On his blog, mega-church pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington, recently dubbed the popular book and film series “Twilight” as “sick, twisted, evil, dangerous, deceptive, and popular,” also calling it “for teenage girls what porn is to teenage boys.” With the franchise’s final installment, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn: Part 2, now in theaters, the timing is perfect.
For the most part, I agree with Driscoll’s cautionary tone and general exhortation for Christians to be discerning of pop culture and to teach our kids the same. My problem is how reactionary and simplistic Driscoll’s approach seems.
For instance, he lists several recent accounts of teenagers obsessed with the Twilight series who’ve gone so far as “biting, cutting, drinking blood—sometimes while having sex.” Troubling indeed. But how different is this from any fanatic reaction to various pop cultural commodities? There will always be those on the fringe who go overboard in their devotion to a genre or try to mimic some celluloid nuttiness.
As a father to a teenage girl, I find it devastating to simply read the most popular web pages that come up when searching for “teen vampire.” There, girls the same age of my 15-year-old daughter are talking about “awakening,” which is their word for converting to paganism (like the Christian word “born again”). In a perverted twist on Communion, their sacraments include the giving of your own blood by becoming a “donor.” This is entirely pagan. These storylines offer eternality without God and salvation; in the place of Jesus’ shed blood, girls and boys shed their own blood to be awakened to their own salvation of a new spiritual way of life filled with sex and occult behavior.
Can Twilight be a gateway drug into the occult? Absolutely. But how is this any different from the fatherless boy who turns to gangsta rap and crime, or the loner who obsesses over Heath Ledger’s Joker or derives strange delight from torture scenes in the Saw series?
Or the Christian woman who believes Redeeming Love is practically divinely inspired?
Pop culture in general is a shadow of the heavenly and hellish. Light and darkness tango therein. Which is why I agree with Driscoll about discernment. However, even the most good and sacred of items can be idolized and turned pagan by our twisted natures.
And things not-so-pagan can mistakenly be labeled “unclean.”
So while I concede the need for discernment, Driscoll’s approach to Twilight and the YA Paranormal Romance craze in general, seems more shrill than actually… discerning.
Yes, YA’s turn toward erotica and the occult is extremely troubling. But isn’t there more nuance involved than just pronouncing Twilight as “pagan”? This smacks of the same blanket condemnations that have gotten Harry Potter banned from church libraries and exiled Gandalf into the wasteland of godless sorcery. It’s the same knee-jerk reaction Christians have to anything magical, undead, or paranormal.
This is NOT discerning.
No, I haven’t read the Twilight series. Nor do I plan on seeing the films. This post is not meant to justify mediocre movie-making or condone paganism. The YA paranormal trend already troubles me. Teenagers are vulnerable and need to learn discernment. And the Evil One is out to deceive people and portray evil as good. Nevertheless, are we really helping by throwing out blanket condemnations?
Mark Driscoll’s call for pop cultural discernment is spot on. Nevertheless, his condemnation of the Twilight series seems more reactionary than discerning.