Essentials

Meta

Pages

Categories

Christians and Vampire Mythology

With the success of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series of books, and the subsequent films, at least in the minds of some in popular culture, it is only natural that others would want to cash in on religiously-infused vampire literature. Meyer incorporated aspects of her Mormon faith in her novels, and now evangelicals are incorporating their own faith in a new batch of novels.

In an article in Christianity Today online titled “There’s Power in the Blood,” Elrena Evans  discusses how evangelical authors are tapping into the continued popularity of vampire mythology by producing their own Christianized novels that draw upon the iconic monster. While I am pleased to see a major Christian publication addressing the topic of vampires in popular culture, nevertheless the article, and especially the subsequent comments by readers that follow it, raise concerns.

First, as I have written previously in connection with Christians and horror in general, I am troubled by the evangelical tendency to notice a popular area of culture, and then rather than entering into that aspect of culture and participating in it on its own terms, a Christian version is created that is then consumed by the evangelical subculture. In this context I believe that much of the mythic and subversive value of vampires as objects for social, cultural, and religious reflection is lost through this process.

Second, among the various individuals quoted in the article as reliable sources of information on the topic, Christianity Today approvingly quotes William Schnoebelen who shares his perspective as a former member “of a vampire sect.” According to new religions scholar Douglas Cowan, author of books on new religions as well as horror and popular culture, “Schnoebelen claims to have been a Wiccan High Priest, a Satanist High Priest, a Master Mason, an Old Order Catholic priest, a Temple Mormon, and teach of witchcraft, Qabalah, and ceremonial magick with over sixteen years experience.” However, Schnoebelen’s descriptions of these spiritual and religious pathways, not to mention his personal narrative of alleged involvement with them, raises serious questions as to whether he was a member of any of them. Regardless of the latter concern, in terms of the former he is certainly not a reliable source to be consulted on vampires in popular culture. Christianity Today would have been better served through bypassing Schnoebelen, and seeking more extensive comments from new religions and vampire scholar Gordon Melton, whose work is referenced earlier in the article, or young scholars of new religions and pop culture like Joseph Laycock, author of Vampires Today: The Truth of Modern Vampirism (Praeger, 2009).

Third, as some of the comments on Evans’s article indicate, many evangelicals and fundamentalists equate vampires with witchcraft and “the occult,” not by building a solid case and connecting the dots from folklore, literature, and cinema to esotericism or today’s expressions of vampirism, but by mere assumption and bold assertion. This demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of Western esotericism, not to mention vampire mythology and horror. An apology is owed to esotericists and members of the vampire subculture for such misrepresentations, and I renew my previous call for evangelicals and other Christians to move beyond their knee-jerk revulsion of horror to more critical and cautious forms of engagement.

Finally, this dual response of evangelicals to vampire popularity in terms of creating their own subcultural version of a pop culture monster, coupled with shock and disgust at the prospect as somehow anti-Christian, is a reminder of the stunted theological imagination that many evangelicals, and certainly fundamentalists, have in regards to the fantastic. C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, as well as the other Inklings, are frequently looked to by evangelicals with fondness as Patron Saints of the Fantastic due to their their ability to combine fantasy and science fiction with theological vision, yet somehow this usually does not translate to positive assessments of these genres in contemporary pop culture, and certainly not for sci-fi and fantasy’s “dark cousin” in the form of horror. Evangelicals desperately need to revisit the legacy of these influential fantasy writers in order to feed the theological imagination related to the fantastic, including horror, which has a long association with religion, including Christianity.

Perhaps I’m unrealistic, and asking too much, but if conservative Christians want to speak at all on these topics beyond their own subculture they’ll have to do far better than this.

Related articles:

“Christianity and Horror Redux: From Knee-Jerk Revulsion to Critical Engagement”

“Rue Morgue – Divinity in Darkness: The Rise of Christian Horror”

“Horror and Christianity: Continued Questions of Compatibility”

“Mary Hallab: Vampire God”

“Joseph Laycock: Vampires Today”

“Bryan Stone – Changing Religious Imagery in Horror”

Comment Pages

There are 14 Comments to "Christians and Vampire Mythology"

  • Steve Hayes says:

    I don’t think anyone has written a vampire novel worth reading since Bram Stoker.

    I read Stephen King’s Salem’s lot, and it was horribly boring and predictable. I read Anne Rice’s Interview with the vampire, and struggled to reach the end of it just in order to be able to say I had actually read it before criticising it. So I’m not surprised that evangelical (or any other variety of) Christians can’t write decent vampire stories. Nobody can. Dracula, for all its faults, is inimitable.

  • Justin says:

    I was wondering when you were going to comment on this article. I read it a few days after it came out and had many of the same thoughts you expressed here. I didn’t know that William Schnoebelen was such a huckster however, probably because I’d never heard of him before. I remember listening (skeptically) to evangelicals who would make similar claims about how they had successfully converted not only atheists, Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses about also Satanists who they knew for a fact had performed human sacrifices. When I asked why they hadn’t turned them over to the police (born again or not) they would usually shut up having realized that someone in the crowd was smart enough to see through their rues.

