Blockbuster books and hit movies confuse evil with good
By Eric Barger
By now most of you have heard about the bestselling Twilight saga series written by Stephenie Meyer. Thus far there are over 17 million books in print from the series. However, if you've been hanging around in a cave somewhere just waiting for a reason to flutter, let me sum up the storyline: Vampires are cool. Some may be bad, but in general Vampires are cool and Edward Cullen is the newest heart throb.
High school junior, Bella Swan, moves from Arizona to Forks on the Washington coast (the setting for the majority of the movie) and falls in love with Edward Cullen, who, as it turns out, is a member of a family of vampires who have learned to survive from the blood of animals rather than that of humans.
Meyer, a thirty-something Mormon mother of three from Arizona, is the author of the four-book series (Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn), a novel called The Host, and the controversial Midnight Sun which, unlike the Twilight series, chronicles the saga from Edward's viewpoint rather than Bella's. The release of Midnight Sun has been postponed indefinitely because part of the unfinished manuscript was illegally leaked on the Internet.
On Friday, November 21, 2008, the first movie, Twilight, debuted in 3419 theaters nationwide. It came in #1 for the weekend, grossing $70 million and crushing the nearest competitor by a three to one margin. The theater that my wife Melanie and I saw it in was a complex of fourteen screens with three of them playing Twilight.
Make no mistake, this is a major buzz among millions of teens right now. One fan website sub-heading proudly proclaims it is "For the obsessed Twilight saga fan."
There is a whole market industry based on the books. Twilight has induced a multi-million dollar cottage industry spawning everything from t-shirts and clothing to tattoos and pod casts. As we have noted with other such phenomena, books are being written about the books! Four days after the movie's release I went to a local Walmart to find the store sold out of Twilight series books. Same with the Target across the street. It isn't that they didn't plan; it's just that there is no way to keep up with the current demand.
Nikki Kinke of Deadline Hollywood Daily reported (Nov 22, 2008):
"Exit polling showed audiences were 75%/25% female to male, and 55%/25% under or over the age of 25. Fangirls -- or should I say fang-girls -- were buying 5 Twilight tickets per second as of early Friday morning, making it online ticket-seller Fandango's fastest-selling film since The Dark Knight last July. Then the tween and teen females in store bought or homemade Twilight clothes (and even Twilight tattoos) flocked to the first Big Screen version of Stephenie Meyer's bestselling series of Romeo & Juliet-style vampire romance books. Yet the movie adaptation by Melissa Rosenberg was made by start-up studio Summit for only $37M. This will be the start of a big new franchise since a sequel is already in the works -- "New Moon," based on Meyer's second book in the series. The first box office records have already been broken by Twilight's girl power. This is the biggest opening for a female director. Catherine Hardwicke is easily beating Mimi Leder's $41.1M for 1998's Deep Impact. (But with an asterisk since these figures aren't adjusted for inflation, ticket prices, etc.) Twilight will have the 2nd best opening day for a November release behind Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, and the 11th best Friday opening of all time, beating the first Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone, and the 15th best opening day ever. It also scored the 4th best November opening weekend of all time, and the 4th best opening weekend of 2008. It's a defining moment for Summit's start-up studio that had really struggled on its first few releases. On Saturday morning, Summit officially announced the greenlight for the New Moon sequel (I'm told to contain costs the studio is considering making sequels #2 and #3 back to back like other successful franchises have done), and Robert Pattinson (Edward Cullen) and Kristen Stewart (Bella Swan) formally thanked fans for their support of what is now a movie franchise.
Speaking of Harry Potter, make no mistake: Twilight is the next Harry Potter. In fact, many are saying, "Who's Harry Potter?" Many of the same Potter fans are now loyal to Meyer's saga and it's a logical move for a culture craving supernaturalism. From a school of witchcraft to a clan of vampires, readers and movie goers are again proving how broad the thirst is for mystical power whose source is decidedly not God.
Evil vs. Good or Evil vs. more Evil?
The storyline of Twilight is generally two-faceted. It is first "boy vampire meets a mortal girl" and secondarily "'good' vampires fight 'bad' vampires." Then there are the werewolves introduced in the second book, New Moon.
