I checked out yet another vampire book from the library this weekend. It’s by Scott Westerfeld, one of my favorite YA authors. I haven’t started reading it yet, since I’m working on a book deadline of my own—but it’s sitting on my TBR shelf, a juicy little reward for the faithful writer.
Coincidentally (or not… ) my editor asked me to write a little about vampires for you—challenging me to challenge you to “invite a vampire to church this weekend.”
This should be fun.
Vampires seem to be waning from popular culture at the moment—too much exposure to bright light does that to them I guess—but they’ll never go away. There’s something about the undead such as vampires—and the slower moving but increasingly popular zombies—that has always drawn our imagination.
Over the past five decades supernatural creatures in popular culture have evolved from purely evil destroyers of good—defeated only by faith and holy water, to conflicted creatures trying to retain the last vestiges of humanity in a battle against whatever virus or poison that is turning them. It reflects a change in cultural thinking from one of absolutes to one of degrees, and dovetails neatly with the declining influence of the organized Christian church in Western society.
As if deep down we all know without being told that there might be something to this living forever thing.
Because, of course, there is.
The fact that our fascination with vampires and other undead creatures continues is telling for at least two reasons:
First, we are hungry for the spiritual. In the past 20 or 30 years, even as science advances in leaps and bounds, movies and books featuring the unexplained and supernatural have flourished. The History Channel, for example—a source you might think to count on for presenting the most factual of events—spends weeks at a time on ghosts, prophecies, and access to the gates of hell.
Second, a nagging suspicion that there must be more than this life. For a few years you couldn’t go to the movies without seeing a title that included witches. Then it was all about the vampires—sparkly or otherwise. Now whether cute and recovering or terrifying mindless hordes, it’s all about the zombies. Each of these genres, at its root, has one question—what happens next? And, is it better to live forever, even if it’s in a non-human form?
See, without a faith to instruct us otherwise, we risk walking around in a state of perpetual grief. Unsure if we’ll ever see our loved ones again, and unsettled with the idea that when it ends it ends forever. Theologian George Macdonald addressed grief—trying to define the line between healthy grieving and obsessive grief—more than a hundred years ago. The following quote is often misattributed to C. S. Lewis. It seems appropriate here.
“Never tell a child: ‘You have a soul’,” said George Macdonald. “Teach him: ‘You are a soul; you have a body.’ As we learn to think of things always in this order, that the body is but the temporary clothing of the soul, our views of death and the unbefittingness of customary mourning will approximate to those of Friends of earlier generations.”
When observed through this lens, most vampires appear to be afraid of death, and most zombies completely unaware of their souls. I don’t think there is any better reason to invite them to church than to show a vampire there is nothing to fear, and show a zombie that they do, indeed, have hope.