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Guest editorial: Twilight: Christian parents better teachers

by Chris Gore

What should a pastor think when members of his church are debating whether they should support a vampire or a werewolf?

As ridiculous as the question would have sounded a mere five years ago, that was then . . . welcome to the world of “Twilight.” The story is that of a teen girl who goes to a small town to live with her dad and soon finds herself tangled up with a family of vampires and a tribe of werewolves. But the Twilight books are not really about monsters, they are about love. The heroine, Bella, must decide who will have her heart: Edward, the vampire, or Jacob, the werewolf. And so this ultra-popular teen romance unfolds. Beginning as a series of books, the “Twilight” saga is now dominating the silver screen with the third of what will be five movies released recently, “Eclipse.”

But the truth is most of you probably already had some knowledge of what the books and movies are about. That is how popular they are. And those coming to ask me questions about the books and movies do not want character information or plot twists, they simply want to know, “Is it OK for my child to read these books or watch these movies?”

I do think that there are great positives in the Twilight books that are uncommon in most modern literature and film. First, concepts like abstinence, marriage and motherhood are not only mentioned in “Twilight” (that alone would be unusual), but they also are all roundly praised in the entire series. Most teenagers are told that these moral values are antiquated and perhaps even wrong, that chaste living suppresses who they are and puts unnecessary burdens on them during what should be the prime of life. Stephenie Meyer is miraculously able in these books to make morality something of value and to set up a riveting moral image that many non-Christian girls and boys who read these books or watch these films have not been introduced to.

“Twilight” should also be praised in that the heroine’s main love, Edward (the “vegetarian” vampire), demonstrates for many teenage girls what a young man is supposed to be like. He cares about his girlfriend’s spiritual soul so much that he would give her up eternally rather than have her lose it to the darkness, who honors her purity so much that, even when Bella is practically begging him to sleep with her, refuses to compromise until their wedding day, a man who would give his life to protect hers over and over and over again. Vampire-status and the fact that he is not a Christian aside, morally-speaking, this is the kind of man we pray our daughters will find!

But this is where the great problem of “Twilight” comes in, for in setting up this idyllic romance and presenting this near-perfect male hero, it tells a lie. In the story, Bella and Edward find themselves in very intense romantic situations. And yet they are able to restrain themselves. The lie is that the book tells young men and young women who are battling their hormones that a young beautiful girl can be in a bed with a man who longs for her and nothing sexual will happen. It says that an unchaperoned couple can stay in a house overnight and only kiss. It says that a lusty young woman can plead to lose her virginity and her lusty young man will deny her. The story praises the fact that they wait, but that same story does not decry the situations they put themselves in. On the contrary, their struggles are romanticized and their temptations glamorized. That is a dangerous game, a danger even Scripture warned about in the Song of Solomon. “I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem, by the gazelles or the does of the field, that you not stir up or awaken love until it pleases.” It is almost certain that these books and movies will stir something up in your children that you have spent a lifetime trying to protect them from.

This problem will become even more prominent in the next films to come, as many believe they might well push the limit of “Twilight’s” PG-13 rating. In the story, the characters are married before they have sex, but, if the heated nature of just the kissing scenes in the current films is any indication, the scenes of consummation will not be on the light side in terms of sensuality. The screenwriter for the films alluded to as much when she let her facebook followers know that the final two films would have plenty of “sex” and “feathers,” a reference to the intensity of the sexual scenes in the books; scenes which she promises will make it to the big screen.

And so the problem for “Twilight” is not that it promotes unhealthy relationships, or that it mixes darkness with light or even that it fantasizes the dark vampire world (which, remember, is not real). It is just another tale of good vs. evil, albeit a little more complicated than usual. The problem is that it will expose your impressionable child to feelings that are overwhelming, situations that are unrealistic and passions that are unhealthy in Christian children who are commanded by God not to act on them. Your little girl who lies in bed at night, dreaming of love and romance like she always has, will now have mental pictures to aid her, lines from a book to inspire her and impossibly tempting situations that she thinks she wants to be in. And she might find herself in one of those situations sooner than you think.

