Twilight’s Flawed Faith

Guest blogger John Mark Reynolds is a professor of philosophy at Biola University, the author of the new book “When … Continued

Guest blogger John Mark Reynolds is a professor of philosophy at Biola University, the author of the new book “When Athens Met Jerusalem,” and an On Faith panelist.

The popular Twilight series of books is God-soaked in the quiet American way that will keep it off the “for fun” summer reading list at Richard Dawkins’ summer camps for aspiring young secularists. The vampire hero believes in God. He longs to go to heaven, but fears he might go to hell. The morality portrayed is, with exceptions, conventionally Christian. It is no small tribute to say that author Stephanie Meyer reminds the reader that romance is fundamentally more thrilling than mere sex.

Sadly, however, the books contain a great and glaring flaw. The books (and now the movie) encourage the reader to get drunk on romantic love, which given the core audience, may be like preaching the joys of liquor to budding alcoholics.

More cynical souls dismiss Twilight as a potboiler, a Harlequin Romance for 21st Century tweens and their parents.

Though it improves from book to book, the level of writing and the sophistication of the mythology in Twilight is not worthy of Joss Whedon let alone Bram Stoker. A colleague of mine was driven to email ranting by Meyer’s use, and reuse, of the same adjectives.

Worst still, anybody who comes to Twilight by way of the hit movie has even greater reason for skepticism. It is to romantic films what Legally Blonde II was to courtroom dramas. G.K. Chesterton’s phrase for dime store novels fits: both the films and the books are “dreadful and vulgar.”

As Professor Paul Spears points out in his critique of the Harry Potter series, Chesterton was quite willing to defend the value of “dreadful and vulgar” novels. The vulgar has the benefit of being common and there is no shame in that. Chesterton believed the cheap novels of his day often reinforced vulgar or common morality, and helped stimulate a wholesome desire for heroes and heroic behavior. After all, sometimes dreadful and vulgar prose is the only sort that can grab our attention. Simple pleasures, such as the vulgar book, need not be guilty pleasures!

If one thinks about it in this way, these vulgar Twilight books are amazing!

To her infinite credit, Meyer has accomplished something many would have thought impossible. She has passed off an old-fashioned dime store novel (now sold for quite a few dimes) to a generation supposedly too “sophisticated” to appreciate the genre. Like the best “dreadful and vulgar” books, the Twilight series is fun, a ripping good story, and reinforces many traditional American values.

Twilight, like this blog post, will never be considered great literature, but it might spur an interest in better books. At best, Edward and Bella, the main couple in the book, are signposts pointing to the great romantic couples of literature, such as Heathcliff and Cathy, Romeo and Juliet — all referenced in the Twilight books. Though Meyer’s signs are written in very large, blocky letters, perhaps some will be encouraged to read the better books.

As a mythic alternative to the “real world,” Meyer points to the inadequacy of any view that forgets romance, poetry, and the metaphysical. Like Hamlet, Meyer uses common supernatural props, vampires and werewolves to remind young adults that there might be more in heaven and in earth than is dreamed of in their government school’s philosophy. The natural longing of young adults for something more than our consumer-driven culture is supported, even if her heroes always have all the money they need. Her novels affirm that the practical alternative may not always be the palatable, or bearable choice for humankind.

Twilight is infused with the hope of divine mercy: even a vampire may have a soul and escape damnation. The possibility of some final action bringing on eternal loss is taken seriously, but so too is a creation that is fundamentally full of grace. There is hope in Meyer’s book and that too makes this “dreadful and vulgar” book interesting and important to those who might never have been exposed to such ideas in a way that captured their imagination. Any child who grew up wishing that Narnia were real would be eager to hear there might be some basis for truth in the C.S. Lewis stories. So, too, any kid who wishes that supernatural creatures, both good and bad, exist will be less receptive to the siren call of secularism.

This is sad and cynical age and Meyer has written a very optimistic book. She gets away with it by a surface darkness, but you are right to assume that in her universe love will conquer all. Such optimism that there is hope is much needed.

Meyer’s stories are not literally true, but they contain some big metaphysical truths. There is good and there is evil. There are facts not available to mere science, and humans do have souls they can lose. Mercy and grace are available, and most important of all, love is the key to finding happiness.

Unfortunately, Meyer never shows the limits of romantic love. Anything, or almost anything, that gets in the way of Eros is discarded. Love is entirely disconnected from reason. Hunches replace thoughtfulness and critical thinking on the part of the characters is hard to find. Meyer should really read Plato’s Symposium to see the dangers of putting Eros in the place of Jehovah.

From the traditional Christian perspective, love is a great thing, but all human loves can be misused. Love of country can become jingoism, an extreme nationalism that can easily become tyrannical. Surely the same thing is true of romantic love! “My country right or wrong” is no more dangerous than “My lover right or wrong,” but Meyer never shows she recognizes the danger.

Whatever Meyer intended, my teacher friends report that students who are fans of Meyer see their favorite author as advocating this one passion over anything. From a Christian point of view, the problem with this is not romance, but the limits on it. If only we would all pursue the greatest possible love, the love of God, then all our lesser loves could fall into place.

