Why Pat Robertson is wrong in calling Twilight ‘demonic’

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0214_Pat_Robertson.jpgThe famous Pentecostal televangelist and politician Pat Robertson still is sparking headlines at age 81, especially when he recently denounced Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series as “demonic.” On one of his TV shows, Pat was asked about Twilight and denounced the series as “evil.” Then, he illustrated the problem by describing two friends who were trying to help a woman through an exorcism.
Robertson said …

“They were casting the demon out and, you know, what the demon said: ‘I had permission. I had permission. I had permission.’ And where’d they get the permission? Because she went to a particular movie and it opened the door to demonic power.

“Yes, I think those vampire movies are evil. There are no vampires. The whole thing is demonic. It might give you some kind of a thrill—like wheeee—the spooky supernatural! But it opened the door into the occult. You don’t want to open any doors because you don’t know what kind of a demon is out there who says: ‘You know, you opened the door and you gave me permission.’”

ReadTheSpirit publishes Glitter in the Sun, a Twilight Bible study book for Christian congregations by author Jane Wells.
We asked Jane to respond to Pat …

Why Pat Robertson
is Wrong in Calling
Twilight ‘demonic’

By JANE WELLS

This is my confession of the sin of spiritual snobbery, and the story of how I found freedom from the fear of spiritual contamination.

Perhaps it was two years of Baptist school during my formative early elementary years. Or maybe it’s because of the mandatory three-times-a-week attendance at a conservative church with my parents. It could have been the countless repetition of “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See” during annual Vacation Bible School.

But the truth is: I’ve always been cautious about what I read.

I don’t read Harlequin Romances because I don’t want to fill my head with stories of extramarital sex. I don’t read horror stories because those gory images tend to come back to mind at random and inappropriate moments, like when I’m trying to sleep. And I don’t generally read stories about magic because it seems that reading about the occult gives it validity. And vampires? Vampires tend to fall somewhere in the Venn diagram intersection of all three categories mentioned above.

All this to say: I never intended to read Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels. It took some immense peer pressure, a fairly positive review on NPR and concern about what my friends were talking about to change my mind. To my immense surprise when I did read the books, instead of sex, gore and witchcraft, I found God in the pages of the Twilight Saga—not a gateway to demon possession.

Pentecostal bellwether Pat Robertson recently spoke out on just this topic on the Let it Rip portion of his long-running 700 Club television show. He even claimed that he knew about a young woman who had become possessed after seeing an evil movie.

This has not been my experience—nor has it been the experience of countless fans I’ve “talked Twilight” with since writing a book the series. Instead of a spiritual trap, I have found that Twilight is a spiritual opportunity. My original spiritual snobbery was unfounded. Twilight contains stories that parallel God’s unconditional love for us and demonstrate the redemptive power of sacrifice—stories I recognize as true because I benefit daily from God’s unconditional love and sacrifice through Christ.

Right now millions of people around the world, mostly young women, speak a common language. So when I talk about God’s love being eternal, like Edward’s, and unconditional, like Jacob’s, they begin to recognize that the heart hunger stirred up by the books is answered and fulfilled in Jesus. To dismiss the Twilight Phenomenon as pop culture fluff, or more dangerously label it demonic, is a tragic mistake and a rejection of a God-given opportunity to give precious souls hope both now and into eternity.

It was no less than C.S. Lewis, author of the most beloved of all Christian allegories, the Chronicles of Narnia, who was the staunchest defender of imaginative fiction. He said it is in fiction that the deepest truths are revealed. Just so, this seemingly undying passion for all things Twilight is a symptom of an undying hunger born within us all.

As Christians this is our opportunity to introduce a love-starved world to an eternal and unconditionally loving God. I, for one, do not intend to squander this amazing chance to share the grace I already enjoy.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0215_Glitter_in_the_Sun_small_cover.jpgCare to learn more about Jane Wells’ Glitter in the Sun: A Bible Study Searching for Truth in the Twilight Saga? That link takes you to our author interview with Jane—and much more.

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Bishop Spong is ‘Reclaiming the Bible’ for today’s world

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0116_John_Shelby_Spong_Re-claiming_the_Bible_for_a_Non-Religious_World.jpg“Bishop Spong”—as he’s known around the world—actually retired from Episcopal office 11 years ago, but he’s more important than ever in mainline congregations nationwide. Of course, he’s also infamous for “controversy.” As a religion writer for American newspapers since the 1980s, I’ve interviewed Jack Spong many times both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world—and the news stories we published always seemed to include either that c-word or words like “provocative,” “dissent” and “debate.” In most cases, those terms were dead-on accurate.

