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In my previous post, I more or less introduced the Twilight series and tried to give a decent overview for you, including some foreshadowing of some Gospel themes. In this post, I’d like to dig into some Gospel themes and engage spiritually with this series.

Let’s get one issue straight first. I am primarily discussing the books, not the movies. The movies are what they are; the themes are there but, as with any movie, they don’t have the depth or the emotional engagement of the book. The movies are pretty harmless, a little scary, but extremely cheesy and watered down.

A key reference for my thoughts is a talk given by James Harleman, a pastor for Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Download or listen to his talk on Twilight, as part of their Film and Theology series: here.

The Gospel of Twilight?

I alluded to a few things in my first post. The vampire motif is turned on its head by Stephanie Meyer. In the past, vampirism has been used as a picture of our sinful nature and slavery to it. See Louis in “Interview with a Vampire” or Morbius in the Spiderman comics and you understand the”Why do I do what I don’t want to do?” picture of vampirism.  It’s a curse with seemingly no way out. The vampire, whether they like it or not, is a danger to those around them and literally sucks the life out of them. Their very core is broken and cursed – just like our sinful nature.  You see some of that in this series, but it’s not the intent. Meyer’s intent seems to be to use vampirism as a picture of divinity.  Edward and his family have an ideal Bella wants–divinity and eternity added to her love for Edward so their love will not end. Some from the Cullen family wrestle with their vampirism, wondering what will happen if they die (they can be killed) and if it’s a curse. Edward wonders if you lose your soul. Carlisle has confidence and optimism in their goodness. However, in all this wrestling, the end reveals Meyer’s intent: the vampire is a picture of divinity and eternity and is the key to eternal happiness. Once Bella is changed, everything goes well and she is ultimately satisfied (once they’re safe and free at least). This is where Meyer’s Mormonism can be seen.  God is a side note, with little relevance in the story. The ultimate ending is a divine family, living happily ever after for all of eternity. For the Cullens, eternity is not complete without their daughter–eternal divine family is the satisfaction.

The Key: Viewpoint of the Story

So where is the Gospel of the Bible? The true attractiveness of the story lies in the narration of the story. Outside of a small portion of Breaking Dawn, we are given a first person account of Bella and Edward’s love story as it is told from Bella’s perspective.  Is Bella missing something before she meets Edward? Yes. Is she lost? Yes. Is she satisfied? No. Is she divine and eternal? No. Each storyline is threaded with her need for Edward. Part of the danger of this series is that Bella and Edward’s relationship is not simply codependent, it’s necessary and glorified! Their codependency is elevated beyond the codependency itself. Once she gives her heart to him, she needs him and is sold out, given only to him. But he is dangerous to her unless she is changed and until they are united in a covenant relationship. Bella is transformed into her glorious vampire body and they fully experience their love for one another for eternity.

Do you see something there? This is beyond a typical love story. There are plenty of love stories out there but why does this one tend to grip women’s hearts so much? Because it is otherworldly and because only Jesus can play the part of Edward! Why do guys hate this series?  Because they’ll never be the noble, perfectly handsome, infinitely strong, wise Edward of the book. Women get sucked in because there is nothing like this in the world. Or is there? We as Christians know there is. This story is Christ and the Church. Jesus loves us like this. Jesus will one day give us glorified bodies in heaven. Jesus is God – He never tires, never sleeps, never forgets, never changes in his love for us. Jesus in TRUTH has an otherworldly love for us.

But Jesus has at least one major difference from Edward. Jesus suffered for relationship with us. Jesus chose to yield his divine nature, become human to get us, to pursue us, and ultimately to pay the price for our transformation. Unlike Edward, Jesus doesn’t need us. Jesus is fulfilled within the love of the Trinity. However, His love overflowed toward us. He was willing to die for us and did it joyfully.  He chose the worst way ever devised to die and to demonstrate His love for us, so we would never doubt his love ever again.

Do you want love like what Bella and Edward share, a passionate, otherworldly, divine, eternal love? Don’t despair or try to escape into a world of fantasy like Twilight. Truthfully there is a love like that for you–in Jesus.

