Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finding God in Stephen King

on pop theology, philosophy, theology, culture, pop culture, christianity
by JaneAnn Kenney

I struggle with the idea of popular culture and theology. Why should I be looking for theological themes and intersections in the world of reality tv, sports, or cinema? As I struggle to write about pop culture and God, I ask myself—“am I just trying to make a study I find fascinating relevant?”

Is God relevant?

And I firmly believe that he is. The intersection of literature and theology was the first reason I fell in love with Stephen King’s writing. The divergence of the two is the biggest reason I feel slightly vile when I read almost anything by Clive Barker.

And now I’m in the groove. My favorite King book, which can easily be used to illustrate his usual themes and style, must be It. Are there child heroes? Yup. Does their very childishness allow them to believe what adults do not or cannot? Indeed. Does this belief allow them to save themselves and the people they love? With a few sacrifices and notable exceptions, yes. Is there any indication that a supernatural power aided them? Absolutely. What’s more—that supernatural power loves them, loves the children so much. This is not an impersonal deity but rather one which exhibits the Yahweh trait of love for humanity.

Please do not hear me saying that King put Yahweh into It. I’ve often tried to picture God, but never have I pictured him as a huge turtle. However, the turtle’s characterization definitely leans towards a Judeo-Christian portrait.

Now take the first story I ever read by Clive Barker, called “In the Hills, the Cities” in Volume 1 of his Books of Blood. Is there empty, meaningless sex to begin? Yes. Is there senseless, graphic bloodshed? A resounding yes, clarified as near literal rivers of blood. Does the experience end in insanity with no hope of restoration? Of course. There is no room in Barker’s mythology for a loving god, or perhaps any god at all. His world is full of chaos; order collapses frequently and what ensues is his story.

Do not hear me saying that the difference between these authors is faith—I don’t think it is. Rather, having read more SK than many would consider healthy and more Barker than I consider healthy, I think the key difference rests in whether or not the author allows a positive spirituality into their writing.

It surprised me when Bill Denbrough made this statement:

…Best to believe there will be happily ever afters all the way around—and so there may be; who is to say there will not be such endings? Not all boats which sail away into darkness never find the sun again, or the hand of another child; if life teaches anything at all, it teaches that there are so many happy endings that the man who believes there is no God needs his rationality called into serious question.

I praised God when I finished reading this book. It’s not that everyone acted in ways which are distinctly or even remotely Christian. It’s simply that I was surprised to find a horror novel which reminded me that the God I believe in is good and that I will continue to see his influence in surprising places.

You can follow Jane Ann on Twitter @JAKof3Ts.

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