I know I'm posting Tuesday's post on Wednesday again. This time, we'll blame it on the fact that my husband's out of town; without my live-in scheduler, everything is late.
I mentioned that we're watching the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series as a family. For hardcore fans, we're in the first few episodes of Season 3. Chris made a comment one night that got me thinking about the way we view things as Christians. I'm paraphrasing here, but essentially, he said:
"This is definitely NOT Christian, but there's still some Christianity there..."
And other than the fact that all the kids carry crosses (with no Biblical tie-in that I can remember, so it doesn't really count), there's not really some Christianity there. But...there's Christianity in us. We see the world--fictional or real--through a Christian looking glass.
I'm not talking about watching the show while being filled with condemnation because the plot lines are about demons, or there are vampires, or there's a witch, or there's premarital sex. Not that I'm condoning that stuff, and I'm sure there are people who'd be shocked we're watching this with our 12-year-old son. Have you been to middle school, though? Honestly, he's not learning anything new with this show.
I know not everyone will agree with me on this, and that's okay. I also think the route you take with this depends on yourself and your children. I grew up reading and watching fantasy--I loved the adventure, the heroism, the wonder of it all, but I never wanted to join the occult or become a witch. And I've tried to convey that understanding to my son: What takes place in a fictional world were teens battle monsters over a gaping mouth into hell has very little to do with the real world.
So we don't take away lessons like "Vampires are cool, I want to drink some blood" or "It's okay to romp around with demons as long as they've had their soul restored." These can't be real lessons, because those are fictional situations that happen in a fictional place where fictional people make both poor and wise fictional decisions.
Besides, we don't watch these types of shows for the lessons. We watch them because they're fun, they're far off of reality, and they allow us to rest a bit and forget the tedium of the day. And also, because there are some super funny bits in there, and we like to laugh.
After saying all that, I think my husband's right. The first time I watched this series was in my early 20s, and looking back, I realize I was neither a Christian nor viewing through a Christian looking glass. This time around, I have seen the Christianity in it. I'm not saying Joss Whedon hid Biblical principles in Buffy; I don't know Whedon's stance on Jesus, but the Internet seems to think it's on the negative side. What I'm saying is that God can use any format for his message--some people might remember that time he used a donkey.
The essential thing to remember is that we see God's message when we're looking through the lens of Jesus. And sometimes, the message is personal--it's between us and God. Sometimes, it's corporate--everyone sees or hears.
Here are some of the messages I've personally received while watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my Jesus glasses on.
1. Sometimes, doing the right thing sucks pretty hard, but that doesn't let you off the hook. Early on in my Christianity, I bought into the idea that eventually I was going to reach this place of "experience" where following Jesus would get a lot easier. I was looking at all the metaphors a bit too literally. While you can do enough "spiritual running" that your prayer and obedience and Bible study muscles work better, following Jesus can be really, really hard sometimes. Submission to Christ does come with that wonderful "peace that passes all understanding," but it also comes with some difficult choices.
With Buffy, obedience to her "Slayer calling" comes with some difficult choices. Ultimately, she has to choose that over Friday's date-night, over studying for classes, over spending time with friends, over relationships with family...even over the lives of people she loves. It's not exactly the same thing, I know, but Jesus calls us to choose him over all of those things too.
2. It's dangerous to go alone. The infamous tagline from Zelda is pertinent in both the Buffyverse and real life. How many times does Buffy set off alone to fight the monsters because she wants to protect her friends, because it's not their fight, or because "she's the one and only Slayer?" That usually goes bad for her, and someone else shows up to offer a bit of help. And in the end, she's not even the only Slayer.
It's dangerous to go alone in the real world, too. Luckily, God never meant for us to do that. He's provided his Spirit to dwell with us: a little bit of our own "slayer" powers, direct from God, meant to shine light into the darkness of our world. But that's not all. God also gives us friends and family and people we just bump into on the street. He gives us our own Willows and Xanders and Watchers, and through them he speaks advice, admonition, and love. Sometimes, he even sends them to help save us when we're trying to fight the monsters alone.
3. Forgiveness is available to everyone. I'm pretty sure there's not a single character in the Buffyverse that doesn't, at some point, do something at least a little bit terrible. Even the good guys make horrible decisions; even the good guys become the bad guys on occasion. But it's almost a running theme that even the bad guys can be forgiven. Was there ever a guy more wicked than Angel? Definitely not in the first few seasons of Buffy. What about Spike, the wise-cracking British vampire? Terrible things, and even so, they are eventually redeemed. Not everyone is redeemed, of course. There are evil things that stay evil. Because redemption requires you to want it.
Again, it's not at all the same thing--because these fictional situations involve vampires and curses and souls in a glass orb. These aren't things that translate to real life. But forgiveness does.
In real life, forgiveness is available to everyone. Even the bad guys can be forgiven. In fact, if you read the Gospel...Especially the bad guys can be forgiven.
And that's the part that I see most clearly when I watch Buffy through my Jesus glasses. Because it reminds me that I'm not perfect. I've got my own monsters. Sometimes, I'm the villain of the story, even if the story is small and only has a single character. But I'm not alone. And I'm not powerless. And I'm not hopelessly lost in the dark.
Because God has not given me a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of self-control. God has given me a slayer spirit--not to fight fictional monsters, but to allow his light to shine on, and defeat, the real demons that lurk in this dark world.