God exists in Meyer, but He does not seem much like Dante’s God who moves the heavens and the stars by love. God shows up, but Jesus is no place to be found. I am not objecting to this on theological grounds, more on romantic ones. Christ doesn’t destroy the romance of a better book like Jane Eyre, He makes it tolerable to the rest of us and gives it hope of enduring by providing a reasonable framework for passion.

This is a shame, since if these books simply advocate another kind of selfishness and narrowness, then the books cease to advocate vulgar morality and become merely dreadful. Perhaps Meyer and the rest of us need to go back to our older fairy tales and learn the value of moderation in our human passions.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula is pretty useful in that regard.

John Mark Reynolds
Written by

  • Paganplace

    Yaknow. Sublimated sex turns to death-and-immortality obsessions. Tut, tut. No pun particularly intended, but isn’t it?Don’t say you weren’t told.

  • Paganplace

    Sorry, though, this is like the third or fourth *popular vampire fad* I’ve done my best to explain to you. Now it’s got glitter on it and is even more vapid and subject to things that are supposed to be about *life,* not ‘eternity, sin and undeath,’ but really no different from the others except for the corporate media managing to make it so *saccharine it’s nutra-sweet.*But you know everything, right, Mr. Reynolds?Bon appetit. This one’s *all yours.*

  • Athena4

    “Sadly, however, the books contain a great and glaring flaw.”Only one? 😀 Then again, you’re talking to the person who owns a t-shirt that says, “And then Buffy staked Edward. The end.”I’ve read the first two books. I found the wolf pack in New Moon to be MUCH more interesting than the vampires. I guess you’d put me in “Team Jacob”, if I really had to choose. My problems with the Twilight series (other than the Harlequin-romance-level writing) are:1) Sexism. Bella exists only to be “saved” by both Edward and Jacob. She’s entirely passive.2) Edward’s stalker-like behavior towards her. Ick. 3) In previous incarnations of the “vampire in love with human girl”, the monster wants to throw off his evil ways and become more human to earn the love of the human woman. Good examples are Angel and Spike in BTVS and Angel, Mick St. John in “Moonlight”, and Bill Compton in the Sookie Stackhouse series. In “Twilight”, Bella wants to become a monster so that she can live forever with her lover. 4) The Cullens are NOT vegetarians. They hunt, and consume animals. They just choose not to drink human blood. So did Angel, but he didn’t consider himself a “vegetarian”. 5) Don’t even get me started on the “sparkling” crap. “Moonlight” dealt with this the best – the vamps CAN go out in daylight, but prolonged exposure can cause serious burns. For once, we can agree on something. “Twilight” is no “Buffy” or “Angel”, and Stephanie Meyer isn’t fit to clean Joss Whedon’s stake, or serve TruBlood to Charlaine Harris.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Psolus,Well, no the arguments here do not apply directly to religious texts. Even if they are false, the books of the Bible were not written with the same literary intent as Twilight or in the same genre/s. That is a fact that has nothing to do with our particular points of view. Religious texts are not the same genre as fiction . . . even if they are wrong. To give an example: even a bad textbook is not in the genre “potboiler fiction.”Next: to compare even the more general literary merits of Twilight to the Koran is fairly absurd. I am not Muslim, but the Koran is a work of extreme beauty and great intellectual complexity. I don’t have to agree with a book to see that! Of course, not all religious books are good literature. As “American made” holy books the Book of Mormon (I am not one) is head and shoulders above anything produced by Hubbard.Scientology may be true . . . but I have yet to read a passage produced by the movement as moving as some portions of Moroni.It is possible to analyze a book as literature without commenting on the truth of the ideas. Of course, one can also do both as I tried to do with Twilight. You might think the Bible contains falsehoods, but surely you see the literary beauty of some of the Psalms? One can see literary merit without seeing literary truth. There is a good bit of truth in Twilight, but not much literary merit. I also tried to point out some error in the books. Still, over all the books are good fun on a plane!

  • PSolus

    johnmarkreynolds,”Even if they are false, the books of the Bible were not written with the same literary intent as Twilight or in the same genre/s.”You cannot know this. The books of the bible may well have been written by any number of people (most probably men), over any number of years (anywhere from over 5,000 years ago, to less than 2,000 years ago), for any number of reasons (some parts of it may have been intended to be pornography).”Religious texts are not the same genre as fiction . . .”Again, you do not know that. Just because some people have chosen see them as divine inspiration, does not mean that that was the intention of the authors.My choosing Moby Dick as my personal religious text does not change Melville’s reason for having written it–nor does it make him a god.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Athena,I agree with your points, mostly, though to be fair you should read the last two books where:1. Bella is less passive (though not as much as I would like)I am a big Buffy fan so obviously I have my bias. As to PaganPlace (a person who often writes helpful comments): I am sorry that you do not enjoy what I wrote. Twilight books were fun, but I thought them unbalanced toward romantic love . . . which the demographic does not need.Reason is good. Romance is good. The Brontes and Austin mostly keep the balance . . . but Meyer does not.Of course, I could not write a novel half as interesting as Meyer . . . potboilers are good, clean, fun . . . so my criticisms are (I hope) muted by the pleasure she gave to my family and to me.

