|In sickness and in immortality...|
Last weekend, I snuck off to the movies with Sandy and Carly. Well, we didn’t exactly sneak off – Sr. Rebecca, Cheryl and Chelsea were out of town. But it did feel a bit like we were sneaking – probably because we were watching the most recent movie in the Twilight series: Breaking Dawn.
I must sheepishly admit that I am a Twilight fan. Actually, I can honestly say that I have been a fan of all things vampire since I read several books in the Anne Rice Vampire Chronicles when I was in middle school. I have not read the Twilight books, but I enjoy the movies – they are cotton candy for my soul. Of course any good dentist of the soul will point out that souls do not profit much from cotton candy; However, I do think there are redeeming qualities in this movie series. And as I watched Breaking Dawn this past weekend, I began to recognize some of the strong undercurrents pulling me in.
When I was in college, I vividly remember a debate I attended between an atheist and a Christian. The first argument that the atheist brought up was that pagan myths, far before the time of Jesus, spoke of virgin births. He argued that Christianity was just another concocted story that belonged in the pages of pagan mythology. I was a bit shocked at this argument at the time. I myself was an atheist but I had always thought the Christian “story” was at least original.
Now, as a Christian, that argument does not faze me at all. I am a Christian Catholic: Catholic meaning universal, all embracing. I do not believe that God only speaks to Christians or, in the time of pagan myths, only to the Hebrew people. Rather, I believe in a God who speaks to everyone. In ancient times, God may have revealed more of himself to the Hebrews than to the pagans but he did this because he ultimately planned to make himself available to all human beings. And this is seen by the glimmers of foreshadowing in other cultures and religions before the time of Jesus – God was setting the stage.
I actually think that most things in this world are like those pagan myths. If we hold them up to the light, we can almost always find traces of God. This is true for some of the most disturbing aspects of our culture, as well as the "cotton candy for your soul" phenomena that cause people, including myself, to go a little nuts - like Harry Potter or the Twilight series. If people are going a bit nuts over something, there is usually something deeper pulling them in, something that they are not usually consciously aware of themselves.
Every woman dreams of being pursued, desired and loved into eternity like Bella is loved by Edward. And every woman wishes they had the awful dilemma of being pursued by two men who are willing to love her until the ends of the earth, even if she chooses the other guy. Of course these relationships point to the ultimate relationship that we are meant to have - with God. God pursues us like a gentleman. He is always there, ready for us to reach out to him, and even if we do not love him, he does not stop loving us. It may be hard for guys to relate to this analogy but that’s why most church pews are filled with women – men aren’t always into the idea of being romanced by God. But that is what we all are called to – men and women. We all have to become receptors of God or “feminine” (in a sense) to enter into relationship with God.
Edward’s family is filled with gorgeous people who will be young and attractive forever. Don’t we all dream of being young and beautiful forever?
After reaching thirty, I have been on the lookout for wrinkles and grey hair. I know old age is in my future and if I get old I will die. Despite this obvious fact, I would like to stay young, or at least look young, for as long as I can. Why? The same reason our entire culture is obsessed with youth – I may know intellectually that I am going to die but I am in denial.
But immortality for vampires is not all it is cut out to be - Edward tries his best to dissuade Bella from becoming a vampire. For a human, the idea of literally living into eternity is excruciating – wouldn’t it be boring after all, after a certain amount of time? But that is the beauty of Christianity – we are promised not only immortality, but a life where boredom is impossible. God is all that we are made to live for – Beauty, Truth, Justice, Love. And exploring God is like a never-ending adventure. God is like a diamond with infinite facets or a world with an infinite number of countries to explore.
Boredom is impossible with God.
Although there are differences, there is something in the immortality of the vampire that points to our resurrected bodies. Edward’s family is full of good looking people who will never experience the evil of death, will always be young and they sparkle in the sunlight. It sounds silly but this is not so far from Christian teaching about our resurrected bodies.
We believe that at the end of the world, we will all be reunited with our bodies. Thomas Aquinas hypothesized that our resurrected bodies will look like our bodies when we were thirty-two or thirty-three years old, the perfect age apparently (I am quickly headed downhill). C.S. Lewis said that we will not be able to discern the age of our resurrected bodies, but, rather, we will be full of light and almost unrecognizable. We see this in the Gospels after Jesus returns from his resurrection – it takes his disciples time to recognize him.
Suffice it to say, Breaking Dawn is not a film masterpiece. It will not go down in history for its acting. But there are themes in it that pull at our soul strings – which is the reason why anyone who is honest will shamefacedly admit that they enjoy the movies.
Of course, our souls can only take so much cotton candy – we can’t survive spiritually on this stuff! But if we are discerning and thoughtful, we can all learn from movies like this. So next time you find yourself enjoying something you know is cotton candy for your soul - look a little deeper, it just might lead you to a greater understanding of God and faith.