Jack Spong—as he prefers to be known to friends and colleagues today—is a bold pioneer or, in religious terms, he’s a fearless prophet. Unlike millions of religious leaders who are timid about expressing their own doubts and questions, fearing that they might unsettle their congregations, Jack Spong always speaks his mind. Sometimes he speaks his mind so strongly that he flat-out offends people.

In recent years, however, his popularity is soaring. I’ve seen that myself in traveling around the United States and talking with men and women in congregations large and small. Some years ago, even a mention of his name was an occasion to brace oneself as a journalist—because reactions to him could be so emotionally charged. Now, some people who know his name still disagree strongly—but, more than likely, I’ve found that mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations include key lay people who have read his books and find his transparent, common-sense approach makes a lot of sense.

Perhaps even more important at this moment in America’s religious life, there’s hardly another Christian scholar more perfectly poised to stand in the center of the debate between defenders of religion—and the new atheists who are bent on taking an axe to what they perceive as a worm-eaten old tree. Spong defends neither side—calling for an honest middle path for faith that leaves behind out-dated claims and yet also intelligently defends the enduring values of our religious tradition.

Come back later this week for ReadTheSpirit David Crumm’s interview with Jack Spong.
Today, enjoy this brief excerpt of Spong’s book that may show you why you’ll want your own copy of Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World

EXCERPT OF ‘RE-CLAIMING THE BIBLE FOR A NON-RELIGIOUS WORLD
BY RETIRED BISHOP JOHN SHELBY “JACK” SPONG

From the book’s opening chapter …

THE PROBLEM WITH BIBLICAL LITERALISTS

We have in our world today the reality that many people are still clinging quite frantically to the biblical formulations of their past. Some spend enormous energy fighting Darwin, attacking secular humanism as it arises in the society and liberalism, all of which are s symptoms of the lack of scholarship available in many churches. That is why in the United States we continue to take seriously the religious vote, the television evangelists and even a pope who visited Africa with its civil strife, its rampant spread of AIDS and its poverty, and conveyed as his only message a condemnation of the use of condoms! Religious leaders seem to believe that if they allow one crack in their carefully constructed religious or biblical defense system, then the whole thing will collapse in ruins. That is the stance of hysteria, not the stance of either faith or hope, though it masquerades as both.

THE CHALLENGE OF THE NEW ATHEISTS

The primary response to this mentality, and it is a response that is growing rapidly, is to abandon all religion and to take up citizenship in the “secular city.” Proponents of this stance no longer see any relevance in religion or the Bible for their lives today. They are not interested in twisting their minds into first-century pretzels, in order to read the Bible or into fourth-century pretzels, in order to say the creeds, or into thirteenth-century pretzels in order to engage in contemporary forms of worship. They find it impossible in their modern frame of reference to conceive of a theistically understood deity, living somewhere external to this world, endowed with supernatural power and ready to invade history to come to our aid, to answer our prayers. They find the concepts of miracle and magic to be outside their worldview. They dismiss readily ideas like that of a “fall” from perfection into “original sin,” which is supposed to account for evil and which requires an external rescuer to save us from our sins. These ideas are completely foreign to what they now know about the origins of life and its evolution. They see no alternative to dismissing all religion in general and Christianity in particular, regarding it as something left over from the childhood of our humanity, and they want little to do with it. For such questioners either biblical literalism or the rejection of all religion seems to be their only choices.

‘A SIMILAR PROFOUND IGNORANCE ABOUT THE BIBLE’

One factor that both of these responses have in common is that they share a similar profound ignorance about the Bible. The fundamentalists who quote the Bible as their final authority clearly know little about how the Bible came into being and, thus, why that approach is so totally incompetent. Those who do not find any value in the biblical tradition wind up rejecting the very things that biblical scholars themselves almost totally reject, but these secularists know so little about the Bible that they are not aware of this fact. When I read books written by the new breed of militant atheist writers, who have become both best-selling authors and household names, I have no desire to attack them or to rise to God’s defense. The religion, the Christianity and Bible that they reject are the same religion, Christianity and Bible that I reject. My problem with such writers is not located there. It is rather in the apparent fact that they do not seem to know that there is another way. Why should they, since the church has worked so hard not to allow other possibilities to become visible?