I am so glad that Meyer has found a way to put in such a huge plug for abstinence and marriage and motherhood that this society usually finds laughable. I believe that the daughters out there without parental guidance could actually benefit from the message of the “Twilight” series.

But here is the difference that makes “Twilight” good for the world but not for your daughter. YOU! Teenagers of the world are in great need of any positive influence and the positives seem to outweigh the negatives in this story . . .

But Christian mother and Christian father, your young charges have already been taught that message by you, by their pastor, by the Word of God. These are sufficient and much greater tools than the story of “Twilight” could ever be. By exposing our children to the “Twilight” craze, we are adding nothing to their lives and only risk dulling the threat of temptation to their hearts. Christian children who read these books and watch these movies will receive a far too-tempting taste of what this world we are trying to shield them from has to offer, a match to light a fire that could easily and quickly overwhelm them.

So rejoice that a modern author has found a way to make “true love waits” look normal to the masses. But also rejoice that your kids don’t need Meyer to teach them these things. They have you, their parents, to teach them, and they also have you to protect them from the temptations that this good story can awaken in their young hearts. Let the world benefit from “Twilight,” but your sons and daughters do not need “Twilight.” They have something better. They have you.

Chris Gore is pastor of Beggs, First, and a columnist for the Baptist Messenger.

Author: Staff

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  • Clint

    Great insight! One question, though. How to you feel about these hbo spinoffs and others (even on abc)that are merely glorifying darkness? Does this seemingly violent and bloody passion resemble anything Godly? I know several teenage girls who would read anything involving vampires. How to u tell them that one vampire is bad and not another

    • Chris

      Clint, that is a good question. As with any subject, popularity breeds copycats and each of those needs to be judged on its own merit. In terms especially of the HBO show they are just trying to be more titillating. Just use a discerning eye. This is true not just with stories about vampires and things that go bump in the night but everything we expose ourselves or our kids to. A good example for me is that I greatly enjoy sports, but I cannot watch nor would I allow my kids to watch every show about sports. In terms of vampire shows, see what is being glorified. If it is violence or bloodlust or just simply lust, then turn it off. Some however focus on vampires who are trying to not give into their desires. That can be something in that case vampires can serve as good models of dealing with our sin nature. That can open the way to good conversations with your kids or whomever. And as with everything, your kids don’t need these books or shows or movies. So if you are worried, don’t let them watch it.

  • Chris

    Technically, this article was also the work of my wife whose idea this article was in the first place…thanks Lesley, pastor’s wife FBC Beggs

  • Gary Capshaw

    This is related to something I’ve always wondered: How do we prepare our children to withstand the wiles of the devil if we never allow them to meet him, face to face? If we protect our children from temptation, what happens when they are free from our control and temptations come, which they will? It’s part of the human experience. I’m reminded of the first dictum of military science: Know your enemy.

    I’d suggest that rather than keep your kids from watching such movies, use it as a venue for education. You’ll do your kids much more good if you admit that temptations are a part of their lives, just as they are for you, and show them how to deal with them.

    • Chris

      Gary,
      I am all about educating and if your kids have seen the movies or you decide to allow them to see the movies, you should educate them about what they have seen and the worldview, etc. behind them.

      But I don’t know about your methods here concerning exposing them to temptation and I think the Bible is pretty clear on this. First, nowhere in Scripture are we told that temptation or exposure to temptation is a good thing. In fact, we get just the opposite. In Matthew 6.3 Christ tells us to pray and ask God to keep us out of it and one means God uses to keep our kids out of temptation is us. In Matthew 24 he also tells us to pray that we don’t even enter temptation. The promises of God are that he will protect should temptation come and not that we should seek it out or God forbid lead our kids into it. You must see the problem of trying to expose our kids to temptation. Remember Matthew 18.6 – “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of its stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!” That seems pretty definitive in terms of your approach. Other passages that encourage us to be as innocent as doves (Matthew 10.16). So props to the military but I think I’m gonna flee temptation or at least heed the words of Christ in this regard.

