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01.11.2018

Deliver Us from Evil? | Connecting with Culture

The Exorcist. The Omen. Paranormal Activity. The Ring.

Can we talk about horror films? Halloween has come and gone, but Netflix is still pushing new horror shows such as Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and The Haunting of Hill House to the top of my ‘suggested watching’ list – and perhaps yours too.

Personally, I avoid horror because I get easily scared, and my imagination goes into overdrive. I know I’m not alone in this. And, from a Christian standpoint, there is much in horror films to criticise and condemn. But whether we like them or not, they are a part of our culture, and a genre which ever-increasing numbers of people are watching.

Should Christians engage with horror films? If we feel able to do so, how should we go about it? What if there are some things about them which might even encourage Christian engagement?!

Horror is one of the few genres that assumes a world of absolute morality. There is a right and there is a wrong, and it’s almost always clear which is which. In addition, these films show us which parts of evil bother our culture – and which parts fascinate. One of the most popular forms of horror explores demonic or paranormal activity, possessions, and exorcism. These films not only suggest the possibility of a supernatural, non-physical realm, but also make it, perhaps, a little more believable.

These two areas alone raise questions of God’s existence – and his role. In a world often cut free from such ‘good’ and ‘evil’ absolutes, and frequently stuck in a ‘seeing is believing’ mindset, horror films can provide a way into discussing good and evil, and allow us to be a messenger of the gospel to those who would usually be closed off to such reflections. These films can be a catalyst for considering life – and faith – in a new way.

Horror films might not be your thing. That’s okay. But whether you watch them or not, it’s likely someone you know does… so it’s important not to dismiss them out of hand.

After all, as Christians we know that ‘our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12). How unexpectedly encouraging that the ‘secular’ horror film industry communicates this so clearly to an unsuspecting world.

Nell Goddard

Author

Nell Goddard

Comments

  1. Thanks Nell. Very helpful and erudite. On this All Souls Day – largely forgotten, as All Saints yesterday
    by the world at large in the excesses of Hallowe’en [not even getting the sources of that liturgical
    festival right either], we are losing a bunch of heritage and significance, to which you correctly pay
    reminder. Thank-you.
    Billy Graham once said, in talking as he often did, about ‘a real Devil and real evil’ – the film-makers
    certainly believe in him, so we should not forget the benefits of our salvation, or words to that effect.
    Keep up the good work, team. Prayers continue for all you do.

    Fr Ed Elsey [retired and also quite scared by horror!!]
    oratoryphil9@gmail.com
    Budleigh Salterton, Devon

    By Edward ELSEY - 2nd November 2018
  2. A great piece nell. I used a horror film quiz with a group of mixed and no faith young adults the other night as a launch point to talk about spirituality and the dangers of the occult.

    By Jason Gardner - 2nd November 2018
  3. I truly believe in the word of God that says, train a child the ways s/he should go, when s/he grows s/he will never depart from it. Proverbs 22:6.

    Although it is good to know the good and the bad to enable us to exercise our God-given rights to choose, it is better not to glorify the ways of the evil and their intentions. So I agree with Nell and hopefully more Christians will stand up to their believes irrespective of the world perception of Christianity today. The truth shall ALWAYS prevail. I do not celebrate Halloween and my children make it clear to their friends that they don’t celebrate it as well

    By Ene Ebong - 2nd November 2018
  4. Thanks Nell, what you have shared is helpful.

    I would agree with you when you say that in the horror genre there is ‘a right and there is a wrong, and it’s almost always clear which is which.’ This highlights one of my own concerns about horror.

    In the real world evil is often subtle. People who are self-centred and cruel can also be charming and can make us feel special. People with all the right credentials (Christian family, theological training, employed by a church or mission) can be narcissistic and ruthless.

    Evil exists. That is true. But it can also be subtle and be present when we least expect it.

    By John Steley - 2nd November 2018
  5. It is not just horror films. Ideas of good and evil are being pumped into our children’s programmes at an alarming rate.
    People are becoming familiar with demonic powers and it just makes me wonder if the world is being set up to accept these things as normal? Afterall, if you wanted to deceive the world with false miracles, people would have to know who to attribute them to.
    A lot of the evil protrayed is actually the reworked gods of Egypt and Babylon. Nothing ever changes.

    By Phil. Harper - 2nd November 2018
  6. Thanks for this thoughtful article
    Growing up, I struggled to understand why Christian leaders were condemning Horror films; when I saw The Exorcist and Omen (Omen 2 was particulary striking) I found them disturbing – but a wake up call to the reality of Good and Evil.

    By Mick Lumsden - 2nd November 2018
  7. Awesome!

    By Daniel Menara - 2nd November 2018
  8. A very thoughtful and balanced insight. As spirituality and the paranormal become increasingly talked-about in our society, it’s vital we partner with the Holy Spirit to enable people to experience the truth of “taste and see that the Lord is good”. Only this week a Pastor told me of the dramatic conversion of a man simply through a loving word of knowledge which the man realised could only have come from a God who cared so passionately about him to speak grace and truth directly into the secret circumstances of his life.

    By Peter Riley - 2nd November 2018
  9. Someone sent me a poster put up for Hallow’en from a church which read ” the only ghost here is the Holy Ghost”
    – I found this confidence giving, useful and funny

    By Joan - 3rd November 2018

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