‘CLOSE THE GAP IN KNOWLEDGE’

My desire is to work in that very arena and to close the gap in knowledge at least in regard to the Bible. I am not the enemy of the Bible. I am the enemy of the way the Bible has been understood and the way the Bible has been used. … I want to take my readers into this Bible in a new way. I want to plumb its depths, scale its heights and free its insights from the debilitating power of literalism. I want to make some of its characters come alive—those who probably have vestiges of history attached to them, like Moses, Joshua, Elijah and Elisha. … I have wrestled with the Bible for more than 60 years. I have broken open my own fundamentalism, walked through valleys of meaninglessness in which I was certain that God had died and then found my way back, not to the security of yesterday’s religious certainty, but to an understanding that does not hesitate to go through the Bible in order to transcend it, and thus that provides no security. I want to help people to develop a faith that goes so deeply into the essence of Christianity that they can walk beyond Christianity into that toward which Christianity can only point. I seek to enter and to introduce others to what Paul has called “the glorious liberty of the children of God.”

READ PART 2: ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm’s interview with Jack Spong.
Remember: You can order a copy of John Shelby “Jack” Spong’s new Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World from Amazon now.

Want more from ‘Bishop’ Spong? You may also want to read our 2009 interview with Jack Spong about his earlier book, Eternal Life: A New Vision.

Please help us to reach a wider audience

 We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
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Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Twilight, Quileute Indians & Smithsonian: Wolves? Yes.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-0116_Quileute_wolf_headdress.jpgQuileute tribe ceremonial wolf headdress, made of wood, paint, fabric and cedar. The visually striking artifact is part of the new Smithsonian exhibition on the small tribe in the Pacific Northwest. Photo and artifact from the Washington State Historical Society, released for use with news stories about the exhibit.Smithsonian show
shines Twlight’s
glow on Quileute

By JANE WELLS

JANE WELLS is the author of Glitter in the Sun, a new Bible-study series for church groups that explores timeless spiritual themes in the Twilight series using biblical passages and examples from everyday life.

Finally, the Twilight tidal wave is benefiting the tiny Northwest Pacific Coast Indian tribe known as the Quileute (pronounced “quill-yoot”). The best-selling series of novels by Stephenie Meyer, followed by the hugely popular movie series, initially caused problems for the small band with a population of less than 400 living under the tribal council—and no more than 2,000 nationwide. The largely female fans of Twilight naturally wanted to visit this remote spot in Washington state, where the novels and the films show Indians becoming—werewolves. At first, car loads of fans, friends and families were showing up and nearly overwhelming the small band.

Now, tribal leaders are excited about a major exhibition on their culture that opened this weekend at the Smithsonian’s American Indian Museum on the Mall in Washington D.C. Two fluent speakers of the Quileute language appeared at the show’s opening to tell traditional Quileute tales. This special, temporary Quileute gallery inside the museum demonstrates clearly:
Are wolves important to Quileute culture? Yes!
Do these humans turn into wolves? No!
Now through May 9, the tribe and the Smithosnian are working to set the record straight on exactly what ancient tribal legends teach. Not surprisingly, vampires have nothing to do with it.

Meyer’s series of young adult books chronicle the love triangle between the teen girl, Bella, and her supernatural paramours, the vampire Edward and the werewolf Jacob. Acres of pixels and gallons of ink have been spent on the nature of Bella’s personality and just what a vampire is (as Edward seems to break all the formerly hard and fast rules), but recently interest has turned toward Jacob. In Meyer’s books, Jacob is a member of the Quileute on the Washington coast. In the Twilight world, Jacob is able to shift between his human shape and that of a giant wolf in order to protect his tribe from the threat of vampires.

Behind the Scenes: The Real Story of the Quileute Wolves” is an exhibition that brings together rare works of Quileute art as a counterpoint to the supernatural storyline depicted in the popular Twilight series. If you are traveling to Washington D.C. in the next few months, look for the exhibition in the museum’s second-level Sealaska Gallery.

The Washington Post reported on the new display, explaining legends about the tribe’s origin when the deity Kwati the Transformer transformed a pair of wolves into human shape. As a result, wolf imagery is hugely important in the Quileute culture. However, the tribe and the museum’s comprehensive displays teach that shape shifting back and forth between forms is a fictional invention.

One thing Meyer did record accurately was the size and location of the Quileute reservation, nestled on the Pacific shore. Many of the tribe’s most important buildings, including a school, the tribal administrative offices and many homes are within tsunami range. Right now the tribe is stuck with this situation, mired in a 50-year-old border dispute with Olympic National Park, without higher land or the money to purchase it. One of the actresses from the Twilight saga movies is helping draw attention to this plight.

