A Gospel Perspective on Halloween HorrorSunday, October 29, 2006
Why the Gospel Won't Allow Me to Enjoy the Macabre in our Culture
Nosferatu...Dracula...Jason Vorhees...Freddy Kruger...Michael Myers...Leatherface...Pennywise...Pinhead...Chucky...Dracula... Frankenstein...Wolfman.
Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Dawn of the Dead, Carrie, Hellraiser, Phantasm, Evil Dead, Fright Night, Night of the Living Dead, Return of the Living Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th, Halloween, Creepshow, Child's Play, Candyman, The Ring, The Grudge, Saw, The Hills Have Eyes, Event Horizon, 28 Days Later.
Do any of these characters and titles sound familiar? I'm ashamed to say that I have heard of all of them and have seen at least a preview of all the above titles. If none of it sounds familiar, stop right now and praise God that you have escape the macabre in our culture. All of the above best represents the gruesome, bloody, horrifying, ghastly gore which accurately reflects the wickedly murderous and intensely depraved nature of human beings without Jesus.
Horror films have become a normal part of American culture since as early as motion picture itself. The difference is that the cultural swing of the 70's brought with it a pendulum swing in morality which allowed a freedom of murderous expression. Since that time killing people has become as normal in a movie as anything else. But in this genre, the more bizarre, torturous, gruesome and pointless a death, the better it is. There's even a genre of horror film known as "splatter film" which is self-descriptive enough.
Sometimes, these attributes make a movie funnier, if one could imagine. The Scary Movie series is such an example, bringing horror to a new low by desensitizing our culture to murder to such a degree that we actually laugh at it and crave for more of it. We are no different than the scads of people in Greco-Roman days who would pay to watch gladiators rip each other to shreds, club innocent slaves, tar and torch Christians, and release wild animals to feed on the bodies of defenseless human beings in a stadium.
Our culture is no different than the mobs of crazed and insane people who would gather around the torture victims of the French Revolution, Inquisition, or Scottish Covenanter era with cheering and jeering as their intestines were drawn out of their bellies by huge rolling pins suspended above them, or while their eyes were burned out of their heads with hot pokers, or while their tongues were screwed to the top of their mouths, or while their heads were slowly severed from their necks with dull knives, or while their flesh was peeled off their bodies with pliers, or while corpses were hacked to pieces by angry citizens armed with farm tools.
Our American culture loves to watch movies with this stuff in it. The more it has, the better they like it. Macabre is normal to us. But that's just America.
The rest of the world, and especially particular parts within, suffer just like this everyday. Sudan...Rhawanda...Kosovo...Iraq...Serbia...Bosnia...all of these countries ring of suffering within us if we have stayed connected to world events in any degree. Horror is real for these folks. They would ask us as Americans why we would enjoy making and watching and profiting from movies that capitalize on it. And that brings me to my main point in this post.
My son asked me yesterday as we were shopping together why we don't watch movies like that. As with me at his age, they produced a certain boyish fascination that comes with a beloved naievete whose bliss is most welcome at ten years old. I simply responded with one answer: "If you were watching someone torture your little brothers or sister would you want someone to pay to watch it and laugh at it and then walk away commenting to a newspaper that they enjoyed it?" He cringed with justifiable horror as he should have. It's all of the sudden different when it's someone you know.
This genre of film is undoubtedly demon-possessed. I reminded him of what he witnessed first-hand this past Easter Sunday with our friend Gregory being delivered from seven demons. "Remember what happened? Remember what you saw that day? Is that stuff real? Should we make movies about it then and give the glory back to the devil in producing movies that show his pathetic and defeated power terrorizing and torturing the image of God?" Horror is real, but the devil, working 24/7 in and through the depravity of humanity, labors overtime to maintain and deepen a certain immoral comfort level people have with blood and guts, murder and torture, death and dying.
I want no part of it. I want my kids to have no part of it. That may be me one day suffering as a victim of pointless brutality. That may even be my kids one day. The world is nearing another day when the persecution of Christians becomes as normal as it was in the early church. Blessed and beloved people...all mutual friends through the Savior...have suffered gruesomely under the hands of murderous despots and destructors. The events I read of which my early Christian friends went through is no movie material. The suffering my Waldensian and Anabaptist friends died under is not fit for the filth of Hollywood film. The torture and gore my Scottish Covenanting friends were put through was heinous, unwelcoming to any filmmakers and critics. Halloween horror uses death and gore to make money. But that same death and gore murdered my dearest friends.
This is where the gospel comes to the rescue. These friends of mine died for the gospel. Halloween horror pits people dying for nothing. Halloween horror rejoices in death, torture, murder, gore, brutality, exaggerating it with as much splatter, slashing, and blood-letting as they possibly can. The gospel rejoices in life after death. Halloween horror terminates our attention on torture as a horrible means (the victims in the movie) to a pleasurable end (the happy looks on the faces of those who attended and collected money). But the gospel views torture as a genuinely horrible means to a truly pleasurable end for those who immediately find themselves in the presence of their Savior and Redeemer and soon-coming Resurrector. Our culture derives pleasure from viewing torture, but the gospel proclaims the necessity of deliverance from it.
Hollywood depersonalizes torture and suffering in movies like Saw III, The Grudge 2, and Texas Chain Saw Massacre - The Beginning...movies debuting this Halloween season. Void of any and all seeming effects of the gospel, they substitute the upright, righteous, and godly man or woman whose bodies are tortured for Jesus, with the jock or bimbo whose lives are suddenly brought to an instanteous, bizarre, gruesome, and pointless death by a crazed killer.
The gospel personalizes torture and suffering in Bible books like Acts and Revelation, as well as other books like Acts and Monuments, Foxe's Book of Martyrs, By Their Blood, Men of the Covenant, Martyr's Mirror and other great works. These aren't just books about John and Jane Does whose only point in the work is to be an unsuspecting target for a demon-possessed, favorite horror bad guy. They are men and women of whom the world was not, is not, and never will be worthy. So whereas the world craves the capitalistic opportunities that gore brings, Christians crave the eternal destination to which torture frees them. Hollywood sees it as a means to a rich end. Christians, on the other hand, while not desirous of it at all in the least, focus on their heavenly home which awaits them rather than the nature, kind, type, and detail of the suffering they experience.
The conclusion of the matter is that Christians must flee from the blood and guts genre and stop allowing themselves to be duped toward empty, fleeting and in reality just plain messed-up pleasures in such depraved nastiness. Any boyish fascination that still rests within a Christian adult is nothing more than a reflection of depraved curiosity which will do more than kill the cat. It will murder our souls as well, eating away like a gangrenous cancer at our spirits until either ou consciences are seared, or else we become the murderers we have filled our eyes, ears, and minds with.
The gospel says run from Halloween horror. That horror killed your very best friend in all the world. It killed King Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Prince of Peace, our Great Shepherd. I suppose that may be problematic for such a gruesome movie as The Passion. I wept and wept while watching what sinful men did...what I did...to the King of Glory. But the plain fact of the matter is that filmmakers, Christian or not, are simply unable to capture or depict the glorious ending had by such an excruciating death. So all they are left with is death.
But that's no reason to profit from it or glory in it. Death, on the other hand, no matter how benign or brutal, is a reason to profit from the gospel, because it is much-needed good news to my depraved and suffering soul that the God and Father of my Lord Jesus Christ will one day bring death and dying, suffering and torturing to an eternal end. Therefore, the gospel demands that we focus our attention on that end and that end alone. For it is that end, that joy set before us, that gives us the power to endure the suffering and despise the shame and to go and sit down with Jesus to enjoy Him forever.