Thursday, May 9, 2013

Thoughts on Christian Horror: Living in a Nightmare




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.

When I was in my mid-teens, I became severely chronically ill, and the shallow faith that I had got by on as a preacher’s son crumbled. Feeling abandoned by God, with no hope, it seemed as if my life was a horror story. I was living in a nightmare.

So I began reading a lot of horror stories. I didn’t notice the subtle shift towards horror stories at the time. It wasn’t intentional. But looking back, I can see how horror connected with me. It reflected the horror in my own life.

This was mostly not a good thing. As I noted in the previous article in this series, much horror says that the world is a dark and twisted, and gives no hope. This disturbing proclamation brings a tainted thrill to those who have hope in their lives.

To me, since I was living in a horror story, the thrill I got was different. Horror wasn’t something that could scare me and then allow me to go back to my happy life. It was something that comforted me by saying that yes, I was right about how dark the world was.

It was a grim and ultimately false knowledge, but it seemed to give me a foundation to stand on, since I thought I no longer had God to look to. Horror showed many people being consumed by darkness, just as I felt I was being consumed. But sometimes they managed to overcome it, and I had a tiny, frail hope that perhaps I might overcome it, too.

Thankfully, God reached into my darkness and started leading me out of it, giving me a sure foundation. While I still struggle with the darkness brought about by my illness, I refuse to surrender to the darkness any more, and seek to look to His light.

Many Christians see horror stories as having no purpose other than to scare, but my extensive experience with the good and bad sides of horror has shown me otherwise. Horror, when used correctly, has an important and beneficial purpose.

I’m not the only person in the world with much darkness in my life. I’m not the only person struggling not to give in to that darkness. Horror fiction reflects this darkness, and that is where it derives part of its power.

If an author abuses this power purely to give twisted thrills, then he will be held accountable to God for such a perversion. If, however, an author uses the darkness to point to the light, then the power of horror is valuable.

For everyone who has a lot of darkness in their life and struggles not to give in to that darkness, horror reaches out to them, agreeing that there is a lot of darkness in the world. But horror must not stop there. It must assure them that they don’t have to live helplessly in a nightmare any longer.

They can wake up from the nightmare, with God’s help. They can overcome the monsters, with God’s help. They can escape from the things that haunt them, with God’s help. They can be free from the curse of sin, with God’s help.

Few genres can present that message in such a vivid way as horror. The Bible is filled with horror stories that present hope: A valley full of skeletons that will be raised to life. Three days learning to trust God in the belly of a beast. A man who is released from the grasp of a legion of demons. I’ll probably explore Bible stories such as those later in this series.

For now, think of the darkest times in your life. What comforted you the most? Likely, sometimes it was bright and happy things. But other times, I suspect it was people telling you about dark times in their lives that they had overcome, or reading Psalms about the dark times David and other psalmists overcame.

That is what horror should do: Tell about people in dark times, and how God helped them overcome. Just as they overcame, so can you. God’s light is greater than darkness, and He can save you from any nightmare you are living in, no matter what it is. Do you agree?


The previous article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: Dark and Twisted

The next article in the Thoughts on Christian Horror series: Five Ways to Use Fear

20 comments:

  1. What comforted me the most? Harry Potter, actually, believe it or not.ANd Star Wars, plus some heavy rock. So, I guess that's a light and hope, but with enough darkness for me to channel my own into that to get it out of me. Bright and happy things made it worse, actually.

    This is a good post. I've not really read much horror though, so I wouldn't know any of this without your posts.

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    1. Thank you, Kaleb! As you noted with Harry Potter and Star Wars, darkness can be used to point to the light in other genres, not just in horror.

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    2. Yep, that's true. Escapism helps too.

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  2. Good thoughts, Jonathan. I hadn't ever thought about horror this way, or looked into it so extensively. Thankyou for sharing.

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    1. Thank you, BushMaid! I'm hoping it will help people (no matter what they think of horror) to see it in a new light.

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  3. Thanks brother! You have an interesting perspective on it.

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  4. Very good thoughts, Jonathan. :) Thank you for sharing your personal journey with the subject, that is encouraging to hear.

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  5. Wow, Jonathan, I never knew some of this stuff about you. Thanks for sharing. You make a good point. :)

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    1. Thank you, Elizabeth! I think this was my most personal article so far.

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  6. Great article, Jonathan. It was helpful to see the good and bad sides of horror compared to each other in your personal experiences. Thank you for sharing that, and the post as a whole. :)

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    1. Thank you, Jeremiah! I'm glad it was helpful.

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  7. I think this is one of your best posts ever, Jonathan! Well done. Very thought provoking.

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    1. Thank you, Kaitlyn! That's encouraging to hear.

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    2. I agree that it's one of your best posts. I'm really proud that you made it so personal. Thank you again, Jonathan. :)

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  8. Yeah, making things personal is really hard. :P Especially when you know lots of people will read it.

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  9. This was really good, Jonathan...bringing things close to home makes them so much more meaningful. This article made me recall the long skype chat we had way back when about fiction and helped me understand even a lot better where you're coming from in forming your thoughts about fiction. While I still agree with some of what I said that night, I think I was rather imbalanced in my opinions and this helped me think through that more. Thank you. :)

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    1. Thank you, Amy! I hoped it would help people understand better or see it from a different perspective. :)

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