The Native American media outlet, Indian Country Today Media Network reports on the positive effect of involvement of movie celebrities in Quileute tribal concerns. Julia Jones, the actress who portrayed Quileute werewolf Leah Clearwater, herself a Chickasaw/Choctaw member, has recorded a public service announcement to help raise money so the Quileute tribe can expand their reservation and move to higher ground.

Ironically, the Smithsonian exhibit also displays a map of the Quileute’s formerly vast tribal lands, which stretched from the shore up into the Olympic Mountains.

The Smithsonian exhibit isn’t just a collection of Indian artifacts. Curators also want to show visitors the positive impact a popular series like Twilight can have. The new Quileute gallery includes “a 12-minute looped video that illuminates the history and oral and cultural traditions through interviews with tribal members and teens as they describe the phenomenon and effect of the Twilight films in their own words,” the Smithsonian’s curators write about the new show. “Replicas of items used in the Twilight films include a paddle necklace worn by the character Emily portrayed by actor Tinsel Korey, a traditional Quileute hand drum that hangs in Emily’s house, a shell necklace of Olivella shells that was on the wall of her house and the dream catcher that Jacob gives to Bella as a gift.”

Care to read more from Jane Wells? Learn about her Twilight Bible study book and read an interview with Wells about Twilight’s popular themes.

Please help us to reach a wider audience

 We welcome your Emails at [email protected]
We’re also reachable on Twitter, Facebook, AmazonHuffington PostYouTube and other social-networking sites. 
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Treat yourself (or a friend) to Page-a-Day for New Year

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1222_Once_a_day_devotional_for_women_Zondervan.jpgCLICK ON THE COVER to jump to Amazon.If you enjoy Bible study using the best-selling New International Version, then you’ve almost certainly read Zondervan books already. As the main publisher of NIV Bibles and NIV Bible-study books for general readers, the Zondervan team continually rethinks the way millions of men and women like to open, read and study their Bibles. How frequently do we like to read scripture? What do we want along with our Bible reading? For the New Year 2012, the Zondervan team is offering four different Page-a-Day choices. We asked author and Bible-study teacher Jane Wells to review the main offering for women …

JANE WELLS ON
ONCE-A-DAY DEVOTIONAL
FOR WOMEN

There are seasons in our lives, especially as women, when daily Bible reading and prayer just seems too daunting to start, much less maintain. For example, newly converted Christians are easily overwhelmed trying to figure out how to start. Busy moms, on the other hand, may simply have difficulty finding enough time to sit down and read.

Zondervan has created a solution that works for both the busy or beginning Christian woman: Once-A-Day Devotional for Women. This paperback contains 365 readings, each including a section of scripture, a few paragraphs of teaching and a prayer prompt to encourage the reader to bring her devotional time full circle. The book is small enough to be held in one hand while rocking a baby to sleep, but big enough to not be easily lost amid the shuffle of a busy life.

The devotional topics are as varied, and as universal, as the needs of the women who will read it, ranging from maintaining focus on God to praying for the safety of family members. Dated January 1 through December 31, Once-A-Day Devotional for Women makes a great holiday present for yourself or a friend. Got a little money from a Christmas gift? Treat yourself to a copy. Need to find a New Year’s gift for a good friend or beloved relative? Consider choosing this devotional. This is an ideal way to help you keep that New Year’s Resolution to grow closer to God.

OTHER ONCE-A-DAY BIBLE OPTIONS FROM ZONDERVAN

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1222_Once_a_day_Bible_by_Zondervan.jpgCLICK THE COVER to jump to Amazon.Nationally, more women than men egage in thoughtful spiritual reading—but Zondervan hasn’t left men out in the cold. There’s also a Once-A-Day Devotional for Men, so think about a His and Hers New Year’s Resolution?

Or, if you want to share a single volume as a couple—and you want to focus primarily on the New Testament and the life of Jesus—Zondervan also is publishing a Once-A-Day Walk with Jesus Devotional: 365 Days in the New Testament. This edition was prepared in cooperation with the Walk Thru the Bible program, an evangelical ministry founded in 1976 to encourage a growth in grassroots Bible study. In this edition, you’ll find an inspirational quotation from a famous Christian writer along with each day’s readings. Those writers include Martin Luther, Oswald Chambers, John Calvin, C.S. Lewis and many others. Occasionally, the text of a classic hymn is the daily companion, instead of an author.