  • PSolus

    The arguements in this article apply to all so-called “sacred texts”, talmud, bible, koran, book of morman, dianetics, etc.

  • dubya19391

    “because as people of faith know, the earth is flat and was created in 7 days”.whatever

  • dubya19391

    ..and the earth is the center of the Universe, and whatever else they knew back in 1492.Or 1506.Or 1672.Or you get the point.

  • dubya19391

    Not to mention that whole “Jesus Christ was the Son of God” thing.

  • samiles96

    ” At best, Edward and Bella, the main couple in the book, are signposts pointing to the great romantic couples of literature, such as Heathcliff and Cathy”Now I have a reason to never read these trite novels. If they make illusions to one of the most torturous novels in the history of English lit., Wuthering Heights, i will not touch them with a ten foot pole wearing a bio-hazard suit.

  • thobbs1

    Given the puerile, half-baked ideas found in this post, I shudder to imagine the quality of scholarship that must characterize your most recent book, sir. You are a shame to legitimately educated people everywhere.”Meyer should really read Plato’s Symposium to see the dangers of putting Eros in the place of Jehovah.” Indeed. And for you, I recommend Euthyphro.

  • dubya19391

    and that whole thing about Adam and Even and how she came from his rib, and how evolution is just a “theory” and how the earth is really 5,000 years old. Face it. People of “faith” believe what they were taught to believe, because they had faith in the people who taught them. Don’t be such a hypocrite to admit that without your parents and the church teaching you to be a Good Christian since almost the day that you were born, with the threat of hellfire and dammnation in the afterlife and getting your a** beat in the real life, you would actually belive someone who claimed to be the Son of God if he were standing before you today, even if he could somehow walk on water and heal the sick by laying his hands on them. You’d seriously believe that, if left to your own devices? You don’t know what you believe. All you know is what you’ve been taught.

  • dubya19391

    johnmarkreynolds,”Even if they are false, the books of the Bible were not written with the same literary intent as Twilight or in the same genre/s.”You cannot know this.Of course they can. Religious people, “people of faith”, know everything, 100%, dead certain. I mean, they have to know, they’ve been taught The Truth over and over again since they were little kids. They can’t be wrong after all that.

  • dubya19391

    …not to mention that God puts The Truth into their heads everytime they pray to Him or think of Him or his work, his words, whatever. It pops into their heads with 100% sureness. Not to mention the rest that they conclude from those Obvious Facts with pure logic and objective reasoning.

  • dubya19391

    …another thing that I love so much about “people with faith” is how they have so much faith in the Bible and what it says, that they quiver with happiness everytime some Biblical researcher finds “undisputable proof” that something in the Bible is true. If they really have that much faith in the Bible, why do they even care? How could they ever doubt it in the first place? I mean, it’s in the Bible, it *can’t* be wrong. It’s obvious that the remains of Noah’s Ark are out there somewhere…all these archealogical digs are just an exercise in confirming The Given. Why waste good time and money just to confirm the Word of God?

  • sarahabc

    It’s a romance novel for teens. What did you expect? Frankly, your kids could be reading worse.

  • Bud0

    Religious love is the least real kind of love. It’s driven entirely by fear of death, with a little bit of fear of hell thrown in. Any other lover who threatened the penalties that God supposedly does to those who fail to love him would be classified as abusive. Romantic love is entirely real, driven by millions of years of evolution, because without it there’d be no human species. The only kind of love that is more “real” than that is love of your children, which is driven by the same underlying motive. And unlike love of God, that motive is not superstitious, selfish fear.

  • TalkingHead1

    The last eight years of hatred, violence, and greed certainly showed America and the world what true love is not.

  • B2O2

    It’s the 21st freaking century. Why are hallucinating schizophrenics like this man still given space in public newspapers? Can’t someone get him back on his haloperidol so the man can stop suffering? He’s hearing voices and seeing stuff and looking for the similarly afflicted to share his delusions with. I hate to see them like this when the prescriptions run out and they can’t afford more. Maybe health care reform will help.

  • Fabrisse

    I am seriously disturbed by this post.Love exists without religion. Love exists without Christianity. Love exists.If a person believes in God, then yes, that must be the highest form of love. However, not everyone does believe in God, and, even many who do, see their romantic relationships as a reflection of God’s love.Stephenie Meyer is LDS. In many ways, especially her insistence that Bella is a free agent acting upon her own choices, she is embodying her faith through her writing.Do I think these are good books? Not particularly. I think they set bad examples in many ways, especially in Bella giving up her own desires (for better books, for a better education) in response to falling in love with Edward.That was what I’d hoped you’d meant by “limits of romantic love.”

