Thursday, November 12, 2009

Should Christians Read the Twilight Saga?

NOTE: Some "spoilers" are revealed in this post. If you would like to read the Twilight Saga and be surprised by the plot twists, I advise you not to read this post.

Yesterday on Facebook I responded to someone who posted in frustration about all of the people reading the Twilight Saga by citing Philippians 4:8: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."

I did reply -- I probably shouldn't have, but I tend to get defensive about my Twilight, especially since we just discussed it in our church's literary group last month.

First of all, I have read each of the books a minimum of four times in book form (some 5-6 times), and I have listened to the audiobooks at least once each (again, some more than once). I have watched the first movie at least half a dozen times, more or less to keep my daughter company as she adores the books and the movies. It was at her behest that I read the books in the first place.

In fact, I watched the Twilight movie long before I read the books. I was quite sure that I wouldn't care much for the books, but within the first three or four chapters, I knew I had a book series at hand that could rival Harry Potter; I devoured all four books in less than two weeks and have been rereading the books ever since.

Why have I loved these books? First of all, the true love of Bella and Edward is the stuff of literary giants, a parallel that Stephenie Meyer makes quite clear in the books. The first book has subtle hints of Pride and Prejudice; the second possesses a non-subtle connection with Romeo and Juliet, and the third a strong parallel with Wuthering Heights. I think that Bella and Edward truly rank with the literary world's great lovers -- their unselfish, sacrificial love coupled with great adventures as good battles evil everywhere around them is truly the stuff of epic romance.

Yet the romance is not the main reason for enjoying the Twilight Saga. It's the same reason I adore the Harry Potter books: the epic battle between good and evil that asks the characters to choose good over evil in every decision they make. Edward and Bella are both truly good people asked to face evil situations and make moral choices, unselfish choices, again and again in order to conquer evil and cling to what is good (to paraphrase another Bible verse).

Not only have I read the four published Twilight Saga books, but I have also read the section of Midnight Sun that Meyer has posted on her website -- about a third of the material covered in Twilight but from Edward's first person point of view rather than Bella's. It shows how truly good Bella is, just as Twilight demonstrates Edward's goodness through Bella's eyes.

In addition to good vs. evil, other Christian themes are quite obvious in the four (and one-third) books that tell Edward's, Bella's, and Jacob's stories: self-sacrifice (Edward leaving Bella to save her soul); laying down your life for family/friends (Bella does so several times, as does Edward as does Jacob); Edward and Bella wait until after they are married before having physical relations; plus, in the fourth book there is an extremely strong pro-life message.

Many Christians hear the word "vampire" and immediately cringe away, thinking that vampires = evil, which often they do. But as we understand that Edward and the Cullen family are indeed vampires, we also discover that the Cullens are "vegetarians": they hunt and drink the blood of animals rather than that of humans. Led by Carlisle who "created" Edward, Esme, Rosalie, and Emmet when all of them were at the point of death. Carlisle's motivation: to "save" life, not lose it. Because they value life to much to take it, the Cullens exercise self-control in order to live righteous, useful lives. Carlisle has controlled his need for human blood so thoroughly that he works as a doctor, using his extended strength and senses to help save lives. He explains that his father was an Anglican priest in seventeenth-century London, and Carlisle believes that the Cullens at least have a chance of a place in heaven because of their choices.

Edward does not want Bella to become a vampire because he fears for her soul. He delays her every chance he can from becoming a vampire, but when she finally does become a vampire, Edward does so to save her life after the emergency C-section birth of their half-vampire/half-human daughter. The Cullens need to battle the "evil" vampires in order to preserve their lives and the lives of the innocent humans who live in the communities surrounding them.

Beside all the content of the saga, I have to admire Meyer's superb plotting and character development. Not that the Twilight Saga is the best-written book of all time, but it's masterfully planned and beautifully executed. If only I could infuse my novel with a shot of Meyer's magical writing style. It's really incredibly well-plotted, with characters we can't help but become attached to, both major and minor characters.

So, for these reasons, I think that Christians should indeed read The Twilight Saga and not judge others (especially other Christians) without reading it -- same thing with the Harry Potter books as well.


sarah patience said...

I agree with what you wrote about the characters. You make really good points. Meyers herself is a Christian and I think this comes through her stories.

I have to politely (I hope politely!) disagree about the plotting - Meyer's pacing is extremely bad, and her writing is poor (to say the least!) But she has created some lovely characters and the books are a fun, low-brow read. I own them all and found them literally unputdownable on the first reading. I can see why people like them.

Jane D. said...

Susannne, I think your argument is completely valid. I am not a fan of books of this genre, I haven't read any Harry Potter or Twilight books, however I have read reviews on them from all sorts of folks and am sure I will pick them up at some point. However I will most certainly refrain from getting into deep discussions regarding them until I have read them! Happy Reading!