      Take what we’ve just seen with passages that talk about what parenting should be like in Deut. 6 and Eph 6. They talk about surrounding and filling your home with goodness and make no mention of exposing to temptation or sin.

      So nowhere does God make the concessions you do, namely that it is impossible to keep your kids from wickedness so it is best to show them. It seems rather that he encourages us to guard ourselves and our children at all times. What you are saying sounds vaguely similar to the parents that say,, “I know I can’t keep my kids from drinking so I’ll let them drink at my house”, or “I know kids are having sex. There’s no way to stop that so I’ll let them do it at my house to make sure that they are safe about it.” Would you show your children what pornography is so that they will know it when they see it. Most kids are exposed by the age of 8 and many don’t know at first what they are seeing. Think of it, Gary, like fire. You don’t hold fire close to your kids to show them that it is hot. You warn them from a distance and pray and watch that they never get burned. Don’t play with fire, Gary, that’s what temptation is and especially don’t make your kids play with it.

      Hope this helps Gary. Thanks for the comment. And thanks for the commitment to educate your children at all times.

      • Gary Capshaw

        You’re right about all that and I shouldn’t have used the word temptation as that’s not what the article is about. I sort of changed the discussion by doing so.

        But, in relation to programs like “Twilight,” I don’t think we ought to just deny our kids the right to watch something like that because it’s not what we think is in their best interest. Instead, I would encourage parents to let them watch it, WITH YOU so that you can explain what’s going on in Biblical terms and correct any mis-interpretations on their part. The fact is that whether they actually see the movies or not, they WILL be exposed to them in conversations with their friends and they need to be armed with the truth before they’re led away by popular opinion.

        As an example, for my children’s generation, it was “Star Wars,” which is little more than Buddhism 101, and I knew that then. But, rather than just tell my kids they couldn’t see it, I took them to see it, then turned that into an opportunity to explain the difference between what they had just seen and what they learned in Sunday School. Over the years, I re-inforced that lesson as more “Star Wars” movies came out and the end result was that while they played with “Star Wars” toys and such, they never bought into the Buddhism at it’s core.

        For my grandkids, I’m fighting the same battle over cartoons which show demonic-looking characters as the good guys and are filled with paganism, magic spells and such. We watch them together, along with a running commentary from me about how that’s not what God says.

        The one popular entertainment story I have the most trouble with isn’t cartoons or “Twilight:” It’s “Harry Potter.” Witchcraft has become so popular that it’s hard to combat it, even one on one. It’s almost universally seen as “harmless” fun when, in fact, it’s only preparing a generation to accept witchcraft when it’s presented to them later on for real, and mark my words, it will be.

  • Ralph Casteel

    The articles conclusion is great. However, I wonder if the content leading up to the conclusion is worthy of publication in the Messenger.

    The author states :

    “By exposing our children to the “Twilight” craze, we are adding nothing to their lives ..”

    Via publication inthe Messenger have we not aroused the curiousity of the heretofore “unenlightened” ?

    We often give “darkness” too much free advertising.

    • Chris

      Ralph,
      If your kids are in a youth group or go to public school, they know what Twilight is. The Twilight series holds movie records and has stayed in the top of the NYT bestsellers for years now. I don’t think I am opening any young person’s eyes or at least very few. But my intentions weren’t for them as much as for parents who might send their kids to this movie without knowing fully what is going on. If you didn’t know about the Twilight series or its huge popularity or what to be careful of you might of, you might be caught unawares to some of the implications of the movie. No free advertising here. Consider it a free disclaimer.

  • Ralph Casteel

    I believe the Author’s intention is honorable and pure. However, after reading the article several times over the past two days I find the article basically judges theTwilight series to be OK in that it is moral at best and amoral at worst.

    Any consternation I am experiencing is with the Messenger for publishing it more than with the Author for writing it.

