A few months ago, I had a conversation with a friend who shared with me a mutual love of scary movies. When he asked for recommendations, I offered a list of the most compelling films I’d watched as of late. I pointed out one supernatural film in particular...I’ll spare you the plot details, but ghosts and demons were most certainly involved. The next day we ran into each other, and he looked like he hadn’t slept all night. Not knowing what to say, I offered the neutral,
“Hey man, what’s up?”
He launched straight into the topic on his mind, “I watched that movie you recommended...it was haunting.”
“Oh yeah...pretty scary, huh?” I responded.
He then asked, “Does the Bible talk about things like that? Like...ghosts, and demons?”
“Actually, it has a lot to say about that,” I answered.
What followed was a brief but fascinating conversation about scripture and the supernatural.
Recently for the podcast, we sat down with author Mike Duran to talk about some of the themes that we find in horror, and how Christians should approach movies, books, and art of the genre. Mike argues that the increasing popularity of scary movies, especially supernatural ones like, “It” or, “Insidious” actually reveals the fact that we all recognize the world is physical and spiritual; that there are really forces beyond the material at work.
Interestingly, the popularity of supernatural ghost stories is on the rise precisely right as culture is moving away from the supernatural. I suppose there are two ways to read the data:
- It could be that because people no longer believe in the supernatural, they are more willing to watch these sorts of films without fear of, “letting something in.”
- But I’m more inclined to see it as yet another symptom of the fact that we are incurably religious.
Both the Wall Street journal and the Atlantic have noted that among many of the most, “secular” demographics there is an increasing belief in folk religion. In America, millennials are increasingly turning to astrology. In secular Europe, nearly 30% of Icelanders believe in elves and trolls, while half the population of Sweden believes in telepathy.
Try as we might, humankind cannot ignore the spiritual dimensions of the world for very long. Sometimes, all it takes is a good old fashioned scary movie to shake us from our slumber and remind us that evil is real, and the world is more than things we can see.
With October upon us, Christians are often frustrated with how Halloween makes light of very real and dangerous spiritual forces: demons, witchcraft, seances, and the like. This frustration is absolutely understandable. But it might be possible that this month, above all others, is an evangelistic opportunity? What other time of the year are our non-Christian neighbors so frequently thinking about matters like death, devils, and the supernatural? In what other season are TV networks regularly airing programming that reveals the fact that the world is more than matter and the forces and powers at work are beyond the political and social? Perhaps this season is an opportunity for Christians to have more intentional conversations about these realities with our non-believing friends. The Bible talks about demons, and it tells us that, while they are very real, Christ has trampled over them by the blood of his cross.
If you find this topic interesting, take a second to check out our Stone Table interview with Mike Duran, the author of “Christian Horror.”