Many of the characters in the novel possess supernatural abilities such as:
- Mind reading
- Lycanthropy (shape shifting)
- Pre-cognitive knowledge of future events - mediumship
- Super strength, hearing and speed
- hey also don't eat, sleep or need to breathe
Interestingly, Meyer begins Twilight with the words of Genesis 2:17:
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.
Even though Meyer says on her website that the cover of the book (the apple) symbolizes "forbidden fruit" and that the Genesis scripture reference is related to Bella's eventual understanding of the knowledge of good and evil, the inference of this passage is much more. It is about the fall of mankind and about eternal life (something vampires claim to have). Even Mormon theology would be hard pressed to come up with less than this observation.
The Cullen family is led by Edward's "father" (through vampirism) the "best" vampire, Dr. Carlisle Cullen. The elder Cullen was raised centuries ago by a father who, as an Anglican pastor, hunted witches and destroyed werewolves - and vampires. (Speaking of this in the manuscript, Meyer throws a direct barb toward supposedly intolerant, orthodox Christian ministers.) Some believe that due to this background, Dr. Cullen's character seeks to rise above the nature of a vampire, becoming a doctor in order to do good and save people. However, what is actually evident here are two disturbing points.
First, Meyer has incorporated in Dr. Cullen's makeup the Mormon edict that a person must accomplish their own good acts in order to be redeemed. I commonly refer to this as "works salvation," which is a mainstay taught in every Mormon seminary, church and home. In Mormonism, the onus for salvation is all about what a person does for the Mormon Church - instead of what Jesus completely finished for us. (Concerning this, it is interesting that more than one Mormon blog entry has complained that Meyer integrates far too much Mormon doctrine into her books.)
Second and most disturbing is the notion that the Cullens seem to view their state as generally hopeless. This shouts loudly against the omnipotent power of Jehovah God to accomplish deliverance. In a subtle and unspoken manner, the books assert that God is unable to rescue one from the incurable eternal ill that vampirism is presented to be. Whether vampirism is but a mythical malady or not, this thinking may translate to the reader that Jesus' sacrifice was not sufficient or that it is only by one's own righteousness that freedom (or eternal life) can be attained. The truth is that God is indeed able to deliver anyone and everyone and such deliverance is only available through the power of the Cross! One can argue that vampires either do or do not exist. I know personally of one very credible person whose testimony recounts actually participating in vampirism to gain supernatural satanic power. However, the point here is that, no matter how deep the pit of evil and sin one may be trapped in, Jesus' power is greater. Praise the Lord!
The fact is that the entire Twilight series is glamorizing and promoting vampirism. It is fueling the craving for eternal human life and for dominating superhuman abilities and strength. In the book and movie, Bella powerfully begs her vampire love interest to make her one of his like (by biting her neck of course). Edward restrains himself but only for the sake of drawing out the suspense, for she indeed does join him in vampire status in later books (and in a future movie). Though Meyer is to be commended that Bella's unwanted pregnancy later in the series does not end in abortion, one has to wonder if the union of two vampires could produce a God-created human in the first place.
Twilight has been defended as a positive book because it contains no sex, seems to preach abstinence and includes only mild swearing. "Whose version of morality is that?" I ask. This is simply a lesser-of-the-two-evils approach and, while I readily admit that this romantic styled chick flick is far less ominous than a large number of the books and movies out there today, how can a biblically-minded Christian endorse it as acceptable for a 12-year-old?
To revisit a theme I wrote and spoke of many times during the height of the Harry Potter fad, the heroes of today are much like the villains I grew up watching on TV. Gone are the likes of Roy Rogers, Ward Cleaver and Red Skelton. The people whom we're asked to root for at the movies today act more like the thugs portrayed in 1950's Hollywood entertainment. The marker of truth and what is good and right has surely moved and it hasn't been pretty.
I will admit that, in comparison, the content of Twilight seems lightweight in the overall scheme of today's motion picture industry. The trailers previewing other forthcoming features that were shown before the screening of Twilight were frankly shocking and full of occultism and gut-wrenching violence.