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Psalm 16:11 ESV)

As Harleman says at the end of his message about Twilight: Forget Team Jacob or Team Edward. How about Team Jesus?

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Before I dig in to this to far (as in, a dude discussing Twilight), let’s get the facts straight:

1. I read all 4 books in the Twilight series. I read them for a few reasons: to be a student of my wife (who read the series), to connect and process them with  her, and to try to figure out exactly why this series has been so insanely popular.

2. I have 4 daughters age 4 and under. Translation: people don’t hesitate to remind me that someday my girls will all be teenagers. So let’s just say I have a vested interest in understanding women as best I can and the way most teen girls think!

3. I would not recommend the reading of these books to my teen or preteen daughter (if I had one). In fact, I would hesitate to recommend this series to most of the single women I know who love Jesus. The truth is that these books can definitely act as emotional porn for women – the ideal man, the ideal love story, how Bella is fought for, it can be engrossing for the female mind.

Now let’s dig in. This series has been immensely popular. Many wives I know have all read the entire series. The movies and books have made a ton of coin. Locally there were around 10 midnight showings opening night, and I bet all of them were packed. The fans of the series can be obsessive. From teen girls that have read the books 20 times, to fans visiting the actual town of Forks, to everyday moms, obsessive might be too light of a description. This book has genuinely struck a chord with women and that cannot be denied. Outside of the Twihards, many others mock the series and parody it like crazy, men detest it, feminists deplore the themes, movie critics absolutely destroy it, and Christians have strong responses and concerns about the connection with the occult as well genuine worry about their teen daughters. So what is the deal? Why so obsessed? Why so fired up? Why so revolted? Everybody seems to have an opinion.  To close this post, I’ll touch on a few key themes and then in Part 2 hit upon the gospel themes and where I think Stephanie Meyer’s Mormonism comes into play.

Key Themes

The Feminine Question. Why do women like this story? [SPOILER ALERT] Bella is an unassuming, not so confident, pretty innocent, non-supermodel, teen girl who is swept off her feet by an older, wiser, chaste, extremely strong, extremely handsome, emotionally deep (in the books as least) Edward. He fights for her, protects her, goes to all lengths for her. He even fights for her purity and understands his limits and the depth of his own evil within. He has the capability to do all of this. He falls short in practically nothing. He woos her, seeks to win her heart, marries her, becomes a caring father, saves her life, and they live happily as a divine-like family in love for eternity. Like an arrow, this is straight to the heart of the questions that, in general, women wrestle with: Am I beautiful? Am I worth someone fighting for? Am I lovely?

Non-Traditional Vampires and Werewolves. In this movie, the vampire theme is distorted from the historical legacy. Yes, they need blood to survive. Yes, they are eternal beings who can be killed. Yes, they are extremely powerful. However, the main vampire “family” (the Cullens) in Twilight are like vegetarians, seeing their human blood lust as an evil they must live with but can abstain. Each vampire has a special ability of some sorts – compassion, mood control, reading minds, and even seeing the future. The vampire motif in this series is sort of a like a fallen divineness – changed, made eternal, given a new ability, yet still very flawed and still very dangerous.

Finally, the werewolves are the antithesis to the vampires. They spawn as a counter to the vampire to protect humans. They have extremely hot body temperatures as opposed to the ice cold bodies of the vampires. They are built to kill vampires and have an innate hatred for the “blood suckers”. These werewolves are the “good guys” and are not made from getting bit by a werewolf but from birth.

The Big Picture and Family. The love story begins when Bella and Edward meet, the human killing vampires bring the conflict, the werewolves rise up, more vampires try to destroy what the Cullens have in their family, marriage and parenthood happen, and one final confrontation arises to bring about freedom and eternal happiness as a family. This story is about more than just Edward and Bella but also family and how happiness is ultimately rooted in a family.

In Part 2, we’ll dig a little deeper. What about this story repulses and yet is so attractive? Where is the gospel in all this? Where are the dangers?

Twilight Part 2: The Gospel According to Twilight?

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