2 Timothy 4:3-4 – For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.

    Sensuality isn’t the only thing that builds as the books pile up. Occult references and violence do, too. It wasn’t until I got to Eclipse’s 258th page that I jotted down my first significant note about blood and gore.
    “She fell to her knees at the blood drinker’s feet and plunged the knife into her own heart. Blood spurted through the third wife’s fingers and splashed against the Cold Woman.”
    But that sacrificial suicide was a trifle compared to what was in store. By the middle of the fourth book, all horror breaks loose, and blood and body parts explode everywhere:
    “It was not just a scream, it was a blood-curdling shriek of agony. The horrifying sound cut off with a gurgle, and her eyes rolled back into her head. Her body twitched, arched in Rosalie’s arms, and then Bella vomited a fountain of blood. … Another gush of blood choked off what she was shrieking. He held her head up, desperately trying to clear her mouth so that she could breathe again. … Her hand came down on Bella’s stomach, and vivid red spouted out from where she pierced the skin. It was like a bucket being turned over, a faucet twisted to full.”
    A gang rape is once alluded to in Eclipse. As is Bella being taken advantage of by her best non-vampire friend, Jacob, who forces a kiss on her. “I grabbed at his face, trying to push it away, failing again,” Bella narrates. “He seemed to notice this time, though, and it aggravated him. His lips forced mine open, and I could feel his hot breath in my mouth.” (It doesn’t matter much in this context that Jake’s not fully human, either‚Äîthat he’s a kind of shape-shifting werewolf.)
    As for the spiritual realm that’s risen to the surface in these books, it starts with the idea of vampires and werewolves existing at all. It continues with references to such devilish creatures as incubi and succumb. There’s body-swapping, shape-shifting, telepathy, telekinesis, precognition, the ability to alter someone else’s emotion or mental state using mind control, and even causing physical pain via mental aggressiveness.
    In the small comfort category, Meyer rarely writes profanities or obscenities, restricting them to sporadic uses of “p—,” “d–n” and “h—.”

    I wouldn’t think you want your kids reading the trash

  • Just A Fan

    Actually Pricilla, Bella doesn’t want to drop college just to marry Edward and have sex with him. Did you read the book or are you blindly commenting on it? Edward did not want to make Bella a vampire, Bella wanted to be a vampire. Edward wanted Bella to have the human life he never had. But it was Bella’s decision to be a vampire, she wanted Edward to change her, so his stipulation was to be married first. Bella didn’t even want to get married right out of high school because she didn’t want people to think it was a shot gun wedding. If you haven’t read the books, I suggest you do. You might be surprised at what you would really find. Much different than the chaos everyone else seems to think it involves. Then again, ignorance is bliss.

  • Pricilla

    Well, I don’t know about you guys, but I agree with this article. I may not be super-religious, but I do believe that its best for people to wait until they get married in order to have sexual intercourse. Stephanie Meyer was heading in the right direction by making Edward and Bella wait. The only crash-course was when Bella decided to drop all of her plans for college and leading a great life by marrying Edward the minute she got out of high school just to please her sexual desires.

    “Oh, it’s because I love him!” No you don’t, you’re just a horny little prick who’s blinded by lust. What does this say to girls everywhere? That if you truly want a man to de-flower you, marry him, no matter how old you are, and you shall get what you want? I’m sorry, but the Twilight series as a whole is just blah. Poorly written, horrible storyline, and just another fad that’s turning our heroines of the earth into gloppy, love-struck mush.

  • Amanda

    Pitt-Payne has it all wrong. None of the Twilight books are at all lie “soft porn.” There’s no description at all when things finally happen. A lot of my family has read the books, and being a Christian family, they all find them ok. When teen bokos are filled with sex, drugs, and everything else, people should be happy when books like this come around.

  • Josh L

    IIn response to previous comments:

    f you take the time to read the article it provided a balanced view from us “dreded book banning Christians”. Two of the sources cited the positive influence for youth and saw the series as an oppurtunity to use the literature for education. Only one source thought it was an inapporpriate book. I’m just saying don’t judge a book by it’s cover(pun intended). Just because a Christina website posts an artical on popular book doesn’t mean it is negative, nor does it constitute attacking remarks to all Christians. I’m a Harry Potter fan too, and guess what I’m Christian. So don’t let a few Christian opinions lead you to assume we are all book burners. It’s ignorant and not rooted in any sort of truth. And read the artice before you publish a comment next time.

  • Van Oranje

    While I have yet to read this book, I must say that the movie kind of destroyed the message, in my opinion. Girls are reading the book after seeing ‘sexy’ Jackson Rathbone. That’s not the best way to encourage abstinence.

    Also, the irony in people stating that the Church should allow more people to read, while showing little literacy in their own commentary, is hysterical.

  • Joyce

    i agree with tante mare, yey for kids reading again! i actually started reading this series thanks to the women on wednesdays group at my CHRISTIAN church :) i’m a huge fan of the series and i think it’s great that it has gotten so many young adults interested in reading vs. tv or video games or the internet. we’re living in a different day and age, if parents think because they forbid something at home their children won’t find it elsewhere, they’re sorely mistaken. education and strength in faith are far more effective than banishing this book or tv show or whatever the case may be. so while it’s disheartining to read the negative attention this book has gotten, it’s even more sad to see what people are saying about the ‘bible thumping’ christians who are judging this book and it’s content. just keep in mind it’s not every christian who takes a negative view on this book or the world we’re living in. if the worst thing these kids are doing is getting involved in a young adult novel, then thank goodness! it could be far worse than literature they’re getting hooked on. ps-go team edward :)

  • Randi

    (I didn’t finish)

    Also, the Harry Potter controversy. Again. THEY ARE JUST BOOKS! Grow up and let people enjoy them without your harassment.

    If anyone should have a say in ANYONE ELSE’S reading, other than their own, it is parents. And only the parents. Do not patronize something you don’t agree with. Because not everyone has the opinion as you.

  • Randi

    I think churches should stay out of books. Seriously. They are written as entertainment, they are not meant to teach a message that the people with bibles stuck up their asses will agree with.
    Do you honestly think Stephenie Meyer was thinking “Oh, I am going to be criticized for writing about a girl with hormones and needs. I can’t write this, think of what the churches will say!” while she was writing Twilight? I didn’t think so either.

  • nichole Z.

    i’m so tired of the ” chiristians” takeing everything thats good and fun out there and turning it in to some kind of TABOO. Oh no another book we can’t let the kids read…ITS ALL MADE UP!!!. Imagnaion, whats that.. oh its that thing some ppl r trying to kill. all i have to say to these ppl that have nothing better to do but winne and cry about a book is … get a life

  • Nicole

    This article is ridiculous. Here “christians” go again trying to analyze a teen book and make it look like some terrible work of literature. I agree with Lindsay…while reading the entire series Edward continues to abstain and help Bella as well and news flash people they get married and do it the write way. These books are so squeaky clean Stephenie Meyer only eluded to them consumating the wedding vows, which in my opinion wasn’t necessary but it is a teen novel.

    I think people need to give praise for writers like Stephenie Meyers and J.K. Rolling for making children and teens read because its very hard to get a child to focus and read a book quickly and books like these children fly through them to see whats going to happen.

    All you Bible thumpers really need to chillax!

  • tante mare

    I work at a library and these books just fly out of here and there is a waiting list. Hurray for making our kids read!!

  • Lindsay Wagner Pronk

    If people read the rest of the series they would actually discover that, while there is kissing, the character of Edward is quite chaste and moral. I think comparing ‘Twilight’ to romance novels is the equivelant to comparing ‘Harry Potter’ to satanic rituals.

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