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December 2, 2009

More Dangerous Than Vampires

True love is not about losing oneself in another.

Golden-eyed vampires with bodies like marble and a (nearly) unquenchable thirst for blood.
Shape-shifting werewolves that prowl through the night.

Stuck in the middle: a love-struck 17-year-old girl.

Yes, I’m talking about the Twilight saga that’s taken teen-girl-dom (and some of their mothers) by storm.

Rather predictably, many Christians have been up in arms about Twilight since the first best-selling book was published in 2005. It is about vampires after all—those denizens of evil and death that have creeped out readers since Bram Stocker first wrote Dracula. Personally, I don’t see a problem with reading fiction about mythical creatures. But there is something very insidious in Twilight . . . something much more dangerous and threatening than werewolves and vampires.

The Twilight Saga is the story of teenage Bella and her romance with Edward Cullen—an almost 100-year-old vampire in the body of an eternal 17-year-old who goes to her high school. Bella falls for Edward and she falls hard. He’s magnetically attractive. He’s hauntingly mysterious. Thoughts of Edward begin to dominate every waking moment for Bella.

Despite the unusual circumstances, Bella’s story is a lot like that of many teenage girls—and that’s why gaggles of them are going gaga over the books and movies. Teen girls love love. I remember being a teenager—and teen love is a lot like that. The guy becomes the center of the girl’s world. Other interests fade in importance. Life becomes all about Mr. Right (or Mr. Vampire, in Bella’s case).

But what’s really dangerous about Twilight is that it takes this teen version of love way too far. Bella doesn’t merely daydream about Edward; Edward becomes her entire world. Within days of meeting him, nothing else in Bella’s life is really important to her anymore. She’s willing to leave her family forever. She even says she’s willing to be killed by Edward.

Rather than enhancing Bella’s life, loving Edward diminishes who she is.
This kind of love is dangerous . . . and it’s anything but true.

I’ve seen this kind of love in action in the lives of grown women and the results aren’t pretty. In real life, this kind of love leads to male-dominated marriages, to depressed and isolated wives, and sometimes even to emotional or physical abuse.

What is God’s design for romantic love? Certainly there is an element of being enamored with the other—of thinking about the other a lot and of being emotionally dependent on that person to some degree. In marriage, God intends us to treasure our spouse above all others; in that sense, our lover is at the center of our life.

But God-honoring romantic love should never diminish us. True love is not about losing oneself in another.

Romantic love that honors God is a love in which we as women have a strong sense of ourselves, our interests, our gifts, and our passions. Rather than neglecting those things in our love for the other, our sense of identity should be enhanced, emboldened, and strengthened. Our lover helps us see and know and embrace who we are. We feel a confidence in who God made us to be and we offer that to our spouse just as he brings many things to us.

No romance is perfect, but we owe it to ourselves (and to the young women in our lives!) to reject false brands of romance when we see them and to instead aim to live out confident, mature, and self-affirming romantic love.

What do you think? When have you seen the danger of self-diminishing love in the lives of others? How can we as Christian women embody God’s plan for romantic love and personal identity? Why is it important to do so?

Related Tags: books

Comments

Kelli - I love your take on "Twilight." While I admit I ravenously tore through each installment, I couldn't help but cringe more and more at Bella's obsession with Edward and how it really made her weaker and weaker. When he wasn't around, she clung helplessly to Jacob. As a mother, I do not want my children to find their identities in any other person or to find that characteristic in others attractive.

Kelli,
I, too, LOVED these books for the brain-candy that they are. That being said, if my daughters want to read them someday I will use Bella as an example of a young woman with her priorities wayyyy out of whack. I'm glad she's a fictional character and not a real person, because without faith and attentive parenting it's all too easy for young women to fall into these types of unhealthy relationships.

Thank you for letting people know that its okay to read fiction novels. Too often, Christian comentators simply demonize fiction, I'm glad to see someone with an open mind about popular fiction.

Fantastic article. Thank you for these beautiful encouraging words and the reminder of what is Truth and Love.

I thought the reading was very interesting, especially being a Dark Shadows fan from way back. People just have to remember it is Fiction, like The Shack. People complained about that also, but like Twilight it also is Fiction.

