Dear Reader,

To address your question, let me tell you a story. So, I’m at my parents’ house for our family’s Christmas party. This is the first chance that I’ve had to tell most of them that I’m officially entering the ministry as a pastor. Now, some of my favorite cousins were there, however, one of the reason we get along so well is because we live to get each other in trouble. His mom and dad are fairly conservative religious people. When discussion turned to my web site having both Christian and horror content, my cousin announces to his mom that I’m “lukewarm” (you have to love epithets that you have to look up in the Bible to get: lukewarm refers to those whom Jesus would spit out as being neither spiritually hot nor cold). She asks “why?” and he tells her because I write horror. “What’s that?” she asks. He says “demons and witchcraft” then tip-toes his butt out the room, probably to watch Jason vs. Freddy. She goes off on how I shouldn’t be writing that. Ironically, it’s their side of the family that has the obeah people. I gently blew her off and laughed for having walked straight into that (vowing to get even with my cousin).

This points out a couple of things. One, the reason “religious” people, when they think of horror, pretty much define it as witchcraft, demons, or the splatterpunk brand of blood and guts. So, if I decide that I want to spend the breath on them, what I end up doing first in defining horror for them. The stuff they read in high school like Poe or Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”, movies like “Sixth Sense”. Because horror is about dealing with fear, ultimately the fear of death, and most times with an element of the supernatural.

My second approach is to remind them about the Bible. We could object to the individual elements of the Bible, like the supernatural parts involving the sorcerers/witches, mediums, and the demons/demon-possessed. We could skip the blood and guts of people being dashed against rocks, their entrails eaten by dogs, mothers eating their own afterbirth, and tent pegs being thrust through people’s heads. We could ignore the bad language (sure, we play down the stuff that would be translated piss and shit today). And we gloss over the sex scenes and the rapes. Or we could realize that the overarching point of the book, the meta-narrative, is redemption.

You could go on and on about the genre of horror is naturally suited for Christians. As a genre, it shares the same language and themes and spiritually minded people. The total depravity of man (if you want a Calvinistically loaded phrase). The unseen realm of spirits, demons, and angels. It meditates on the nature of mortality and death. It speculates about the afterlife.

However, most times, you are wasting your breath. Many religious people have a narrow definition of what construes true or “saving” spirituality. And arguments aren’t going to convince them otherwise. They believe what they believe and they know what God has to say on the topic.

So normally I suggest two things: that the first fatal flaw in their argument is that they assumed that I care about their opinion on the matter. The second thing is that I usually end up telling them in to bite me … in Jesus’ name.

But it can be different with family. You can try some of the reasoning that I mentioned above, but the best you can hope for is compromise, an agreement to disagree. Look, in Christ we have been given tremendous freedom, not a list of dos and don’ts as many people interpret spirituality. But we also have been given wisdom to draw our own lines for what constitutes what we can handle and what constitutes sinning against our conscious. My lines are a bit further out that many of my friends and family. Some people more narrowly define what they can handle. It takes wisdom and maturity to recognize this. Where it becomes wrong is when I say that my line is the universal demarcation for all Christians or vice versa with their lines.

Otherwise though, I would avoid the topic. They probably aren’t going to bend much (unless they realize it comes down to bending a little or alienating you entirely) and you can save yourself the Tylenol bills from banging your head into that wall all the time.

And sometimes, I do blame it on the season, except for me it’s Halloween. I get particularly thin-skinned around then as I’m usually subject to a barrage of anti-Halloween and anti-horror sermons. The “bite me”s usually fly then. I rarely have to battle family because, frankly, we have so many issues that horror-writing’s well off the radar screen. But I’m affiliated with two churches. and both have issues with it. (One of the reasons why I’m starting my own with another pastor who appreciates the value of story). My most recent run in was with a youth pastor who teaches his kids to not watch television or movies. My perspective is to watch them with a critical mind and look for their spiritual implications. But he read a couple of my stories and came out the closet as a horror fan. But since I’m a Christian, I’m not suppose to use sex or profanity. Ironically, as a Christian (and as demonstrated by the movie “The Passion of the Christ” and the Left Behind books) we can be as violent as we want to be, just don’t cuss or be naked.

Plus, if you’re going into writing full time, you ARE subjecting your family to poverty and living on the edge of starvation. (-:

Sorry to ramble on so long. Obviously this is one of my soap box issues.