  • OneWhoSpeaksTruth

    siren call of secularism??? what about the siren call of eternal life? You’ve got it backwards

  • SlideRule

    Well, as a vampire myself who has lived over 2000 years, I have a rather unique perspective on the series. First, vampires are not really “magical” creatures. I have no magical powers or abilities. I have met very, very few other vampires. Truth is, we don’t last very long. Most people can’t handle becomming a vampire and those that do can’t adjust to the changing World around them. Anne Rice’s novels captures this very well but little else. Yes, we can fall in love but love for a vampire is one of the things that drive so many mad. We can’t have sex, well we can physically but our malady qualifies as an STD today. For the most part, any fluid transfer from a vampire is fatal. Only a very, very few survive to become a vampire. (Technically, we are carriers of the pathogen.) So in a very real sense, romatic love is all we have. For us, to truly love someone means never kissing.As for a soul. I don’t know what to say. I was a Vampire long before Rome embraced Christ. Back then everyone knew they were a spiritual being. No one “had” a soul as people think today. What a silly concept. You ARE the soul, the sould is YOU – ALL of the you that is you. Somewhere that message was lost. Maybe that is way so many people need the romance in these stories. There will me more vampire stories to come. As a whole, I like these. I wish I was this type of vampire. I would like to live in the daylight and kiss again. – and with these stories, I get to do that again and I smile and don’t feel so alone. Oh to be young, human and mortal again.

  • jpf2

    “The popular Twilight series of books is God-soaked in the quiet American way that will keep it off the “for fun” summer reading list at Richard Dawkins’ summer camps for aspiring young secularists.”So, will Twilight be on the “for fun” summer reading list of the thousands of Vacation Bible Schools, Jesus Camps, and other similar indoctrinating venues for aspiring young dominionists?That whole mote in your brother’s eye vs. the beam in your own thing doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact on Christians.(BTW, Dawkins only donated the equivalent of about $1000 to Camp Quest, an American organization he has nothing to do with other than that middling donation. But don’t let that get in the way of your smug mote mockery.)

  • scigeek

    there are a lot of religious themes in the book, some of which have been mentioned in this article.i think it’s great that these books (many of which are more than 500 pages) have gotten young women and older women excited about reading to the point of which they want to discuss and debate the plot, themes, and characters. as opposed to harry potter which inspires kids to debate which magic spell is cooler.

  • dubya19391

    “How would any of you feel if I said that because you didn’t believe in Christianity, you were all unlearned, moronic idiots??? Would you like that? No??? I didn’t think you would. Why don’t you try stepping DOWN off your high horses before you fall off.”I didn’t know that “whether I liked it” or not was the issue.But then hypocrisy is well-known as one of the salient characteristics of The Faithful.

  • dubya19391

    …anyway folks just goes to show the stupidity of trying to have a rational argument with a “believer”.He’s obviously just preaching to the choir. Things have reached the point here at the WP where they simply have to bring in authors to reach certain segments of a desired audience. If you’re not a member of that audience you shouldn’t expect to agree with what they write. That’s ok. The point is merely to broaden their readership.

  • bobmoses

    Nice to see the knee-jerk, hateful reaction of the Christian-haters who live to demonstrate their utter intolerance and hypocrisy on this blog.Here is a clue: “tolerance” does not mean tolerating views that you share, it means tolerating views that you don’t share. Somehow, the angry hypocrites on this blog seem to have avoided learning that.

  • ccnl1

    Mr. Reynolds noted:”I am not Muslim, but the Koran is a work of extreme beauty and great intellectual complexity.”It is??The reality of Islam and its operating manual, the koran, one of the worst books ever written by “men” for “boys”. (only for those eyes that have not seen) Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” aka pretty wingie thingies and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers. This agenda continues as shown by the massacre in Mumbai, the assassinations of Bhutto and Theo Van Gogh, the conduct of the seven Muslim doctors in the UK, the 9/11 terrorists, the 24/7 Sunni suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the 24/7 Shiite suicide/roadside/market/mosque bombers, the Islamic bombers of the trains in the UK and Spain, the Bali crazies, the Kenya crazies, the Pakistani “koranics”, the Palestine suicide bombers/rocketeers, the Lebanese nutcases, the Taliban nut jobs, and the Filipino “koranics”.Current crises:The Sunni-Shiite blood feud and the warmongering, womanizing (11 wives), hallucinating founder.

  • naqueh2

    Ok… first of all, I really don’t understand why it is that “people of faith” constantly have to be attacked by those that don’t believe as they do. I have seen other “people of faith” that are not Christians that believe in their gods as hard if not harder than a lot of Christians. Why is it that these are not attacked as well? I just think that those of you who feel the need to attack Christianity feel the sting of it in your own lives. So in order to feel better, you have to talk down about it or trash it. If you don’t believe what Christians believe, then don’t. That doesn’t give you the right to mock them or their beliefs. How would any of you feel if I said that because you didn’t believe in Christianity, you were all unlearned, moronic idiots??? Would you like that? No??? I didn’t think you would. Why don’t you try stepping DOWN off your high horses before you fall off.God bless you all.

