10:08 AM – Another Final Exam. Coffee. Entertainment Weekly. Grading. Phone calculator. Light in sight.
“We all know we’re going to die; what’s most important is the kind of men and women we are in the face of this.” – Anne Lamott
The wife and I sat around the dining room table with bottles of hard apple cider, a block of raspberry flavored cheese, and our two new friends Ben and Ashley. We all four had pens and paper, scribbling and pausing and sipping our ciders, my pug-dog snoring nearby without a care. As we laid down our pens, refreshing empty bottles with new ones, we each took turns reading our notes. Our resolutions. It was after midnight. The new year had already begun – however, not a single one of us had made a goal of renewed punctuality.
That night before my wife and Ben and Ben’s wife and a sleeping Chicken Dinner, I declared a 2013 goal to compose and publish an essay exploring the Christian relationship to the horror-genre of art, or – more specifically – the value of such art to those claiming to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (These posts serve as brainstorming and rough drafting for that essay.) I made this goal because I am so often asked to defend or reconcile my interests in horror film and literature and even music with my christian faith. And I am asked to voice this reconciliation or the value of horror because, for some reason, many christian people do not readily see what I consider obvious connections between christianity and horror.
Also, if I’m honest, I find it an odd request to reconcile my “christian faith” with my love for horror because I am never asked to reconcile my faith with my love of stand-up comedy or Saturday Night Live or princess pop music or heavy metal or John Hughes films. Either those connections are more obvious or they are seemingly less titillating. I’m not sure. It just seems that if one art-form demands the exploration then, objectively speaking, all art forms demand similar exegesis.
— Wait. I take it back. I was asked once how as a believer I could stomach Sarah Silverman’s brand of shockingly crude humor. All I could say was that she’s very funny and usually right. I couldn’t fathom there being anything else to say. —
And if I were honest still, I would admit here that the following conversation seems a bit bogus to me. Why does such a connection even matter? Why spend the energy defending a genre of art when time and energy and words could be better spent elsewhere? The answer for me is simple : I hate shallow, lazy thinking void of curiosity and humility. A voice that devalues an entire genre of art without personal exploration or consideration that truth and beauty may exist in unobvious places – as our parents and their parents did with rock-n-roll music – has chosen ignorance, illiteracy, and spiritual stupidity. And because I would rather not see the proliferation of such narrow-minded thinking in my sphere of influence, I will gladly engage the debate. Not to mention, analysis and evaluation of any art form makes us stronger, better, more insightful readers in all directions. And I’m geeky enough to desire such skill.
Horror, at its definitional core and characteristic tenets, brings to the table a unique (body) bag of value questions. All the death. All the gore. All the monsters. All the language and sexuality and ill intent. All the possible forms of possession – both spiritual and emotional, but also (with the use of ropes or chains) physical. All such mayhem opens the question of why and for what value.
For one thing, horror begs a question of who is entertained by such nonsense and filth, and, ultimately, what is wrong with that person for being so entertained. But that question is so bane and invisible it does not merit asking. We might as well ask a child obsessed with trucks why not boats or salamanders. I’ve never been taken to task over my love for coffee or black licorice or sour candy, so why suddenly my giddiness at a good kill scene? God forbid a comedian be asked why a certain joke is funny. Somethings just don’t withstand or even deserve analysis.
But horror, as a genre, does beg the better, more interesting question of why we should even tell such unpleasant stories in the first place. Shouldn’t life be a continuum of various beauties? Wouldn’t the brevity of our existence be better spent finding and sharing and creating pleasantries rather than woes?
And the answer to that is two fold.