However, have we stooped so low as to say Twilight, with its vampire heroes and PG-13 rating is somehow more acceptable than the more gruesome R-rated jobs?" Is "not as bad as" somehow a prerequisite, making something OK for our kids? Since when did "the lesser-of-two-evils" become a biblical principle? One needs to be aware that there are Satanists who in real life practice drinking the blood of humans. To many occultists, vampirism is not just a fairy tale but something coveted. No matter how dreamy Hollywood may present Edward Cullen to be or how obsessed some junior higher may become with him, Twilight is nothing short of Satan's cloak of evil appearing good. Remember, the most deceptive evil is not the most obvious. It is the most subtle. It also induces more people who may be repulsed by overt darkness to begin the journey from right to wrong.
Two Scriptures immediately come to mind here.
Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! - Isaiah 5:20-21
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. - II Corinthians 11:14
Four Life Principles
A friend of mine, Lia Carlile, who teaches at a solid Christian school in Washington State addressed this very issue last Friday. She knew, as I did, that, even in this good and godly environment, that the crazed idolatry brought on by the Twilight series and movie was thriving. My two oldest granddaughters heard Lia speak warning them and their classmates and for good reason. Several of my 12-year-old granddaughters friends had been trying to convince her to both read these 500+ page books and go to the movie with them. Thankfully, both my kiddos have voluntarily rejected Meyer's books and shunned the movie without parental intervention.
I want to share with you a few of the points Lia brought up to the students. They are reminiscent of things I have said over the last two+ decades concerning to what and whom we give our time, mind, money, and emotions. Moreover, the following points speak as a checklist to see if we have fallen into making something besides Jehovah our "god" or if we are on the road toward full blown idol worship.
Question 1 - Me and God
How is this thing building my relationship with the Lord?
How does my interest in this area compare with my time invested in my relationship with the Lord?
Question 2 - Me and the People Around Me
Is this creating conflict in my family or with others?
Does it offend other believers or is it confusing them in their faith?
What am I saying to my non-Christian friends or what example am I setting for others?
Question 3 - The Bible
What does the Bible have to say about this? Who does it glorify-God or Satan? Jesus or the things of the World?
Question 4 - Me and Twilight (or whatever applies)
How is this affecting what I think about; my attitude, heart, and mind?
Does it help me to do what is right according to God? Or, does it promote things of the World?
Does it distract me from the Lord and my relationships with others? Serving, praying, reading Bible, ministry, etc.
Does it cause me to say, think, or do things that are contrary to Jesus and his life?
Lia outlined many Scriptures in her notes. One passage that I have pointed out often is Colossians 2:8 which warns us to guard against being taken captive by the deceptiveness of the world. This is up to us to do or not do. What will your decision be?
Leviticus 17 tells us that life is in the blood. This Old Testament teaching from The Law finds unfathomable depths of meaning when one thinks of what Christ's blood represents for all who will believe.
Satan is very interested in the mockery of God's Word, His name and His Cross. Lucifer, as with vampires, is bloodthirsty. He would love nothing more than to deceive young, impressionable people - whom God loves and Jesus died for - into somehow believing that eternal life can be attained some other way than through Jesus and His once-for-all sacrifice on Calvary.
Until the final battle has been fought and the Lord has come with His everlasting and perfect peace, Satan will attempt to prevail through manipulating those whom he may. Stephenie Meyer is just one in a long line of those to whom, without their understanding it, the Evil One has paid big money for their services. Twilight is more than mere entertainment. To some it has become every bit as important and as captivating as a religion.
The most famous line from the book and movie is Edward Cullen's statement to Bella, "And so the lion fell in love with the lamb." This is Meyer's crafty, yet sick, play upon biblical words. The truth is that when Satan is vanquished and evil is defeated, then and only then will the lion and the lamb live in harmony - not as a hundred-year-old vampire and his wannabe girlfriend. While Meyer's character Bella so flippantly decides that nothing is more important than spending eternity with Edward, regardless of the consequences, shouldn't we be focused on our future eternity with God and on introducing as many as we can to Him before it is too late?