I’ve been accused of having a strong penchant for the macabre, an accusation I can’t totally deny. Of course, as many of my long-time readers will know, I have been working on a book about Christianity and the genre of horror in art, literature, and film off-and-on for almost two years. It has been an exhausting task. I’ve had many starts, false starts, and restarts. It’s been a very hard process. So why do I care so much? Why do I keep coming back to this subject that has frankly caused me much difficulty?
I have often said that my childhood was built on a steady diet of Muppets, Peanuts, and Universal Monsters. In their best eras, the first two exuded childlike happiness, yet never denied the melancholy that exists in the world. The latter explored the creepy, dark recesses of human nature, yet with a trace of mirth that flickered candlelight into their dreadful circumstances. As I grew into a teenager reckoning with a young faith, I struggled with what I saw as clear Christian allusions in some of the great gothic stories while concurrently witnessing how strongly they were rejected by segments of Evangelical Christianity. I felt torn in different directions, and I didn’t particularly want to give up these things that, in their own way, had helped undergird my spiritual awareness for a recognition of the gospel.
In some ways, I realize my work-in-progress is written to that fifteen year-old me. It is written to a growing Christian with eclectic tastes who is trying to navigate the corridors of his faith. I want to show him that the pictures of the gospel he is seeing in the books he is reading and in the movies he is watching are really there. Our stories tell us about who we are, what we love and desire and even fear. Horror, in particular, engages an element of spiritual struggle that we often ignore in our everyday lives, perhaps to our impediment. I want to show the younger me that there is a real spiritual value in the better portions of the horror genre, just like any great piece of film or literature, and that this genre (which itself exists in the Bible as well) has something to tell us about ourselves and our story. That is why I continue to work, and rework, until it is written.
(Cover image: a still of Mary Philbin and Lon Chaney from The Phantom of the Opera [Universal, 1925])