Twilight-A lot of people are reading it…should I ? (and more importantly, should I let my teens?)


Part 1-Should I read "Twilight"?

The "Twilight" books (a four-part series by Stephenie Meyer ) and movies are a national phenomenon about which believers should probably have an opinion. To have any sort of reasonable conversation (and I hope it will be a conversation we need to get a few things in place. First, I have read all four books and watched the first movie. [I have read reviews of books before and thought, "I don't think that guy really read the book."]Second, if you are considering reading the books, I will be very vague and avoid plot spoilers. Third, I will consider the series from a Christian/moral perspective, a Christian/philosophical perspective, and a literary perspective. Ready...?

Christian/Moral Perspective: I waded into these books with a lot of preconceived notions about which I will attempt to be very frank. One such notion was that these books would be full of objectionable elements. I was pleasantly surprised to find that was not the case [Disclaimer #1: I read quite a bit of secular fiction. My "objectionable-content-o-meter" is bound to be different from yours since that is a very subjective matter, but I thought the objectionable elements were slight]. That is not to say there is nothing objectionable, but objectionable elements were not prevalent. Typical "vampire" literature tends toward excessive violence and sexuality. These books did not. [Disclaimer #2: These books are very sensual. I do not mean "sexual." These two terms unfortunately often get used interchangeably because people are embarrassed to say "sexual" and sensual isn't as uncomfortable. The books are very sensual in that Meyer goes into great detail about how this smells, how that looks, and the way this feels. This does play a big role in whether you should let your kids read the books...we will delve into that in Part 2.]   

Though these books did not by any means have a God-ward focus, they were by no means anti-God as much modern literature is. In fact, several of the characters have extended conversations about the results of their actions on their eternal destiny. Once again, there is zero "gospel presentation," but there is quite a bit of talk about the results of one's actions and their effect on eternity. Perhaps my favorite moral part of the series is the recurring theme of the effect of one's actions on those around him. Our lives are so interconnected with others that we cannot operate in a vacuum. Meyer does a wonderful job of hammering this theme home without its being overbearing. Overall, these books are pretty "clean" in the language, violence, and sexuality departments.

Christian/Philosophical Perspective: This section has less to do with the Twilight series and more to do with your entertainment choices in general. I am a firm believer in engaging my culture and attempting to understand the unbelieving world around me so as to be able to minister more effectively. I understand that some believers are vehemently opposed to this perspective, and that is fine. I take my focus from 1 Corinthians 5:9-11. Paul tells the Corinthians that they shouldn't associate with immoral people who claim to be believers, but that if they attempt to avoid all immoral people, they would have to "go out of the world." He says this as though that would be undesirable/inappropriate. I do not believe that Christians are called to a monastic lifestyle. Jesus moved freely through His culture (often being called a drunk glutton-modern translation=party animal-by the religious elite) because that was where the people who needed His love and help were. In my opinion, if we disengage from our culture, we lose the opportunity to meet people where they are and point them to Jesus.

So, my philosophy is that we should read current literature, we should watch current movies, we should listen to modern music, we should know what's going on in the news, we should know who is in the World Series, etc. Thus, as Twilight is a huge part of our current culture, I have found it to be a good thing that I know a little about it. My knowledge has already led to several good conversations with acquaintances and with co-workers. The obvious caveat is that we should not permeate ourselves with the muck of the world. Holy Spirit-filled discernment is a must, but as I did not, as a general rule, find Twilight to be super objectionable, I have found the series to be a valuable cultural resource.

Literary Perspective: From a literary perspective I found these books to be very interesting and well done. To say that all four books are "page-turners" would be an understatement. There is a reason that they are best sellers. Meyer is just a good author. In my opinion these books have a bit of a "modern Jane Austen with a paranormal twist" feel to them. In the same way that Jane Austen paints vivid portraits of her characters, Meyer gives her creations such depth and color that you feel like you know them. Furthermore, just as people can end up saying things like, "I have read Pride & Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language-words like thither, mischance, felicity... I'm always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together"[1] you will want to discuss these books as you read them.

To those of you literary snobs whose hackles are up at the mere thought that I would sully Austen's name by linking it with Meyer's, I have two things to say. First, please don't fall into the trap of thinking that just because something was written two hundred years ago it is inherently better than anything written today. Second, I never said that Twilight is as good, or historically important, or as enduring as Jane Austen's various fine works. I merely said there are some similarities.

Overall, from a literary perspective I think the books are well-written, have good character depth, show realistic understanding of people and relationships, draw various plotlines together nicely at the conclusion, and are enjoyable reads.

Conclusion of Part 1: As I just read what I had written in Part 1 I realized that it was a more glowing review than I thought I would give, but to be honest I came away from the books with pretty positive feelings, so that's probably fair. There is certainly a "however" lurking, and we will cover that tomorrow. Though I enjoyed the books, I do have some definite concerns-especially about kids/teens reading them. If you don't check out Part 2 tomorrow, you will definitely have an incomplete understanding of my take on Twilight. (How's that for a teaser...?)


[1] This quote from Meg Ryan's character Kathleen Kelly in You've Got Mail


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