Among the four Once-a-Day editions, we are especially impressed with the NIV Once-A-Day Bible (shown at right). Millions of people set out to read the entire Bible but very few make it cover to cover. Often, these year-long reading schedules are printed in easy-to-lose fliers or as supplements to the Bible, requiring readers to flip back and forth each day. The most dreaded barrier to a 365-day Bible-reading challenge is the big black date at the top of each entry. Fall behind and you’ll feel so guilty that you’re likely to simply give up and shelve the whole idea. The Zondervan team made a simple, yet very welcome change: Each daily reading is numbered 1-to-365, not dated. So, your 365 days easily can span more than a year. Miss a few days? Well, just keep going when you have time!

CARE TO READ MORE FROM BIBLE-STUDY TEACHER JANE WELLS?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1222_Glitter_in_the_Sun_Twilight_Bible_study_large_cover.jpgJane Wells’ new book brings the excitement of the Twilight novels into an easy-to-lead Bible-study series. She explains it all in Glitter in the Sun: A Bible Study Searching for Truth in the Twilight Saga.

Connect the Twilight characters with Bible stories and your daily life.
Organize your group easily with tips and discussion questions.
Enjoy short, inspiring chapters.
Share honestly with others thanks to the author’s own real-life stories.
Step back and reflect on the bigger themes that have led millions to Twilight in the past decade—and 2 billion to Christianity over 2,000 years.

Please, tell a friend to start reading ReadTheSpirit along with you!
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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Is Twilight bad for you? From seizures to women’s porn?

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1205_Twilight_actors.jpgTWILIGHT ACTORS IN A PUBLIC APPEARANCE. Photo in public domain via Wikimedia Commons.Fears of epileptic seizures did not keep fans away from the hit movie, Twilight: Breaking Dawn, Part 1, this weekend. Since mid-November, Twilight has been No. 1 at the boxoffice, trumping all competitors. Even the entire gang of Muppets couldn’t beat the vampires and werewolves! Media watchers were skeptical in recent days—but Twilight knocked out a third straight weekend in the top slot. That’s a total boxoffice gross approaching $250 million.

Did you hear about the fear of seizures? The New York Times reported the story in the final days of November. Then, various versions of the story have been whizzing around news websites ever since. Jill Rosen’s story in the Baltimore Sun, filed on December 1, has been frequently reposted. At that time, the Sun reported: There have been at least nine reported instances of people suffering seizures during “Breaking Dawn,” the latest installment in the teen vampire series. The trigger seems to be a particularly intense birth scene that involves a strobe effect with flashes of red, white and black light. Now, various groups have issued warnings about the film, mainly aimed at people prone to seizures.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1205_Glitter_in_the_Sun_Twilight_Bible_study_large_cover.jpgCLICK THE COVER TO LEARN MORE ABOUT TWLIGHT AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO FAITH. This Bible study by Jane Wells is great for small groups.Did you hear about Twlight being “Women’s Porn”? Well, that’s another online claim circulating, largely due to a posting on e-zine PJ Media. The PJ argument is: It fulfills the female ego in the same way pornography appeals to men. Our own Twilight author Jane Wells takes on that charge in a column she calls: Women’s porn or men’s highest calling?

LEARN MORE ABOUT TWILIGHT
AND BIBLE STUDY

MORE about Jane Wells’ Twight Bible study book, called Glitter in the Sun.

MORE from Jane Wells in our author interview about why Twilight matters to millions.

MORE on enjoying the movie with our quick-start guide to seeing Breaking Dawn with friends.

Please help us to reach a wider audience

Please, tell a friend to start reading along with you!
You can subscribe to our articles via Email or RSS.
Plus, there’s a free Monday morning Planner newsletter you may enjoy.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

Interview with author Jane Wells on Twilight Bible study

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1114_RTS_BKS_GlitterInTheSun_Web_banner.jpg

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

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1114_Twilight_bible_study_author_Jane_Wells.jpgJANE WELLS. (Photo by John Hile.)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

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1114_Twilight_Bible_study_cover_Glitter_in_the_Sun.jpgCLICK THE COVER TO ORDER FROM AMAZON.DAVID: Even before you finished the last book, you were connecting the dots with your 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.