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks, Sarah and Jane!

Lucky Star Designs & Photography said...

I loved this synopsis from a Christian viewpoint. I get a lot of heat for my LOVE of all things Twilight from some of my more conservative friends... but I completely agree with your view of the books. Thank you!

Danielle said...

I absolutely agree with you! I appreciate that you are taking a stand, that it's okay that Christians read the books. It's not like we're denying Christ b/c we happen to like the love story of Edward & Bella. In fact, I feel like after reading the books, I've gained a new appreciation for reading the classics as well as Christian novels. There are so many slutty (can I say slutty here?) books on the market, that Christians could spend their time complaining about. I believe Stephenie Meyers has gone to great lengths to keep the love in the Twilight Saga as pure as possible. And yeah, so what if it's cheesy? I happen to like cheesy! :) Thanks again for the post! Good stuff! By the way... anyone else going to see Eclipse next week? :)

Susanne Barrett said...

Hi Danielle--
Thanks for commenting! My daughter and I are going to see a triple feature on Tuesday night: Twilight, New Moon, and then after midnight, Eclipse! My daughter bought the tickets back in March! :) I'm literally counting the hours!! (See my countdown in my sidebar?)

Yes, Stephenie has worked hard to keep her books from being slutty (yes, you may use that word here!)--and that's a fact I truly appreciate! :)

Thanks for commenting! And please hang out here. Love to have you! :)

The Morris Family said...

I loved the books and the movies...however, I do have to disagree with Sarah Patience, Stephanie Meyer is not a Christian, she is a mormon...
but very good article! And Christians who choose not to read the books because they are evil, should not judge others who choose to read the books!
I have noticed the ones that do tend to "judge" say no to Twilight, but have no issue with watching rated R movies that have intense language, violence and sex...

Travels With Uncle Sam said...

We liked Twilight.

Susanne Barrett said...

Posted by RockinHSMom5 and accidentally deleted:

I have very much enjoyed all 3 of the movies (and I'm a very conservative Christian). Have never read the books though.

I cannot and will not say that Christians should or should not watch it. :-)

I will say that they are not *evil* and I will also say that obsession over anything certainly is. ;-) I do think that this blog post does not help the accusations of this series becoming obsessive though. :S And I say that with all due respect and not sarcastically at all.

I have read posts by Christians who completely criticize these movies and one of the key points they make is how obsessive this series is for people...just wanted to share that as I think that is the *only* negative aspect to your great review, just constructive criticism. ;)

Shswn said...

Thank you for this review of "Twilight". I like to read books that remind me of all the ways Christ loves us and asks us to love each other, and you pinpointed all the ways the series does that! THANK YOU!

Also,I sigh a little every time someone criticizes the writing. Just because writers can't all be George Eliot doesn't mean they aren't still good writers.

Meyers knows how to write a story that keeps me turning each page.

A good storyteller, or someone who writes witty single lines but makes my mind start wandering?

Please. Meyers really knows how to TELL A GOOD TALE. THAT's the FIRST and most important thing a fiction writer should be.

Every time I read the books, I DO see and relish in all the Christ-love themes that shine through. They are even a devotional comfort at times.

Susanne Barrett said...

Thanks Shswn--

Great thoughts here. I am still very taken with the Twilight books and still find much to commend from a Christian point of view.

I have also discovered the world of Twilight fan fiction on and We as Christians have to watch the ratings because there is a lot of smut out there, but there are some of Meyers' books written from Edward's point of view that are stellar, almost better than the original books. E-mail me if you like, and I'll send you some links. Currently I'm reading a version of New Moon from Edward's pov that is brilliant!

Thanks again for posting!! :) God bless!!! :)

Emily said...

THANK YOU!! You're point of view on these books was utterly refreshing! I have gotten so much heat from fellow Christians about Twilight and Harry Potter. My husband and I both have thoroughly enjoyed both series.
Thanks for your post! Good to know we're not alone!
Also, I noticed someone else's comment about receiving negativity about these series yet those same people have no problem watching R rated movies filled with sex and violence…I couldn't agree more. I've encountered the same. Kinda just makes you scratch your head and say "wha"???

Susanne Barrett said...

Excellent points, Emily! I agree wholeheartedly. Thank you for your support--I've received a lot of criticism from the evangelical Christian community over my views of the Twilight novels over the years, so your support is very much appreciated!! :)

I still find much to admire in the book series and even the movies. Just look at the Eclipse film scene in which Edward refuses to sleep with Bella before marriage--such a wonderful example to young teen girls everywhere! The book was better of course in that Meyer brought the moral Christian viewpoint more into play, but both the book and the movie do teach that men can be upstanding and "hot" (or quite cold in Edward's case, LOL) and still remain pure before marriage.

Thanks again for your comment, Emily! :)


Blog Widget by LinkWithin