The best thing about these fiction books is that the author claims she patterned them after classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Romeo and Juliet, Wuthering Heights, etc. I'm thrilled my daughter has now taken an interest in these works too. The Twilight Saga has led to productive discussion about the opposite sex, inlcuding the myth of Edward and Bella's intense relationship. (Guys aren't completely selfless like Edward and Jacob's love-sick behavior borders on harassment at times.) I'm using the stories as teaching tools to inform my daughter of what to expect and what to really look for in a relationship.

What I find interesting is the question "what are the fans of these books really looking for?

Someone who will love them unconditionally throughout all time, who watches over them, protects them, reads their hearts and wants only the best for them.

Who does that REALLY remind you of?

In talking with young women, you might consider pointing out all Bella appears to want in Edward can easily be found in Jesus.

Well I have enjoyed reading every single book of the Twilight Saga. The books are a metaphor on how we have the power to make the right choice. Yes Bella and Edwards love is extreme but that's why it is fantasy. It has taught me a lot about life and I see things in my life in a different perspective. I am so thankful I got to read these books and I wish people could see it from my perspective. It's fantasy meaning it's not real. Who ever reads the book needs to come to terms that it's not real. Then you can enjoy the story. Just because it's popular doesn't mean everyone needs to put it down. I think there are more positiives about this saga then negatives. It opens up converstations for mothers and daughters to commmunicate. It makes you feel good inside and sometimes you need to escape from reality every once in awhile. I am a teenager and in my youth group we all love it. We talk about it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with it. One major thing my youth leader pointed out is that Twilight is a great love story but the Bible is the best love story. And that totally clicked with me and I agree with it. But it doesn't mean we can't read other love stories.

Wow! I can't even believe you just compared a vampire movie to God's love! Wake up christians! Doesn't anyone see that movies like this entice teenagers and adults even to be more curious about vampires, witches and evil fantasy? Look at it this way: a 14 year old girl watches the movie and loves it goes on the internet and types in vampires do you know what kind of internet sites she will explore? She will be lead right to wiccan sites. There are hundreds of these sites on the internet and they will woe them to their fantasy like real religion. Try it if you don't believe me. Go ahead christians put your guard down and think thats it okay to read books such as Twilight and see the movies you will stand before God one day and be judged, what are you going to say to him? I think its sad in the secular world that everyone is going crazy about these movies I can't even comprehend that it's on this christian woman blog. The wiccan religion is far more popular than you can imagine and they are loving this!

I think this is an excellent commentary. I have been in churches where Christian women were to some extent expected to lose themselves for their husbands/families. I do not think that is healthy or Biblical. I have not watched the show you are talking about but it is great to see you tying an important concept to something that captures many peoples' attention.

my thoughts exactly. i saw the 2nd film with my twin nieces and a nephew. and i'm glad i did. at least i was able to discus the movie with them and give them insights about what real love is about.

Wonderful article and fabulous insights. One thing I would disagree with, however, is your statement that love is not about losing yourself. I've been married for ten years to a man who loves Jesus and loves me, and the more I learn about true love, the more I come to understand that it is above all about self-sacrifice. The most important things in loving my man are what I'm willing to lose to love him well. Am I willing to sacrifice my desires, my habits, even my silly quirks if it will bless him? Jesus loved us with a sacrificial love and asks us to give up our lives and ourselves to follow him and receive eternal life. That's true love. That is what our attitude should be in our marriages, as mothers, friends, and Christ-followers to a dark world. Sacrificial love is counter-cultural. This world will tell women to guard their ambitions at all costs, but Jesus asks us to crucify our flesh and lose ourselves to become more like Him. Did I read the Twilight saga? Yep. I devoured the books because they were easy to read, interesting, and mysterious. Did I take them too seriously? Not on your life. Will I let my daughter read them? Not until she's a lot older and until she can understand the difference between entertainment and authentic documentation of love - the kind depicted in the scriptures. She'll probably be 20 by then.
I think some of the previous comments have been over-analysis - it's fiction, people. But I must say that I admire Bella's courage to sacrifice herself for Edward and his bravery to do the same. So they risked losing themselves to make their love work. Didn't Jesus risk losing the glories of Heaven to save us? In true love, we've got to be willing to lay ourselves down and surrender to Christ and to one another.