  • mbwooten

    The argument that passionate or amore love is not “real” love has always been a claim of the cultural conservatives. By this measure, “Romeo and Juliet” would have been a vile and selfish portrayal of narrowness and selfishness. But the accusation misses the lesson of Romeo and Juliet, that acceptance of our desires combined with good judgment is necessary to bring about a healthy society, and that the repression and denial of desireful love, for the purpose of sustaining a role or position, is an untenable situation for the human spirit. Stories of finding something as ideal as a relationship of love AND passion is, of course, offensive to those that have settled on marriages in which they have never felt passion. Such an insult necessitates lashing out and saying that passion and love are not only incompatible, but that even an attempt at attaining both is abominable. Naysayers of passion often tout some sort of higher moral virtue to their relationships, but if you just turn on the news you’ll see that conservatives are still cheating on their wives, they cry and wail a little more about how “sinful” they are once they get caught. This idea that we should expunge the dream of passion in our love lives is the source of the anxiety and negativity that deforms it and keeps it from happening. This repression ill serves us, and we can see that all those that want to tout the moral virtue of their passionless marriages cheat on their wives and then lament the temptations of the world as if they were never responsible for being true to themselves and following their bliss to begin with.

  • mcls1442

    For someone who laments a sad and cynical age (as if George W. Bush’s constant lying didn’t make us all more cynical), I never see anything in these faith columns that’s joyful and uplifting. All people like John Reynolds do is cry about how horrible society is and how nothing is perfect (except people as uptight as he is). There’s the constant attacks on secularization. There’s the pointing to the flaws of passion. There’s the ode to moderation and so on. That’s all good and well (and I’m not against most forms of moderation though I am pro-secularization), but there’s no pointing out the flaws of excesses in religion. The uptight, proud, morally inflexible, rules-Nazi that ends up miserable and intolerant of anything other than his own way. The person that is so self-righteous that everything fun must be sinful. The type that believes that science must be evil if it contradicts a two thousand-year-old book made by men. The person who has no nuanced view of euthanasia of hopeless, terminally ill patients or tolerance of gays who (scientifically speaking) were probably born that way. All that goes by the wayside when you’re interpreting a two thousand-year-old book riddled full of hundreds of contradictions. The fact that the Bible has so many contradictions in it, inevitably leads to people like Reynolds interpreting it in their own manner, anyway (which, ironically enough, is the very thing he rages against…as if his own interpretation is the only one that is correct). You know, this book is just a book–nothing more. I don’t think the writer intends to teach your specific worldview, Reynolds. You note all the good lessons, anyway, and then criticize the one flaw (lack of moderation) that you find. It’s as if you’re angry that anyone could find a popular series to be inspirational. You must believe that if it’s a part of pop-culture, then it must be secretly subversive and wrong (in some way). But in the end, not everyone is interested in constantly moralizing and finding unimportant flaws (it’s not like this involves 47 million people getting health care) in everyone else. After all, it’s just a fantasy novel…sort of like the Bible. The difference is, this one doesn’t contain stories of mass murder, rape, pillaging, and all the other stuff that God sanctions when it’s done according to his discretion. Maybe, we should talk about those excesses….Sincerely,Michael D’Onofrio

  • qqbDEyZW

    I just saw the movie Twilight and it was cute. I’m a fan of the Harry Potter series of books. I love God and He loves me and I’m intelligent enough to know real from fake. Now what worries me is when I hear people of Faith and those from the Church protest movies like Twilight/Harry Potter while I see Priest committing so much sin at the same time. Do as I say do not as I do, comes to mine. Jesus enjoyed the wedding party with friends he didn’t say I don’t do Parties. I read about a Priest to preached against gays while having a gay affair. I heard a Priest call President Obama a sinner because he believes in Woman’s Rights, then the same Priest praised President Bush’s torture/rape on innocent men/woman/children held by the US. We wonder who is speaking God’s word and who’s just using God as a front for Satan’s work.

  • bselig

    looks like someone is working on an article for the forthcoming “The Philosophy of Twilight” volume.

  • menopausequeen

    Funny how two people can read the same book and come away with totally different ideas.

  • dubya19391

    “Here is a clue: “tolerance” does not mean tolerating views that you share, it means tolerating views that you don’t share. Somehow, the angry hypocrites on this blog seem to have avoided learning that.”…and with one fell swoop you have established in open air the honest fact that religious people are hypocrites. This entire article is hypocritical by that logic, as it dismisses the concept of romantic love as true love.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Thanks for the comments . . . they always help me learn more about the world and what some people are thinking!A couple of thoughts:1. One does not need to know the intent of the author to fix genre. There are two reasons for this. First, we have the books and can examine them against categories. Second, it would be remarkable if a book like one of the books of the Bible were a genre (romantic novel) not created until centuries after it was written. 2. I am not opposed to romantic love. I am opposed to romantic love that consumes everything else (like extreme forms of patriotism). The love of God helps bring order to all the other loves . . . though it too can be done without moderation or inappropriately. I am opposed to putting love over against reason. They should go together.3. Christians should not be “certain” of their faith . . . or it would not be faith! I am a big fan of uncertainty (Plato calls it “wonder.”) It certainly is the case that many religious folk would benefit by reading the Euthyphro if they are making the mistake exposed in it, just as some secularists (though by no means all!) would benefit by reading Laws X.4. Finally, Christian love is not motivated (or should not be) by fear of anything. Perfect love after all casts out all fear . . . as the Bible says. Hurrah for all earthly loves . . . in moderation!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Just noticed “a couple of thoughts” turned into four! Thanks for getting me thinking . . . isn’t it great that the Post exposes all of us to so many different points of view?

