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.