To all women everywhere, believers and unbelievers alike: What is fiction? Edward and Bella
What is real? JESUS CHRIST
Case closed.

that is why Twilight saga is classified as FICTION

I am 45 and loved the Twilight Series. Edward is truly in love with Bella. He wants what is best for her, he protects her and truly cares about her as a person. I loved the fact he waits to have sex til they are married, even though Bella pushes. He is mature (100 years of being 17) and has a level head. Edward understands the importance of living a full life. He never once asked Bella to become a Vamp. He wants her to grow old and die with her soul in tact. He considers himself a monster. He hopes that God will have mercy on his soul, because he did not chose to be a Vamp, the choice was made for him. The Cullen Family is a very loving and forgiving family. Carisle's Father in the book was a Pastor who hunted Vamps. Carisle was bitten during a hunt. Carisle belives in God and hopes he forgives him for his sins of turning the others. As a family they don't hunt humans.
It is a good series if you look deeper than the Vampire thing. Yes, Bella is obsessive, but aren't most teenage girls. I encourge Parents to read the books and then have a talk about the positive elements of the characters relationships as well as the negative ones.

Spot on! This exact theme has been my issue with the "Twilight" series from the beginning. I teach 6th grade middle schoolers and am always look for a good, strong female character that doesn't lose who she is because of a guy. Bella is not a character I endorse for that reason! Thanks for this article, I plan to share it with many.

Alma, How end the world did you get out of my comment that wicca is a better alternative? Christians need to be aware and wake up that the master deceiver is doing what he does best and deceives even through this movie Twilight. Every christian who read the books and seen the movies and thinks it's okay to do that is being deceived and they are letting their guard down. And once you put your guard down satan enters~ you are wrong about the pagan web sites, I entered 'vampire' on google just to see how long for sure it would take and on the FIRST page 5th site down was a pagan site that is a organization providing services to a nationwide network of pagans and others following an earth-centered spiritual path it also continues stating that paganism has experienced a dramatic resurgence in the last few decades (wow what a surprise!). These sites DO NOT have some big warning on them flashing "pagan" site or "wiccan" site they are deceiving. I assure you they are real and there are thousands of them. And they have thousand of followers who really do believe in vampires, witches, fairies ect. As far as scriptue I can think of thousands of bible verses I could use here I will write just one Philippians 4:8: Finally, brethern, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Is a vampire movie any of those things? Christians should honestly not be spending their time reading and going to movies about vampires. And I never said not to witness to unbelievers in fact that is what we are suppose to do but you should NEVER compare something from evil to Jesus that is just plain wrong and should not happen. You can make fun of me all you want to with your little comment about harry potter's receipe book. For a fact christians should not see that movie neither have you read all the bible verses stating that you will not enter the kingdom of heaven if you practice witchcraft or sorcerery? The fact is Satan deceives through all these books and movies. Christians should stand together as one and make a stand for Jesus but instead so many are not and they are right there in the movies with everyone else watching vampires and witchcraft.

Honestly, it saddens me just how often Christians tend to get so hung up on what the characters in these books are--whether vampires, wizards, elves, whatever--to the point where they completely miss the deeper themes in the stories. My absolute favorite genres of books to read are fantasy and sci-fi--I love the epic adventures and the memorable characters. I don't believe you can make a blanket statement and automatically write off every book that contains vampires or wizards as automatically evil. What about stories like the Chronicles of Narnia? They were written by one of the greatest Christian commentators of the 20th century--should they be written off because they contain creatures from Greek mythology like centaurs and nymphs, and Father Christmas? Or, say, Lord of the Rings--Tolkien was a devoted Catholic and some of the main characters of the books are wizards. Even in Harry Potter, there's a lot of strong themes running throughout about the battle of good vs. evil, friendship, things like that. And I think even most kids are smart enough to realize that Hogwarts isn't a real place, it's fiction. I appreciate that so many of the responders (and the article in general) suggest using these type of books as teaching tools rather than just a blanket banning of them. This isn't the first vampire book I've read (we read Dracula in my Christian school's high school English class, along with Frankenstein). And I've read all four of the Twilight books. (In my opinion, they got more ridiculous as the series went on, but that's not the point.) And maybe it's because I'm in my 20s and not my teens, but reading them didn't make me want to go check out Wicca or become a total Goth or anything like that. If anything, it made me even more determined to avoid that sort of all-encompassing obsessive relationship. (And, honestly, gave me a much greater appreciation for how well-written the Harry Potter books are in comparison!) But it's fiction. Just use your brains as you're reading it, and you can learn a lot from it. (Incidentally, a good book to read about this sort of thing is Epic by John Eldredge--it points out how common recurring themes in stories can point us to deeper themes in how we and God relate to each other.)

