But the concerns aren’t limited to the books’ focus on vampires and werewolves, which in Meyer’s books protect humans from the vampires. For many observers, Bella’s relationship with Edward is equally problematic.
“Bella ... is willing to erase herself, give up all her plans, her hopes, her dreams,” says Beth Felker Jones, an assistant professor of theology at Wheaton College who examines Twilight’s themes in Touched by a Vampire. “She becomes only about her love and not about anything else in her life, and I think that’s not such a great image of what love ought to be with us or for us.”
She says the books’ abstinence message is also a mixed bag. “Yes, the characters wait until they’re married, but ... at the end of the day, [the books] are still very erotically charged,” Jones says. “They’re still about wanting in really deep ways, and that’s tied to danger because he’s a vampire. There’s more to think about than just to say: ‘Oh look, these folks wait. Isn’t it great to finally have some book in which this happens.’”
Few have criticized Twilight for promoting Mormonism, but some do see its theology laced within the pages. Wohlberg says Mormons believe it was good for Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, which Edward represents, because that was the path to godhood, overcoming evil and spiritual growth.
Jones says Edward and his vampire family’s efforts to be good and resist their dark instincts to drink human blood also indicate a works-based approach to salvation.
“There’s even explicit dialogue about surely God will reward us for trying,” she says. “She’s not trying to lay out a plan of salvation there, but I think it’s part of a Mormon worldview [that] we’re saved by works instead of grace.”
Movie reviewer Steven Isaac of Focus on the Family’s Plugged In thinks Christians should be careful with Twilight.
Throughout the books, Bella is seeking to escape her circumstances and find greater fulfillment in death. “For a lot of people, it boils down to this idea of not being content with where they are,” Isaac says. “And that theme, which is so antithetical to what Scripture teaches us, is probably what troubles me the most about all the Twilight stuff.”
Jim Chase, pastor of Forks Assembly of God (AG) in Forks, Wash., says Twilight isn’t so bad. He says the movies aren’t the best vampire films ever made, but in Forks, where the series is set, the series has helped boost the local economy, as tourists come to visit the sites mentioned in the books.
Unlike with the Harry Potter series, which made the children at his church want to wear crystals and cast spells, Chase says he hasn’t seen a rise in interest in the occult or vampirism in the town of 3,200. Instead the “Twilighters” have become an unexpected mission field.
“Instead of us going into a foreign mission field, God is bringing people here,” Chase says. “We show them Christ by our actions, we show them Christ by our attitude. ... Everybody does their best to share.”
Forks AG member Merle Watson is one of those sudden missionaries. Since tourists started checking into the Forks hotel where he works, the 80-year-old grandfather says he’s been able to tell hundreds of people about what he calls the ultimate love story.
“I know I’m getting shot down by some people who say I’m making evil good because vampires and werewolves, they’re evil,” Watson says. “But the people that are coming in here are searching for love. I think if the churches are not meeting this need, we’re failing. We’re falling short. It’s just love they’re looking for.”
Adrienne S. Gaines is former news editor for Charisma magazine.
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