  • [...] intelligent and well-written blog. On the same subject, I’d also urge you to check out John Morehead’s criticisms of using Schnoebelen as a source from a Christian [...]

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Justin. I needed to express my perspective here since I ran into a brick wall with comments at the CT article site. On this and other issues I am out of step with evangelicals, and increasingly feel like I belong on the Island of Misfit Christians.

  • I especially enjoyed your thoughts “many evangelicals and fundamentalists equate vampires with witchcraft and “the occult,” not by building a solid case and connecting the dots from folklore, literature, and cinema to esotericism or today’s expressions of vampirism, but by mere assumption and bold assertion. This demonstrates a serious misunderstanding of Western esotericism, not to mention vampire mythology and horror. An apology is owed to esotericists and members of the vampire subculture for such misrepresentations, and I renew my previous call for evangelicals and other Christians to move beyond their knee-jerk revulsion of horror to more critical and cautious forms of engagement.” as I am very well versed in those subjects, having family and friends who are of almost every faith or religious path on the planet!

    I applaud you sir for being so detailed and levelheaded in your critique. It is too bad others are not so open to similar depth of self awarness in connection to the bigger picture that encompasses us all.

    Well done!

    Corvis nocturnum, author of Allure of the Vampire, Our Sexual Attraction to the Undead.

  • Corvis, thank you for your comments which count for a lot coming from someone in the vampire community.

  • Mr. Morehead, I’d like to echo Corvis’ applause for your levelheadedness and thank you for doing so. I find that refreshing coming from a Christian writer addressing a topic in the occult realm. I appreciate this especially as a member of the real vampyre community. I was greatly offended by the article you mentioned, especially as they left the impression that Wicca and those who practice vampyrecraft are all mockers of Christianity. I was raised Catholic and am still protective of my former faith, especially since most of my family are Catholic. I’m a big fan of having all the facts straight, and of not presenting one’s opinion as fact. You seem to be of the same persuasion.

    The comment about evangelicals associating vampires with witchcraft and the occult, I’ve run across remarks along those lines often, usually from skeptics about real vampyrism. They make the remark that only occultists are vampyres, and that one must know about real vampyrism to be a vampyre, making the whole thing sound like an illusion and some psychological problem, like we’ve convinced ourselves of it because we want to be like the vampires of fiction. This is not the case, especially as I know vampyres who are Jews, Catholic, various kinds of Protestant Christian, Hindu, Wiccan, and countless other faiths.

    It’s refreshing to see such an open mind with such grounded roots. It’s good to know that someone who knows where he stands so thoroughly can be open-minded about other paths.

  • admin says:

    Thank you as well for your kind comments about my post, and to the vampire community for boosting my blog hits for the day with their interest. I find it amazing that many vampires, esotericists, and Wiccans find value in my analysis of such phenomena, and yet those who share my religious commitments take issue with me. In this as in many other areas I am something of a misfit in my own religious community. Thanks again.

  • Justin says:

    “Thanks for your thoughts, Justin. I needed to express my perspective here since I ran into a brick wall with comments at the CT article site. On this and other issues I am out of step with evangelicals, and increasingly feel like I belong on the Island of Misfit Christians.”

    Yeah, I read those comments. It’s kind of hard to argue with people who are so narrow minded they would call The Chronicles of Narnia evil.

  • Tracey Bateman wrote a novel called Thirsty, where the protagonist is an alcoholic struggling with rehab and Christian faith who happens to meet a vampire. This book suffers from the same problem that plagues most Xian fic I’ve encountered: heavy-handed religion. (The few that don’t fall into this category use “faith” as a theme to sell books, like Jason Elam’s Monday Night Jihad.)

    Rather than hammer on the hated Twilight (as others have done much better elsewhere) I say it’s high time for a Judeo-Christian themed examination of the vampire mythos. Trouble is, religious practictioners in the subculture are too afraid of what their “normal” kin will think if they come out as religious blooddrinkers. Including me.

  • Pink Lady, I think you’re on to something in your last paragraph of your comments. I think a balanced examination of the vampire mythos from a Christian perspective might turn out far differently than many conservative Protestants might assume. And I usually don’t share my perspectives on these topics, or this blog, with the “‘normal’ kin” for a variety of reasons.

  • Notarius Clericus says:

    Have a look at this link if you want to know how Christians relate to Vampires.

    http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/localnews/Author-of-39the-most-terrifying39.6565658.jp

  • Notarius, thank you for sharing this link. Certainly this is how many evangelicals relate to vampires, and in the context of the article, this is an example of it in the UK which would not doubt parallel the U.S. response, but as my blog indicates, it is not the only way Christians relate to vampires.

Write a Comment

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Shortcuts & Links

Search

Latest Posts