  • bbcrock

    This has got to be the singularly dumbest and most juvenile article I’ve seen in this section yet. The author reaches for some grand theme but exposes himself as a junior-high level thinker in this confused, muddled, and factually incorrect blog posting. I feel absolute sorrow for him and his professors if he thinks he’s:In fact, this piece has none of the above. It has no place in the Post and is best left for someone’s personal blog. The intellectual analysis is literally absolutely nothing that my 14 yr old niece hasn’t said before. Congratulations author, you have the mentality of a 14 year old high school student, way to go!

  • johnmarkreynolds

    In rereading the comments, I wanted to make clear that I think romantic love and passion a great good, reread the column! Like many other loves (including the religious love), it can be misused. No love should ever be divorced from reason.

  • mccaules

    We’re arguing about whether some made up supernatural god would approve of a vampire movie? I just don’t understand how people can’t look at all this as being a bit silly. Did we not learn anything from the religions of the Greeks, Romans and countless others before us, all of which we now collectively refer to as mythology? Maybe they all believed sincerely in their gods, but thousands of years later we now have the tools to more effectively address the mysteries they explained. Too bad we won’t be here in a few more thousand to see the same thing happen to the christians. In the meantime, can your god at least focus on more substantive issues than vampire movies?

  • B2O2

    CCNL1 spit out:”Mohammed was an illiterate, womanizing, lust and greed-driven, warmongering, hallucinating Arab, who also had embellishing/hallucinating/plagiarizing scribal biographers who not only added “angels” aka pretty wingie thingies and flying chariots to the koran but also a militaristic agenda to support the plundering and looting of the lands of non-believers.”You’ve pretty much nailed the authors of the Christian Bible as well. So… your point would be?naqueh2 wrote:”How would any of you feel if I said that because you didn’t believe in Christianity, you were all unlearned, moronic idiots???”Given that most atheists/agnostics *are* fairly educated and learned, and we put our stock in science and reason, we’re not too sensitive about having names like those thrown our way. (In other words, they don’t hurt because they don’t apply very well and therefore do not “stick”.) The fact that my remarks struck a nerve in you might – though likely won’t because you can’t go there yet – make you wonder why a little. Am I off base here? If I am, it would not bother you, and you would simply feel sorry for me for being deluded. Yet, that is not really what is going on inside you, is it?BUD0:”Any other lover who threatened the penalties that God supposedly does to those who fail to love him would be classified as abusive.”I just wanted to repost that quote to give it its due. Reading the Bible objectively, a psychologist would invariably diagnose the Christian “God” as an anger-management-challenged arrested child with severe, pervasive control issues and no small degree of lingering infantile narcissism. No wonder developmentally immature Christians relate to “Him” so well. Similar people to them back in the Bronze Age created “Him” in their own dysfunctional images. So, there is flattering resonance there.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Mccaules,I am sympathetic to the notion that the Twilight books are not worth analysis. However, I think that given the number who do read them . . . thinking about the ideas in them makes some sense in something as ephemeral as a blog post! They will, after all, have some impact.I also enjoyed the books . . . they were fun. My piece had nothing to do with whether the Almighty would approve of them (per se), but what ideas motivate them. It would be interesting to know what “tools” could address “mysteries.” Do we now have an “ought from is” tool? I would love to buy one. Metaphysical questions remain . . . and religious answers to them continue to grow in complexity as we learn. Read Al Plantinga if you once something serious. I doubt that serious Christianity is in any danger of extinction . . . Last post by me on this thread . . . as I am heading for a much needed rest!

  • djah

    I quote from this posting___”… a mythic alternative to the “real world,” …. Like Hamlet, Meyer uses common supernatural props… to remind young adults that there might be more in heaven and in earth than is dreamed of in their government school’s philosophy. “And note that the same statements could be made about the Bible.

  • Athena4

    “How would any of you feel if I said that because you didn’t believe in Christianity, you were all unlearned, moronic idiots???”No, I’d double-check your handle to see if you were really Spidermean.

  • johnmarkreynolds

    Edit: Read Al Plantinga if you want something serious. Pardon the typographical errors. My vision is not so great and these comment boxes tax my limitations!

  • B2O2

    Meant to add that the easy identification certain developmentally arrested people are able to manage toward this emotionally-damaged Jehovah creature (due to “his” similarity to themselves) allows them to feel positively toward “him”, making worship and obedience possible. No reasonably well-adjusted individual with a healthy self-image would follow – or even give the time of day to – a short-tempered narcissistic control freak such as this Jehovah case described in the Christian artifact.