Quick Start Guide to enjoying Twilight saga movie debut

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1114_Kristen_Stewart_and_Robert_Pattinson_in_Twilight_Saga_Breaking_Dawn.jpgKristen Stewart as Bella Swan and Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen in Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn 1. Photo by Andrew Cooper for Summit Entertainment, LLC.Twilight-Bible-study author Jane Wells, in addition to talking about why she loves the Twilight novels and movies, has written this Quick Start Guide to enjoying the debut of the Twilight Breaking Dawn Part 1.
(And, stay tuned this week for Jane Wells’ coverage of a midnight movie debut.)

What you’ve missed so far…
So, there’s this girl.
Her name is Bella Swan and she’s human.
And there’s a boy, Edward Cullen. He is not.

Edward, it turns out, is a very nice sort of vampire who doesn’t kill people and who has at times pondered the fate of his eternal soul now that he’s damned to the life of the eternally living. The Twilight Saga revolves around these star-crossed lovers’ search for a happily ever after.

SPOILER ALERT! The following is a Quick-Start Guide to seeing the latest movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1, which debuts November 18. (Read our news coverage of this cultural milestone.)
The following summary hits highlights of the Twilight saga—right up to Breaking Dawn.

TWILIGHT: Twilight is a series by Stephenie Meyer (yes, there are 5 e’s in her name).
Her novels are published in a category known as: Young Adult Urban Fantasy. In the series’ first book, called simply Twilight, Bella leaves her mom’s home in Arizona to live with her dad in Forks, Washington. On her first day of school she meets Edward. Pretty soon they fall in love. Turns out vampires like the Pacific Northwest precisely because of the rain; the sun reflects off their super hard skin—glittering like diamonds, which tends to give away their true nature. The first hurdle is proving that Bella will not spill the beans on Edward and his family (a whole coven of the nice sort of vampire). The second hurdle is when James, the bad sort of vampire, gets a whiff of her tasty blood. There are three more books in the series, so Bella must survive. Edward kills James to save the fair Bella’s life.

ECLIPSE: The stress of knowing he had exposed Bella to the danger of other vampires weighs on Edward, so in Eclipse, he decides that for her safety he must break up with her. He convinces his family to move away. Bella falls into a deep depression emerging only when Jacob, her friend since childhood, is around. Things start to get better until Jacob, a member of the nearby Quileute tribe, pulls a similar disappearing act. Turns out all the vampire activity triggered a dormant shape-shifting gene in certain members of the tribe turning them into giant wolves whose sole purpose is to kill vampires. Jacob finds a way to let Bella into the tribal secret because he has fallen in love with her.  When Bella discovers Edward is in danger and only she can save him, she flies to Italy to confront the ruling class of vampires, the Volturi. When she returns with Edward, and his family returns to Forks, Jacob asks her to choose who she really loves. She chooses Edward.

NEW MOON: Love triangles are not resolved that easily. In New Moon, a vampire named Victoria shows up bent on revenge. She is the life mate of James (remember that James didn’t make it out of the first Twilight novel alive). Victoria has devised an elaborate plan to get around a few of the special skills Edward and his family possess. She creates an army of newborn vampires in Seattle and marches them up to Forks to attack Edward’s clan, with the sole purpose of destroying Bella. Tooth for tooth, so to speak. So, when Bella’s not plotting defense from bad vampires, trying to comfort Jacob’s broken heart without leading him on, and trying to deny that she’s another year older than Edward (who, although he’s about 100, is frozen at 16), there’s the pesky question of whether or not she’ll accept Edward’s proposal of marriage upon graduation from high school. Marriage is the condition he insists upon before he’ll give Bella the two things she wants most: immortality—so she’ll never have to be without him again, and sex. The Quileute wolves show up to save the day, thrilled to have vampires they are allowed to kill—as Edward’s family is off limits due to an ancient treaty—and the vampire army is defeated. Bella accepts Edward’s proposal, and steadfast Jacob’s heart is broken yet again.

BREAKING DAWN: Now you’re ready for Breaking Dawn! Or, at least: Part 1. Like Harry Potter, the last book was the longest and is split down the middle for moviegoers. Expect to see all the major players again (except James and Victoria, of course), including the Volturi who have had their eyes on the Cullens’ unique talent pool for some time.

https://readthespirit.com/explore/wp-content/uploads/sites/16/2013/03/wpid-1114_Glitter_in_the_Sun_small_cover.jpgI can’t wait!!!! How about you? Email us at [email protected] with your thoughts, suggestions and any news about your experience of the movie opening this week.

MEET JANE WELLS in our author interview and learn more about this lively form of Bible study.

ORDER: ‘Glitter in the Sun: A Bible study searching for truth in the Twilight’ from Amazon.

Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.