I am a former English teacher and a high school librarian. Vampires are not my thing, but my students kept telling me that I had to read the Twilight book. I read the first one and could not put it down. I thought it was well written for young adult literature, and I felt the author modeled Wuthering Heights when writing it. It has been very exciting to see the students reading with such interest. Compared to a lot of the young adult books out there, it is very chaste and clean. Like Wuthering Heights, the book provides a good discussion on relationships. Katherine and Heathcliff's relationship was not really healthy either. The discussion of this book reminds me of Harry Potter. I see both sides of the issue. Working in education, it all depends on the individual child that is reading the book. Some can read it and take it at face value for what it is-fiction. Others who have a tendency to be drawn to the occult may be drawn that way. It's the same way for all of us. Watching a particular book or movie, may be harmful to some of us, but not others. The key thing as a Christian parent is to know what your child is reading, read it with them, and discuss it.

Kelli - thank you! I read these books with alarm precisely because of the obsessive-love masquerading as romance. Edward's creepy stalker behavior and immense need for control was also a concern. I don't have a problem with fun fiction books or fiction books about magic. What alarms and saddens me is that SO many women - young and not so young - seem to think it's OK to "love" even when it destroys your reason and ability to discern danger. Thanks, again.

As the mother of four daughters, two who are teens, I have to agree with the writer of this article. 17 is not an age to lose oneself in anyone other than Jesus. For that reason, I will not allow my daughters to see the movies or read the books. My oldest daughter has heard about them through her friends, and her take on Bella is that she is an idiot!:) She doesn't get why Bella would sacrifice friendships with her friends to lose herself in a guy, then desire death over life. I liked the books and the movies, but parents need to be aware that girls get strong ideas of romance from books and movies. I do not want any of my girls obsessing over anyone the way Bella obsesses over Edward, or lead anyone on the way she does Jacob when her first choice leaves her. I think parents need to be aware of what their kids are reading, which is why I read the books first before deciding that my girls are not ready for it yet. And thankfully, my girls agree!

First of all, I don't intend any of this to sound as if I'm judging, but I would like you to consider what I'm saying with an open mind. There are bits of truth in almost every post here, some more than others. But most importantly, I think if every Christian SERIOUSLY PRAYED before making any decisions, no matter how big or how small, including whether or not to go see a movie such as is being discussed, then if we really listened for God's response, there would be a lot less folks going to movies involving witches, wizards, vampires, etc. Many of you mentioned the themes running throughout this as well as similar movies, and pointed out "the good" or the lessons that could be learned; well, of course if the movie was ALL bad then we probably wouldn't be having this discussion because the choice would be as plain as black and white. That's how the devil tricks us though, is by the gray areas. One person mentioned about the devil being a liar and deceiving us . . . THAT IS SO TRUE!!! He does it in subtle ways, so of course there's going to be some good mixed in with all things from the devil . . . that's how he gets in the door!!! He causes us to justify doing something that maybe we shouldn't do. Trust me, I know because I've been there. I'm NOT saying anyone is going to hell for going to see this movie, but God does want us to guard our hearts, and we have an even BIGGER responsibility to guard the hearts, eyes and ears of our children. You don't need a vampire movie to talk to your kids! If you want to bad enough, you'll find another way or you can ask God to open a door. We're all at different walks in our relationship with God, and while this is a good sounding board for bringing up issues and points to consider, the bottom line is WE NEED TO DO (or NOT do) WHATEVER IT IS THAT GOD LAYS ON OUR HEARTS, not man, and that includes me. There are some things that are wrong for ANYONE to do and there's no doubt about that . . . such as lying, stealing, adultery, etc. However, there are also those "gray" areas as well. Although I could share many examples, I'll give one: Fifteen years ago I was convicted about watching soap operas so no longer watch them; therefore, FOR ME to watch a soap opera would be a sin; however, if you watch them and haven't been convicted about it, then for you it's not a sin. I hope that made sense and that no one misunderstands anything I've said here because I notice that happens a lot. This was all said in love, not meaning to offend anyone, but hoping that you'll consider what I've said and really SEEK God's truth and His will for your life regarding each and every choice you make. My hope is that Christians begin to look for all of the ways we're ALIKE, and how we all desire to serve the Lord instead of nit picking and being legalistic so that others (non-Christians) will want what we have. God Bless!!!

