Move over Harry Potter. There’s a new occult thriller in town and teens and ‘tweens can’t get enough of it.
It’s called Twilight, a series of four books written by Stephanie Meyer based on a romance between a vampire named Edward Cullen and a mortal teen named Bella Swan.
The story begins when Bella moves to Washington state where she enrolls in a small town high school and finds herself drawn to her rather mysterious lab partner, Edward. As their attraction grows, she learns more about Edward and his family, all of whom are vampires.
The four novels in the Twilight series mainly focus on this bizarre romance where the “undead” Edward struggles with himself not to feed on Bella’s blood. He avoids having sex with her because he doesn’t want her to become a vampire like him. But as Bella falls ever deeper in love, she repeatedly voices her willingness to forfeit her soul just to be with him forever.
As trite a plot as it might sound, Twilight is a phenomenal success. The four novels in the series, Twilight, Eclipse, New Moon and Breaking Dawn, have sold 17 million copies principally to pre-teen and teen aged girls.
The movie, released by Summit Entertainment last November, made $70.6 million at the box office in its opening weekend, making it the fourth highest opening weekend for a movie in 2008. According to Box Office Mojo, exit polling found that 75 percent of the audience was female and 55 percent was under 25 years old.
Naturally, two sequels are already in the works.
The Appeal of the “Undeparted” So what exactly is wrong with these books?
First, they feature the same literary duplicity found in the Harry Potter series. By peppering the story with moral issues that resonate with Christians, and convincing readers that vampires (or witchcraft, as in the case of Potter) can actually serve a good and noble purpose, the authors manage to disguise the occult beneath a veneer of righteousness that can easily trap the unwary.
For instance, the main character in Twilight is a vampire. According to Websters, a vampire is “a corpse, animated by an undeparted soul or a demon that periodically leaves the grave and disturbs the living.” In traditional folklore, the vampire is “typically a being that sucks the blood of sleeping persons at night.”
Christians believe that only God holds the power of life and death, not “undeparted souls” or demons. Nor do they believe in the existence of “undeparted” souls. The Catechism makes it clear that man dies “only once” at which time he is judged by God and deemed worthy of either heaven, hell or purgatory.
Only in Hollywood are departed souls left to wander around the universe or re-inhabit their bodies in order to become blood-sucking vampires.
Although people are tempted to ignore criticism of Twilight, saying it’s just another vampire movie, this film is markedly different from Dracula, the famous 1931 movie starring Bela Lugosi. In Dracula, the plight of the vampire is presented as hideous and unattractive, definitely not something you would want to be. In Twilight, it’s just the opposite.
Edward is attractive and presented as a “good guy” even though he openly admits that he has killed people. The Cullen family, or “coven” as they refer to themselves, are vegetarian vampires who only feed on animal blood. Edward’s father, Carlisle Cullen, is a vampire who used to be a pastor whose faith makes him strive to rise above his vampirism by becoming a doctor and helping people, all values he tries to instill in his family.
The character of Bella has problems of her own. She repeatedly speaks about her strong desire to be with Edward forever, even if that means becoming a vampire, a creature who is “eternally damned.” We are taught that the soul is “that which is of greatest value” in ourselves and what makes us in the image and likeness of God. What a dangerous message this sends to young girls, that the priceless treasure of their soul can be tossed aside to win the man of their dreams.
Another troubling character in the story is Alice, one of Edward’s sisters who can see into the future. Alice and her occult practices repeatedly play key roles in the plot, making the use of divination seem appropriate and even important.
Many have also praised the fact that Edward and Bella’s relationship is chaste, but they are not abstaining for any moral reasons. Rather, it’s because Edward is too tempted to “eat” her, thus making her a vampire.
According to cult expert Caryn Matrisciana, in the end, Bella will indeed succumb to Edward’s charm and become a vampire. In a future movie, the two will have sex and an “unwanted” baby.
Of course teens, and their parents, don’t know this when they first become hooked on the series.
Troubling Origins Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all about the Twilight series is the origin of the story.
Stephanie Meyer, a Mormon, is a housewife and mother of three who claims she “received” Twilight in a dream on June 2, 2003.
“In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods,” Meyers writes on her website. “One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”
From that point on, she was driven to write the story, often climbing out of bed in the middle of the night to write because “Bella and Edward were, quite literally, voices in my head. They simply wouldn't shut up,” she writes.
Even more disturbing, Meyer claims she had another dream after the book was finished. In this dream, Edward appeared and told her the book was wrong and that he did drink human blood because he could not live on only animal blood. “We had this conversation,” Meyer said, “and he was terrifying.”
Visitations by spirits are an integral part of occult communication, but Matrisciana believes Meyer may also be influenced by her Mormon faith which believes in communication with the dead.
“Indeed, dead members of former generations can be baptized into Mormonism in a Mormon temple ritual,” Matrisciana writes. “Mormon founder Joseph Smith was ‘visited’ by a communicating ‘angel’ called Moroni, whose statue stands atop all Mormon Temples.”
The Twilight series is spawning a cult-like following with young girls calling themselves “Twilighters” who celebrate “Stephanie Meyer Day” on Sept. 13 in honor of Bella’s fictional birthday. They wear t-shirts sporting sayings such as “Forbidden Fruit Tastes the Best.” Even the secular reviewers admit the story is “a dark romance that seeps into the soul.” The discerning parent may want to reconsider allowing their teen to become involved with the Twilight series.
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1. Vampirism represents an assault on both the body and the soul.
a) What does the Catechism have to say about the value of the soul? (See Catechism of the Catholic Church Nos. 365-368 available here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p6.htm#II )
b) What does the Church teach about proper reverence for the body after death? (See Nos. 2300-2301 in the Catechism, available here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm#II )
2. Christians believe the body will one day rise again. How, and who, will rise again, and when will this take place? (See Nos. 997 to 1001 in the Catechism, available here: http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p123a11.htm#I )
3. The Old Testament teaches that blood is sacred. Read Deuteronomy 12:23
4. Scripture clearly condemns occult practices such as those performed by Edward’s sister, Alice. Read Deuteronomy 18:10, 11
5. While God has frequently used dreams to communicate with his prophets (see Genesis 20:3, 28:12, and 31:10; 3Kings 3:5-15; Daniel 2:19, 7:1; Matthew 1:30, 3:13; Acts 23:11, 27:23) these dreams were never sought and God always made known that the contents of the dreams were a revelation from Him. What warning does Scripture give us about the improper use of dreams? (See Leviticus 19:26, Deuteronomy 18:10 and Jeremiah 23: 25-29).
a) Why did the Baltimore Catechism forbid people to believe in dreams? (See No. 1155 in the Baltimore Catechism available here: http://www.catholicinformationcenteroninternet.org/Catechism/Part3/l30.html#RTFToC17 )