Unnatural

Horror stories capitalize on the unnatural.

I’ve been reading a book about a haunted house, and I’ve been struck with how simple the recipe has been for creating the setting. So far, the author has simply taken things that are good, sacred, or safe, and he’s inverted them in some way. Mealtimes, normally times of nourishment and fellowship, become settings for chaos and division. Chapels, normally places of peace and holiness, become places of disquiet and depravity. Bedrooms, normally places of rest and safety, become places of fear and danger. In many ways, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant, the author turns the natural into the unnatural, and the result is largely unsettling.

You’ve likely seen instances of this in horror stories before. A cross or a crucifix is turned upside down to denote the subversion of faith. A common household tool becomes a menacing weapon. Innocent beginnings can lead to terrifying places as these stories undermine the things we often take for granted. And even if you don’t engage such media, you can’t deny its popularity. Humans seem fascinated with tales of the unnatural.

While I think such fascination can become unhealthy, I believe some good may come from our interest in the unnatural. Consider, for example, the focus of much horror. In seemingly every case, horror turns our attention to the ways things can go wrong in the world. In fact, the most frightening stories are those that reflect reality, highlighting the actual horrors produced by this world. Granted, horror stories often sensationalize the real world inspirations, but the real world inspirations exist. Thus, although horror often deals in extremes and in caricatures, it operates on a deeply unsettling truth: our world is not all love and light. Darkness lies strong across the globe. Evil pervades our existence. Life is marked by the unnatural.

The unnatural aspects of horror, then, can act as reminders that the world is not the way it was created to be. These stories introduce unease into our sense of calm, shattering any illusions that this world is tame or safe. And when we see the darker aspects of the world, we begin to recognize our need for a hope that can overcome the world, a hope that can only be found in Christ.

When horror focuses our attention on the unnatural, we might do well to ask what the natural state of things might be. And the answer to that question may be found nicely in a Christian worldview. We have a story that deals with all of reality and a protagonist who doesn’t shy away from the darkness but instead confronts it and overcomes it. We have the only source of true and lasting hope that the darkness is not ultimate, that the unnatural state need not be permanent. And so we tell the story, the story that makes sense of other stories, even the darker ones. And we hope, even when face to face with the darkest of evils, for we know the one who has already overcome it all.


Photo by Zoya Loonohod on Unsplash

Atrocities

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You may have heard the analogy of the terrible car accident, an example of something you don’t want to see but you can’t help but watch. Some parts of Scripture seem fitting passages for such a comparison (think of the story of Lot’s daughters in Genesis 19 or of David’s adultery and murder in 2 Samuel 11). Horror movies also match the model with their fantastical depictions of the broken state of reality. But true crime stories, for many people, may serve as more poignant examples of evil in our world.

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The Ache for Hope

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My friend Atley and I watched Brightburn on Saturday (warning: spoilers ahead). We both enjoyed the movie, but we noticed that the movie left us feeling a bit gross. Granted, that’s not uncommon for horror movies, especially in an age when the horror genre seems to lean heavily on gratuitous violence or sexual content to capture attention. I typically don’t enjoy (or view) such movies. But Brightburn was different. While Atley and I pointed to a few instances of unnecessary gore in the movie, Brightburn left us uncomfortable not because of what it included but because of what it lacked.

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The Problem of Evil

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As history has been unfurled,
One question ‘gainst the church has stood:
From whence came evil to this world
If God created all things good?
We grant some evil works for gain,
Some purpose may be found therein;
Yet is there not much needless pain,
Much suffering because of sin?
Could God not keep his world from death,
Or – bitter thought – might he desire
To curse those he hath filled with breath,
To see them sinking in the mire?
Or might it be that he allows
His people to rebel, to stray,
That they may truly then avow
His lordship, then may truly pray?
And could it be that majesty
Did not abandon to decay
Damned souls, but there upon the tree
Engaged in full the sinner’s fray?
Christ bore the wrath of God in place
Of those who chose the path to hell
That they might turn to seek the face
Of love, to taste the one true well.
God’s justice cometh like a flame,
And evil will not stand the show.
I may not know from whence it came,
But well I know where it will go.


(Photo by Artsy Vibes on Unsplash)

The Discovery

 

The Discovery image.jpgCold. Not a winter cold, though. After all, this was mid-June. No, it was more of a lifeless cold: a certain uncomfortable feeling that something wasn’t right in the world. It was damp too, as I recall. All around, I felt a paralyzing stillness. It was as if this place had never felt the sun’s warmth, never imagined the spark of love, never shifted from its sullen fixation on its own emptiness. This place was darkness, unadulterated and unexplored. Continue reading

Matthew 6:13

Oh let me never set my foot
Into this hellish place again,
This cesspool of the vilest strain,
This fountain of the blackest soot,
For I would sooner face my death
Than dare depart into the deep
Where devils in the darkness sleep
In wait for any sound of breath.
Alas, this place is never far,
For scorching fire doth walk with me,
Subverting any good I see,
Revealing this, my hidden scar,
The fatal wound within my heart
That came when I chose to rebel
And, left unhealed, will lead to hell
This soul who seeks to just depart
To freedom from the curse of sin.
O Jesus, can you save this wretch?
Can you before damnation catch
My soul and make my life begin?
Forgive me for my wicked ways
And rescue from temptation’s snares;
Keep me from loving what impairs
And make me yours for all my days.

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The Gospel According to Die Hard

I spent roughly the first seventeen and a half years of my life in the same city. I only ever attended my home church, I was homeschooled from kindergarten through high school, and my circle of friends consisted almost solely of kids I’d grown up with at church and a handful of students I’d met through state youth choirs and events. My parents and extended family are largely Christian, and the friends I made in my neighborhood growing up were from much the same background as I. All in all, I lived a somewhat sheltered life.
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