Vampires, Myth, and Christianity
So we made it to Texas and it has been a crazy week. I finally have my laptop connected to the internet and am stealing a few minutes to sit down and write. But as I considered what to blog about (usually whatever is on my mind at the time…), I realized that I’ve spent a lot of time recently thinking about vampires. Yes, vampires. But bear with me here.
I actually bloged about my encounters with vampire (books) three years ago (here), so it’s not a new subject on this blog. But after reading through Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series recently, vampires have once again been on my mind. If you haven’t heard of the series that means you are most likely not a teenage girl (or a huge fantasy geek). I was intrigued by any book that merited a midnight release for it’s fourth installment and had been following the debates as to if the books were sexist or not (I personally think not). So I decided to give the books a go and ended up throughly engaged.
As you probably gathered at this point the books are about vampires (sorry for the spoiler). But the main characters in the books are “good” vampires – they feed off animal blood, not humans. What I found most intriguing though was the process by which these characters became vampires. Each of them had been at the brink of death and were at that point transformed into vampires – immortal, perfect creatures (at least in this series). Given the author’s expressed religious devotion, I can’t help but see the spiritual parallels there. The chosen ones being essentially resurrected into strong, beautiful, gifted, eternal (yet physical) beings. Interesting concept.
But the obvious spiritual connection in the books reminded me of other conversations I have had relating Christianity and vampires. The whole concept of blood being shed to give another eternal life mirrors vampire lore. There are of course those that recognize that with derision as this quote demonstrates –
“Almost two billion people on the face of this planet are Christians,” he said. “That means every Sunday you’ll find hordes of these creatures lining up to drink the blood of their god in a ritual called communion.
“And what does their god and his church offer them in return? “Everlasting life …
“If that is not the promise of a vampire religion, then I don’t know what is …”
Sinton said Christianity was the only religion that worshiped a corpse and one of a handful that still engaged in blood rituals.
“Visit one of their churches and you’ll often find a huge statue of their vampire Christ looming over the congregation,” he said. Instead of blood dripping from fangs, Christ’s blood drips from his hands, feet, side and crown.
“1.9 billion people believe this immortal god is their salvation and that his blood can redeem and protect them. “Listen to some of the hymns they sing,” he said, “as they sway hypnotically before this eerie preternatural creature …”
Are You Washed In The Blood?
Jesus Thy Blood and Righteousness
Nothing But The Blood
Saved By The Blood
The Blood-Washed Throng
The Bloodwashed Pilgrim
There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood
There Is Power In The Blood
“With all this blood imagery,” Sinton said, “no wonder the congregations descends like vampires when the priest calls them up for communion …” The Christian Bible states that Jesus actually said “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:54).
By drinking the blood of Jesus and eating his flesh, Christians believe they die and are reborn as immortals.
But others see those same elements and embrace the similarities. I’ve heard of goth oriented churches that play up the vampire connection especially related to communion. I guess it’s just another form of cultural contextualization. Some churches reach yuppies by presenting Christ as the ultimate CEO, other churches reach the goths by comparing Christ to vampires. (I think I’d rather attend the vampire church…)
The connection of shed blood and immortality is an ancient one – one of the oldest religious beliefs around. Some dismiss Christianity for dwelling on it. Others (like C.S. Lewis) believe that in Christ myth became fact – making it all resonate with our deepest cultural longings. As he wrote in God in the Dock –
The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.
In Christ in a way we have the fulfillment of legend. An interesting concept if nothing else.
But I’m sure that’s not the reaction most have to the books. Obsessing over Edward Cullen seems more the norm…