Millions of Twilight fans are buying tickets for the debut of Breaking Dawn 1 this week.
Small-group leaders in churches nationwide are wondering if there is any connection between this huge audience of Twilight moviegoers—and their local congregations. The short answer: Yes!
Read about why this Twilight debut matters to millions.
Read about how the new Glitter in the Sun can help your church spark fresh excitement.
And, now, meet author Jane Wells, talking with ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm in …
HIGHLIGHTS OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH JANE WELLS
AUTHOR OF THE TWILIGHT BIBLE STUDY—GLITTER IN THE SUN
DAVID: Despite the vampires and werewolves, the Twilight series is a world-class romance that you compare to the timeless appeal of Romeo and Juliet.
JANE: Yes, these Twilight books—Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn—have been read by millions as a very popular romantic series aimed at the Young Adult audience. But, I am saying that there is a deeper connection Christians can make with the series. These stories can be seen as allegories of eternal love, how love seeks us out, and how we must face hard choices on this journey toward God’s love.
DAVID: You enjoy making connections between pop culture and faith. I know that you enjoy a wide range of TV, movies, novels and even comic books, right?
JANE: Yes, I have my favorite TV series. For example, I don’t think there’s an episode of Bones that I’ve missed. And I love the new movies based on Marvel comics. I loved the new Captain America movie, and the new Thor movie. I read mysteries, too.
DAVID: But you’re not a fan of romance novels. Twilight was a big leap for you and now you’re encouraging other skeptics to take a serious look at Twilight.
JANE: Yes, I did not want to read Twilight, at first, but now I’m a big fan of the series myself. I’ll be going to a midnight opening of the new movie this week, like so many other people all across the country, and I will be writing about the experience.
DAVID: The first novel, called simply Twilight, came out in 2005 but you turned a cold shoulder toward it.
JANE: Yes, my youngest was a newborn and I was busy and I remember thinking: Oh, great! Here’s another vampire story. That’s all we need! I spent several years pushing Twilight aside to read other things. I assumed it would be a complete waste of time. Then, about three years ago, I realized that there was a critical mass of my friends who enjoyed the novels. And, around that time, I listened to a National Public Radio story that talked about the novels’ literary value. Just looking at the novels as literature, you can find echoes of other classics beyond Romeo and Juliet. You might think of Wuthering Heights, for example. Finally, I started the series—and I wound up reading all of those great big books in one week!
I was floored. I really did not expect to love the series so much. I did not expect to be swept away by the love story. I’ve never been a big romance reader. I’ve always found most romance novels not worth the effort. But, in the Twilight novels, it was so easy to picture myself as this teenage girl going through all of this. I remembered my own insecurities and my own feelings of pain and injustice as a teenager. I was really feeling these books as I was reading them. It was a great escape. It was such fun.
TWILIGHT BIBLE STUDY: CONNECTING THE DOTS WITH CHRISTIAN FAITH
JANE: That’s right. My faith truly does sustain me through daily life, through marriage, through motherhood. But I’ve never had any desire to beat people over the head with my faith. If someone wants to talk about faith, I’m happy to do that. And I enjoy doing Bible-studies like Glitter in the Sun. I’ve actually used this material in small groups, so I know that people will enjoy Glitter in the Sun. I’ve seen people respond.
DAVID: I’m sure many readers will wonder—are the movies different than the books? We also publish Benjamin Pratt’s book that essentially is a James Bond Bible study. But, in the case of 007—Ian Fleming’s novels are far different than the movies.
JANE: Think of the Twilight movies as shorthand for the books. There are very few points that are unique to the movies. Where unique new points do appear in the movies, they’re completely in character. However, if you have not read the books and you go see the movies, you will have missed whole chapters of character development that sometimes are summed up in one line of movie dialogue. Some of the events are summarized in such a short way that they may not make sense. That’s why I call the movies shorthand. Overall, though, fans of the Twilight books tend to like the movies. I expect that when I go to the midnight opening this week, I’ll hear other fans saying: “Yeah! Yeah! They got it right.”
TWILIGHT BIBLE STUDY: CHURCH LEADERS RESPOND
DAVID: What responses have you seen from church leaders to the Twilight series?
JANE: I’ve seen people in churches go both ways on this: Twilight has been enthusiastically embraced and strongly opposed—sometimes within the same congregation.
DAVID: Why do you think that is? I know that one reason is: In many denominations, clergy are predominantly male and Twilight is a hugely female phenomenon.
JANE: That’s true. I think there are other reasons, too. One reason is the types of mythic characters in these stories. Through more than 100 years of novels and movies and TV shows, Christians and vampires have been shown as deadly enemies.
DAVID: That makes sense as a source of friction. The original Dracula novel came out in 1897. And what do we know about vampires from all those novels and movies? They can’t stand to be around the cross. But, I’m not sure that’s the whole story, right? I mean, first of all, the Twilight vampires are quite different than anything we got from Bram Stoker or Anne Rice. Plus, if you’re a fan of Tolkien and Lewis, is there really anything so shocking in Twilight? There are all sorts of bizarre and horrifying creatures in Tolkien’s and Lewis’ novels.
JANE: That’s true, but many Christian readers who heavily support Narnia and Lord of the Rings want to keep Twilight at arm’s length. They argue that Tolkien and Lewis were Christian themselves and they argue that, in the Narnia and Lord of the Rings stories, the novelists were trying to show a Christian world view. I think some mainline Christian leaders also are wary that Stephenie Meyer is Mormon. There are some differences in belief between mainline Christianity and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
DAVID: But there also is strong support for this kind of creative Bible study. You’re not alone in making this connection. The Presbyterian church’s Westminster John Knox Press is also publishing a Twilight Bible study book this autumn. And, Jane—you are a strongly evangelical Christian writer yourself. Readers will pick up your own Christian tone immediately in your Twilight Bible study, Glitter in the Sun. You don’t see any of those objections we just listed as barriers to enjoying this experience, right?
JANE: No. I think we should jump right into this Bible-study experience. You can’t turn away from the millions who have been moved by the stories of eternal love in these novels and movies. These are truly timeless stories full of fascinating connections with great works of literature—and powerful connections with the Bible and our faith. For churches, this is too great an opportunity to miss.
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.