    Any advertisement of an already popular and controversial subject simply fans the flames of curiosity especially with the notice that there is yet another movie yet to come.

    The article is extremely well written.

    I opine that there is too much positive analysis of Twilight and too little negative opinion contained therein.

    • Chris

      Ralph,

      I appreciate your comments and the thoughtfulness that you gave to the subject. And I understand your worry. I’m glad you’re worried Ralph, because remember I always say when it comes to kids, “If you’re not sure, just say no.”

      But I completely disagree with you. Not about the good writing part. I appreciate that section very much. But it is absolutely imperative for the Messenger to inform its readers about things like Twilight. We have taught parents that as long as something isn’t rated R it is okay for them and their children. Parents look at Twilight, see the “soft” rating, hear that its not really about vampires (a description actually given to me as to why boys wouldn’t like it as much) and talk to other parents who simply tell them that it is a clean movie (i.e. no language or sex scenes). Parents then send their kids to what they see as a harmless movie and have no idea of some of the problems that Twilight might stir up in their growing adolescents.

      I noted the moral stance of Twilight b/c I don’t think its a movie that Christians should rail against. And I don’t want parents who sent their kids to feel like abject failures. But they do need to be aware.

      This is especially true considering the upcoming movies promise a level of sex and sensuality that the previous movies have not. Parents, who might be okay with their kids seeing the first three movies, need to be aware of this. It will be a tough call for some who have to explain to their kids why they can’t see the end of the series.

      A Christian paper must address what is being faced by all Christians. And the simple truth is that many Christian parents will be asked by their kids if they can go see these movies. These parents must be informed and information is the purpose of the Messenger. We must not only call for parents to educate their kids, we must educate parents on what is out there so that they might make the best decisions, based on the most information.
      – Chris

    • Gary Capshaw

      So…sticking our heads into the sand and pretending such things don’t exist outside the church is a better idea?

      I think not. Christian’s and their children have to live in the real world and nothing is lost by talking about what’s going on out there.

  • Ralph Casteel

    Assuming the above post is directed toward me and my commments – I am not suggesting thst we “stick our head in the sand”.

    But I am saying that we can give Satan and secularists to much free advertising.

    The Baptist Messenger can be considered an International Publication as the internet has made It available to the entire world. With more potential exposure comes a greater responsibility to be accountable for what we write.

    Someone said ” We are the Master of our words until we put them in print…
    and then we become their Slave. ”

    This mild endorsement of the Twilight series can never deleted. It is forever in cyberspace.

    There are some things that are to be discussed and debated in a more limited setting than others. The twilight series is one that I believe should be confined to the local church or the family unit.

    ” We” made the same mistake with “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Star Wars” and ” “backward masking”. Our efforts to enlighten simply amped up the curiosity of Young and Old alike.

    Again, this is a well written article with good intentions.

    I ask , would not an editorial on the subject of Parental responsibilty and the Bible’s teachings in reference to parenting been a better approach ?

  • Gary Capshaw

    Ralph:

    This paper has generalized articles on parenting all the time, so what would be different about that? If it were an article specifically about parenting in relation to “Twilight,” how could that be done without calling attention to the movie?

    The fact is that it can’t be done without at least giving a plot synopsis.

  • Ralph Casteel

    Gary,

    re: ” how could that be done without calling attention to the movie? ”

    This has been my point all along. Why should attention be given to the “movie”.

    In my opinion, it is/was abberrant ( sic?)for the Messenger to publish this and others like it.

  • Ralph Casteel

    Gary,

    How could it be done ?

    This has been my point all along. Why should attention be given to the “movie”.

    In my opinion, it is/was abberrant ( sic?)for the Messenger to publish this and others like it.

    • Gary Capshaw

      Ralph:

      We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.

      But, what would the world be like if we all agreed with each other all the time? :-)

      • Ralph Casteel

        re : ” We’ll just have to agree to disagree on this one.”

        Amen Brother ! God Bless You in al that you do.

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