Thursday, April 25, 2013

Thoughts on Christian Horror: Dark and Twisted


Is there such a thing as Christian horror? Can Christians write horror stories, or is horror always a bad thing? In this series, I am exploring those questions.

Imagine a happy and peaceful small town. Life goes on like it has for many years. A family lives securely and helps their community. Then, one day, a dark presence creeps into their town. People begin vanishing during the night. Everyone is wondering if they will be next. But a few people get together to battle the darkness...

That sounds like the basic plot of many horror novels, doesn’t it? However, I wasn’t describing a horror novel. I was describing The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, a classic Christian autobiography.

The Hiding Place tells the story of a remarkable woman and her family who lived in Holland and saw the Nazis take over their country, with that dark influence steadily growing over various aspects of their daily lives. Instead of going along with the Nazis, the Ten Boom family and others fought back by helping and hiding Jews. Their true story, with its steadily mounting tension and horror, is scarier than most horror novels.

Unlike many horror novels, The Hiding Place had a point: It showed God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances. And that is the most important thing that Christian horror should do: Show God’s power and love in the midst of frightening circumstances.

How Christian horror should look, and how most horror looks, are quite different. A lot of horror says, “The world is a dark and twisted place. The End.” The focus is on scaring the reader and giving them a thrill. Christian horror should say, “The world can be a dark and twisted place, but God’s light will overcome the darkness and make things right.” The focus is then on giving the reader hope.

Since the world truly is a dark and twisted place, stories with dark and twisted aspects are needed, as long as they point to the light and don’t let shadows obscure the message. Do you agree?


The next article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: Living in a Nightmare

15 comments:

  1. *Nods* I agree, Jonathan. So long as the dark aspects are handled in a careful manner - not just dark to be dark, but dark with a purpose to the story.

    Good post. :)

    (*Really likes the eye picture.*)

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    1. As with all things, darkness in a horror story as well as the story itself must be held to Biblical guidelines.

      Thank you, Ophelia!

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  2. Well said. I agree. Often I have come across Christian horror that does not portray God's light of hope by the ending clear enough in my opinion, however I've read still others that have a resolution that is most uplifting and you can walk away from the dark of the story with a light to carry. I would like to see more of the latter written in Christian circles.

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    1. Thank you, BushMaid! Yes, I've read some Christian horror that was too murky, also. Most stories need the light to shine brightly to truly be worthwhile.

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  3. Personally, I love horror. Don't know why, but I like being scared and I like people having to overcome things like that.

    Strange thing is, I had no idea how to translate my love of horror and that battle a character(s) goes through until they find God's light. Heck, I had no idea how to translate God himself into a horror story.

    But this is a great post, and it helped me a lot.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, Seabird! I'm glad it helped.

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  4. This is a great article, Jonathan...I've heard people say that Christian horror is an oxymoron, and, though I've not believed it myself, lots of Christian responses to that idea haven't been very impressive. But this summed it up well I think. :)

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    1. Thank you, Jeremiah! Only if Christian horror authors and fans steadfastly look to the light that overcomes all darkness can they effectively use and defend the genre.

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  5. I enjoyed reading this, Jonathan. I definitely agree... and I think sometimes the darkness lets the light shine even brighter by contrast. :)

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    1. Thank you, Grace! Yes, sometimes it does. :)

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  6. Sorry for being so slow in coming over here to comment on your posts, Jonathan! These have been really good posts, and have made me reconsider my thoughts on fiction.

    "Since the world truly is a dark and twisted place, stories with dark and twisted aspects are needed, as long as they point to the light and don’t let shadows obscure the message."

    Yes, I've come to agree. :)

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    1. I like hearing your thoughts, Amy. Thank you for commenting!

      I'm glad that you agree. :)

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  7. "Can Christians write and/or read Horror?"

    Why is this question even asked by Believers? Not only is our Holy Bible filled with horrific stories designed to show to what depth of depravity we have all fallen. Add to this is the secondarily important fact that many of the Horror writers who actually developed the genre in the 18th and 19th centuries were Believers. Charles Dickens springs to mind, as well as the underrated Arthur Machen and, of course, Bram Stoker, author of Dracula and source of the eponymic Stoker Award, the most coveted Horror award in the history of literature.

    The problem is our addiction to mediocrity, for one, coupled with our misunderstanding of Satan. Many Christians are taught, after the lord calls them unto Himself, that God and Satan are at war with one another. Folks, this is GOD we are talking about. What part of "It is finished" don't we understand? As with Job, and as always (for nothing changes with our God), evil spirits must get permission before they are used, yes, by God, to test and try us to see if we really do love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strengths. The testing can be strenuous, the wrestling against these invisible principalities frightening (to say the least), but apart from Him we can do nothing, and greater is He that is in me that he that is in the world. Sound familiar? We are not surrounded by forces of evil, and there is no chance in hell (or outside of it) that anything will be able to snatch us from the love of Christ, who is kept in God.

    Join with me, Believer. I'd like to hear from any reader or writer of Horror who wants to break this strange spell which has fallen over so many of us concerning the Horror Literature genre. Many of us are terrified of it, and we should not be. We should embrace Horror writing--even that written by atheists and other unbelievers, because what they have to say from their perspectives just might give us heavier hearts for their salvation, and isn't that what the Great Commission is all about? Go you into ALL the world and preach the Good News to EVERY creature...

    here's my email:

    peekthemorpholux@yahoo.com

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  8. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Scáth!

    It is indeed odd that any Christian would see horror as inherently bad, since the Bible has many horror stories in it. I hope that more Christians will come to understand horror and use it in holy ways.

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  9. For my magazine BEORH WEEKLY, I consider horror, the weird, the odd... and give special attention to INRI and 'IXOYE' authors. The address is:

    beorhweekly.wordpress.com

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