I have a guilty pleasure. Well a few, but the one I tell the least people about is my odd attraction to werewolf and vampire novels (not the romance ones) In my humble opinion, the opposite of deep theological reflection and books required for seminary tends to be that which is farthest from reality- and for me, that seems to be this genre.
Personally, I have not met a vampire or werewolf that I know of and if I do, I will certainly be the first to call all this into question. In the meantime, I let myself indulge. I don’t watch a lot of tv or see many movies, nor play video games so this is my entertainment in between reading ancient church tomes that are dry, dry, dry with moments of !~amazing~! sprinkled in. I love both and I have learned as much about mercy, grace, God, and the human spirit from the early church mothers and fathers as I have from vampires and werewolves.
It started with those cute little pet detective mysteries. They were neat and clean murder-solving with adorable pets who helped their owners. They were kind, smart, fluffy and the murders were a rare glimpse of ugly in their otherwise perfect world. Then GoodReads, Amazon and the Los Angeles Library suggested I might like “this…” book. The next thing I knew, I was listening to a vampire detective novel and I was hooked. That has evolved into a seriously developed palate for the supernatural realm and lighthearted reads. I know what I am looking for and sex and fear are not on the list. I want relationships- developed characters and the search for soul and betterment of creation.
At this point I can almost hear you thinking, “this is soooo not pastoral.” So let me allow the gem of my latest book to express what I am trying to say. The book, Kitty and the Midnight Hour is written by Carrie Vaughn and about a late-night DJ who happens to be an unwilling werewolf. I am barely into it, and not sure this 1st in a large series will meet the cut, but within the first pages, this gem of brilliance is found. Kitty is on the air and a caller comes in,
“I am a vampire…I was attacked and turned involuntarily about 5 years ago… I am also, at least I used to be, a devout Catholic. Its been really hard. All the jokes about blood and eucharist aside, I can’t walk into a church anymore. I can’t walk into mass and I can’t kill myself because that’s wrong. Catholic doctrine teaches that my soul is lost that I am a blot on God’s creation, but Kitty, that’s not what I feel. Just because my heart has stopped beating doesn’t mean I’ve lost my soul, does it?”
I wasn’t a minister, I wasn’t a psychologist, I’d majored in English for crying out loud. I wasnt qualified to counsel anyone on his spiritual life. But my heart went out to him because he sounded so sad. All I could do was try….
“Have you ever read Paradise Lost? It’s Milton’s epic poem about the war in heaven; the rebellion of the angels; the fall of Lucifer and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. As an aside, some people believe this was the time vampires and lycanthropes came into existence; Satan’s mockery of God’s greatest creation; whatever. At any rate, in the first few chapters, Satan is the hero. He speaks long monologues, soul-searching, debating about whether or not to seek revenge on God for exiling him from heaven. After reading this for a while you realize Satan’s greatest sin, his greatest mistake, wasn’t pride or rebelling against God. His greatest mistake was believing that God would not forgive him if he asked for forgiveness. His sin wasn’t just pride; self-pity. I think in some ways, every single person, human, vampire, whatever, has a choice to make: to be full of rage about what happens to you or to reconcile with it. To strive for the most honorable existence you can despite the odds. Do you believe in a God who understands and forgives or one who doesn’t? What it comes down to is this is between you and God. You have to work that out for yourself.”
In each paranormal book I find this, this “seeking to reconcile ourselves with whom we are created to be and who our creator is” and whether or not we are good enough to be loved by our creator. Themes of deserving love, abandonment, guilt, fear, and desperate yearning to be “normal” and on the “inside” run through every single book. They are spun-up versions of exactly what we as humans all struggle with- a desire to be loved despite our imperfections and failures- despite what we think God and society will not forgive or accept.
In these novels I find lessons on how to be a pastor to those who are just trying to get by, who do not believe in a forgiving God or who do but do not believe themselves forgivable. It is powerful pastoral care reading- and recognition that I am drawn to these stories because they are the reflection of us- of our hearts and our sorrow. They are the maps to the obstacles to grace and mercy. What I thought was a guilty pleasure, an escape, turned out to be some really great pastoral growth and resource. Who knew?