  • hrndnwmn

    The thing I found creepy about the Twilight book – and I only read the first one — is that Edward is treated as if he is 17, but he was born in 1918. So he is NOT 17 – he’s an old man in a young body lusting after a teenager. He SHOULD worry about his salvation. Eeeeewwwww . . .

  • coloradodog

    “Perhaps Meyer and the rest of us need to go back to our older fairy tales…”_______________________Good idea, Reynolds, you can start with the Old Testament.

  • dyliepie

    Christianity has been using the blood-soaked half naked image of Jesus to sell itself from the beginning. Obviously Christians never took to heart “Plato’s Symposium to see the dangers of putting Eros in the place of Jehovah.” The vulgarity has been there from the beginning and it has served Christianity very well.

  • sparkthatbled

    There is something more powerful than sex or religion. It’s Understanding.

  • coloradodog

    “As people of faith know, romantic love is not true love.””People of faith” as opposed to “people of no faith”?Reynolds, like his intolerant evangelical counterpart Jim Daly (the kinder, gentler Dobson) arrogantly and condescendingly like to refer to themselves and their own as “people of faith” while implying that others have none.I have faith that, through time, education and the eventual extinction of bible thumping homophobic dinosaurs like Reynolds and Daly, the love of Jesus Christ will be the main theme and teaching of “Christians” and their churches instead of politically motivated wedge issues of gays and abortion. This makes me no less “a person of faith” than your hateful ilk.

  • dubya19391

    “Last post by me on this thread . . . as I am heading for a much needed rest! “Indeed, as such insipid navel-gazing must task even the most rigid-headed thinker. Your article was nothing more than an exercise at button-pushing with the intent of tweaking the noses of as many non-fundamentalists as possible. But then you know we all love it when you Christians tell us what to think and why.

  • LaurelYves

    I haven’t read the Twilight series, so I know next to nothing about it. I just wanted to mention that I respect the fact that you’re reading “vulgar” fiction and giving it a fair analysis. I also appreciate that you do respond to the commenters. I do often disagree with you (your previous posts), but I gotta respect a man who likes “Jane Eyre”. That is my all-time favorite novel. I first read it at a time that it really spoke to me. I have seldom read a book more than once, but I have read that book four times.If you liked that book, I would recommend “Kristin Lavransdatter” by Sigrid Undset, “The Brothers Karamozov” by Dostoyevsky, and “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo.

  • PSolus

    “God bless you all.”And may the Flying Spaghetti Monster sprinkle you with Parmigiano-Reggiano (the good stuff–not the cheap American stuff).

  • crlchild

    Money (sorry – religion), is the root of all evil.

  • Lizka

    “…the siren call of secularism.” I have never heard secularism compared to a siren’s call. As a pro-seculartism humanist and it gave me a good hearty chuckle, so I guess I can’t say that this entire post was good-for-nothing. The rest of the content, though had nothing unique to present.

  • bpai_99

    Question: if you are confronted by a Muslim vampire, would you have to use a copy of the Koran to fight him off? Would a crucifix have any effect at all? Please advise.

  • lepidopteryx

    Did anyone really pick up a copy of “Twilight” believing it to be a theological treatise?

  • cloakedknight

    So I suppose that instead we should read the Bible? It is a book loaded with more cruelty and perversion than any pulp novel, and it teaches what the writer consider must consider real love: God: ‘You must suffer all the cruelties and hardships of the world I created and left you in, but at the same time, you must worship me and have absolute faith in me or burn in hell for all eternity. Oh, and by the way, if you are faithful, I might kill your children just to test your faith, because me and the Devil had a bet going.’ That’s true love? More like the obsessive insecurity of a maniacal tyrant.No thanks. Jesus was a nice guy on the other hand. Too bad he is falsely maligned by being rewritten as the Son of God by men with hidden agendas.

  • pondadill

    I have to disagree with Mr. Reynolds. Christian love is not missing in Twilight. Look no farther than the acceptance by the “good” vampires of humans (read: brotherly love) as contrasted with the humans-are-cattle attitude of the “bad” vampires. In any case, shouldn’t we be working toward a post-bible philosophy anyway? Come on folks, there’s no God and Christianity was a religion crafted for maximum appeal to oppressed citizens of the Roman Empire 2000 years ago. Let’s move on.

  • Sam888

    This book appeals to high school girls because it’s about a guy who’s dangerous and safe at the same time. He’d do anything for her, and yet expects no scary sex in return. He’s like Daddy, only hot. I’d love to see what Freud would have said.

  • joebanks

    Couldn’t find an editor able to make this about two-thirds shorter? Jeez, you’re in love with the sound of your own voice.

  • JD14

    It’s a little unfair to critique Meyer’s work in this regard. It’s like complaining about the nutritional value of candy.

