Updated: Mar 15, 2021
James 1:14-15, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
A Christian’s life is filled with happiness and unshakeable hope through our salvation in Jesus Christ. With His payment of our sin debt, there are no uncertainties that our future is secured for an eternity with Him in His country. So it stands to reason why we seldom like to focus on horror entertainment. Now, there are different thresholds for how much ‘scary’ a person can handle. Me and my family enjoy a good thriller occasionally, while one of my grandmothers won’t get near the stuff. Either reaction is fine. It’s important to listen to how the Holy Spirit convicts you on whether indulging in suspense stories is harmful to your spiritual walk or not. Still, whenever Halloween time comes around, I often find myself thinking deeply about horror stories and what a troubling yet fascinating genre it is.
Now, when I consider horror, I’m not talking about slasher films where it puts all its money and effort into glorifying the ugliest, hellish, and cruelest manners of death and torture as possible. They wrap gore up in a package and deliver it to masses like something to be mindlessly consumed as ‘fun entertainment’. It’s honestly no better than the Romans maiming, mauling, and dismembering prisoners and Christians as a spectator’s sport. No. I’m talking about horror that focuses on the things that are truly terrifying. . . Not gross. . . Terrifying. The difference being that there are scary realities besides blood baths that are worth being afraid of. Because you know what I really respect about the horror genre? It’s its willingness to expose the very things we actively deny and bury about ourselves and the broken world we live in. It looks us squarely in the face, reminds us of evil and says, ‘It’s real and should be acknowledged.’ For what this genre lacks in hopeful cheerfulness, I believe a well written horror makes up for in much needed sincerity.
Let’s consider a few famous and popular examples. Mary Shelley’s novel, Dr. Frankenstein, showcases the pitfalls and consequences of pursuing progress without good morals. Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson, while today is often misunderstood as a tale of split personalities, is really more about the instinctive wickedness we’re all capable of if we were all stripped of our social inhibitions. In movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho we’re reminded how fallible the human mind is and how guilt alone can warp it into something twisted. Even videogames have pulled off many a poignant yet uncomfortable tale. Tarsier Studio‘s Little Nightmares comes to mind for me. I haven’t played it myself. However, as I watched others experience it online, its chilling and disquieting tale left an unpleasant yet significant impression on me. We indeed should all take care not to become just like or worse than the monsters we fight.
On and on the pattern of a good horror goes. And you know something? After the jump-scares are done; long after our paranoia dissipates; after ‘The End’, few horror stories don’t leave a lasting impression. We can’t but help dwell on their darker themes once in a while. Some people might see that as a negative thing. I can understand their position, and clearly, not all horror stories are created equal. However, I do think the best horrors offers something invaluable. Something we shouldn’t ignore. For no matter the particular subject, they all bring to light the truest and most terrifying menace to the human race: our sin nature.
God knew the length and breadth of our depravity well. As soon as Adam and Eve rebelled against Him, our heart’s every intension is bent to evil and selfishness. God spoke point blank of this spiritual illness rooted deep in our core (Jeremiah 17:9). The whole world would be utterly consumed by it right now if He weren’t actively and mercifully restraining its reach - even among our unbelieving neighbors (Romans 2:14-15). If He did not make everyone intrinsically aware that morals exist, even if they never heard of Him or not, we’d eat each other alive. We were purposely made with an innate knowledge of Him and His goodness (Romans 1:19-20), and for most people past and present it has kept their sin’s fullest potential at bay. The trouble is, when confronted by it, we naturally don’t like to hear it.
Most of us believe we’re inherently good. That the worst criminals and wack-jobs in our society are products of birth defects and bad environments. We tend to think it’s the stuff surrounding them that’s really at fault, and we take credit for the good God secretly prompts us to do (James 1:17; Romans 7:18) as proof that mankind is basically good. However, that’s a fantasy. We can self-deny it all we like, but just like the murderer in Edgar Allen Poe’s The Tell-tale Heart, most of us can’t silence the cries of our guilt, because in our heart of hearts we know we love sin. Oh, we can dull guilt’s edge. Some of the vilest people I ever heard of had ignored it so completely, that guilt was their first murder before they ever laid hands on their victim, but no matter if any of us feels guilty or not, the fact still remains . . . we are weak. . . and we are guilty (Romans 3:23). Evil like that in horrors is ever present, and it lives at its strongest in all of us.
This is of course a superbly dark message. It frightens and causes depression. Of course, that is to be expected. Dwelling on horrors like that will do that to you, but like I said. Sometimes a little scare and a little sadness is a good thing. Not that we should live our lives scared and miserable forever. Absolutely not. But sometimes, in order to seek something that is truly good and truly right, we must first bravely and humbly face and acknowledge what’s truly wrong - no matter how much it petrifies us.
In darkness . . . we light a match. In the ocean depths . . . we come up for air. In the face of our sin . . . we have no choice but to hold fast to the goodness, the grace, the strength, and the power needed to defeat it that can only come from God alone. The Father, the Spirit, and the Son is our sole hope and future. A way was made to defeat sin the parasite through Christ, who paid the blood price for us Himself. He gives this restitution freely. Not to those who simply want to save their skins. But to those who seek a sincere relationship with Him. Eternal life is the consequence, but Jesus is and should always be the prize. But we could never know how marvelous a relief all that is without first recognizing the terror of pure evil sin.
Horror is perhaps the most brutally honest genre we have. Most of their endings aren’t the happiest, but if we continue to trust in Christ’s redemptive work after the frightening tale closes, the shadows instantly melt. The monster dissapears, and the life actively lived with Him becomes all the brighter. Who knew that wariness can grow greater joy? Only the Lord.
Have a Happy Halloween, everybody!!!
Romans 5:12,17 , “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- . . . . For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”