First of all, I don't intend any of this to sound as if I'm judging, but I would like you to consider what I'm saying with an open mind. There are bits of truth in almost every post here, some more than others. But most importantly, I think if every Christian SERIOUSLY PRAYED before making any decisions, no matter how big or how small, including whether or not to go see a movie such as is being discussed, then if we really listened for God's response, there would be a lot less folks going to movies involving witches, wizards, vampires, etc. Many of you mentioned the themes running throughout this as well as similar movies, and pointed out "the good" or the lessons that could be learned; well, of course if the movie was ALL bad then we probably wouldn't be having this discussion because the choice would be as plain as black and white. That's how the devil tricks us though, is by the gray areas. One person mentioned about the devil being a liar and deceiving us . . . THAT IS SO TRUE!!! He does it in subtle ways, so of course there's going to be some good mixed in with all things from the devil . . . that's how he gets in the door!!! He causes us to justify doing something that maybe we shouldn't do. Trust me, I know because I've been there. I'm NOT saying anyone is going to hell for going to see this movie, but God does want us to guard our hearts, and we have an even BIGGER responsibility to guard the hearts, eyes and ears of our children. You don't need a vampire movie to talk to your kids! If you want to bad enough, you'll find another way or you can ask God to open a door. We're all at different walks in our relationship with God, and while this is a good sounding board for bringing up issues and points to consider, the bottom line is WE NEED TO DO (or NOT do) WHATEVER IT IS THAT GOD LAYS ON OUR HEARTS, not man, and that includes me. There are some things that are wrong for ANYONE to do and there's no doubt about that . . . such as lying, stealing, adultery, etc. However, there are also those "gray" areas as well. Although I could share many examples, I'll give one: Fifteen years ago I was convicted about watching soap operas so no longer watch them; therefore, FOR ME to watch a soap opera would be a sin; however, if you watch them and haven't been convicted about it, then for you it's not a sin. I hope that made sense and that no one misunderstands anything I've said here because I notice that happens a lot. This was all said in love, not meaning to offend anyone, but hoping that you'll consider what I've said and really SEEK God's truth and His will for your life regarding each and every choice you make. My hope is that Christians begin to look for all of the ways we're ALIKE, and how we all desire to serve the Lord instead of nit picking and being legalistic so that others (non-Christians) will want what we have. God Bless!!!

This article is correct. I read all the books along with my 15 year-old daughter. I was glad that she thought that the second book and Bella's obsession were over the top. All the girls want someone who will treat them like Edward treats Bella with a maturity that no real 17 year old has. I keep reminding my daughter of that -- he's 80 years old in a 17 year old body! I am just thankful to God that she has a father who models the kind of relationships she should have and seek.

I agree that it is really important to discuss with young women what is a truly healthy relationship with a man. The danger exists, believe me. It can get very hard to come out of a bad relationship, afterwards. May God protect my daughter when she chooses someone to share her life with.

One of the most important points in this whole debate is the need for parental discussion and control. I have two daughters, one who loves to read, just as I do, but as a parent it was my responsibility to discuss with her the content of whatever she wanted to read. This meant I had to take the time to investigate the book, its content and often its authors intentions. Parents we need to take back our God given responsibilities and stop trying to leave them to the schools, to book censors or any other outside forces. Use the tools you are given to teach your children how to make wise and discerning choices. I read Harry Potter, along with all of Dekker's fantasys to see how Good conquers evil, and as a place to begin conversation with my girls.

Thank You! I am doing a paper on why Christians should stay away from Twilight! I am looking for verses.

i tottaly agree there is some good points in twilight. but i would NEVER let my kids watch narnia. it's centered around a war!!!

P.S. excuse my bad spelling thanks!

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