  • GrainofSalt1

    I will state from the beginning that I have not read any of the Twilight books, although I have read a lot about them. I have been delighted to see teenagers reading anything instead of being eternally hooked up to various entertainment and communication devices–even better, reading a book that has decent moral underpinnings. My beef with this column, though, is this: what in the world is so wrong with glorifying romantic love? We live in an increasingly coarse culture, in which sex with virtual strangers and immodesty are both glorified and commonplace, while traditional love, romance, modesty, purity, and marriage are scorned as old-fashioned and unrealistic. Statistics on depression recently came out that suggest that a large percentage of the American population is treated for depression–and many more cases are under the radar because they are undiagnosed and untreated. I firmly believe that much of this has to do with the difficulty, darkness, and coarseness of our current culture. People feel as though they have no hope, no dreams. Instant gratification means that people have nothing to aspire to or hope for or dream about. In this world of “realism” and graphic sex and violence in movies and media, we have lost sight of the elements of escape and beauty that have always been a part of great literature and entertainment. (No, Twilight should not be considered “great” or “classic,” but it does retain the elements of beauty and aspiration that we often lack in our society.) So-called experts like to assert that romantic love is unrealistic and unsustainable, but perhaps that sentiment has helped fuel the burgeoning divorce rate in this nation. If we go into marriage with a defeatist attitude (i.e., romantic love will die), then the failure to sustain romantic love becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If more people tried to incorporate romance into their marriages and relationships, then, I am guessing, a lot of people would be happier and a lot of marriages would last longer and be more dynamic. True, romantic love requires effort and cannot be the only element of a marriage, but it has to play a large role in a happy marriage and should not be underestimated or scoffed at. The assertion that we do not “need” romance in our lives, that we are too sophisticated, intellectual, or enlightened, is just unrealistic and will lead to disillusionment with life, which already is difficult enough–and even more so without a little romance.

  • sokumina

    I find this critique a little odd. Obviously someone did not read the rest of the series. Edward and Bella’s love matures and eventually shows the limits of romantic love but then goes beyond that. It shows the evolving nature of love to the natural course of family. Something that Christians should be happy about.

  • brattygirl101

    i think this is silly that nobody really understands what twilight is all about. no it really doesn’t have to do with god it is really actually supposed to be about romance not some guy that we can not ever see unless we are dead. but there is the problem how do we know that this god is even out there. maybe one day this guy made up a story to tell to his children. and that our imaginations are just running away at the thought that maybe nowadays we believe in things that our parents tell us. personsally me and my mother are atheists. but im not here to diss on god i’m here to tell you that this whole thing of misunderstanding twilight needs to stop. give it a rest. nobody knows what goes through teenage minds let us believe in what we want. if i want to believe that a vampire love story is real then i’m going to believe in it no matter what any of you think. and maybe if you read the books then you will understand that stephanie meyer is not dissing god she is just trying to write a book about love and that it doesnt matter who or what kind of person you are that if you fall in you fall in love to fall in love and not to fall in love because god tells you that you have to.

  • Enlightened_Independence

    Mr Reynolds, you make some persuasive points regarding Twilight. I’ve never read the books personally and am glad you avoided the easy praise (the anti-premarital issue expressed in the books). To be fair though, you use the lense of a literary critique to discuss the theological critique that you intended. However, this confused the issue it seems as the discussion has flown into all directions of the aether.I also appreciated the fact that you responded to some of the earliest comments. Bloggers rarely have that kind of courage.I would love to hear your notes on my own argument regarding secularism: Secularism is a movement designed to preserve the barrier that keeps the good of religion and the good of government from combining to form bad policy. I fear that you, like many other of our brothers in Christendom are confusing secularism with more ignorant militant-atheism. The irony is that it seems atheists are supremely devout: to deny something so vigorously represents a fear of it, and since atheists deny the existence of God they must have incredible fear of God, ipso facto they make for incredibly true believers. Facing volatile disbelief with volatile belief is meaningless. Turning the other cheek whilst putting one’s own house in order is meaningful. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that appears to have been your point.

  • jdoyle1

    This article should be titled ‘Reynolds Flawed Assumptions’ or better yet ‘Another Arrogant Christian Blinded By Faith Immune to the Realities of Life’

  • Dermitt

    A little drunken romance never hurts. Besides if you are drunk, you won’t feel a thing. The good life is still good life. Don’t drink and drive yourselves crazy. Beer and gasoline don’t mix.

  • norriehoyt

    HISTORICAL LANGUAGE NOTE:Books like these were once called “Penny Dreadfuls.” (wonderful phrase!)I’m old enough (70s) to recall my grandother, a librarian, using the phrase.Wikipedia has an interesting article about that phrase and the books it applied to.Here’s a brief excerpt:”Penny Dreadful (also called penny number and penny blood[1]) was a term applied to nineteenth century British fiction publications, usually lurid serial stories appearing in parts over a number of weeks, each part costing a penny. The term, however, soon came to encompass a variety of publications that featured cheap sensational fiction, such as story papers and booklet “libraries.” The Penny Dreadfuls were printed on cheap pulp paper and were aimed primarily at working class adolescents.[2]”

  • foohog

    It’s a book of fiction.Why are you trying to judge it as though it claims to be about the real world, or the world of God?Fiction. Not real.duh