Tag Archives: Monsters

Monster Squad

Read Luke 9:49-55

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For the law was given through Moses, but God’s unfailing love and faithfulness came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17, NLT)

monstersquad3One of my all time favorite novels, as I have expressed in the past, is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. As a fan of the novel, one who has read it several times over the years, I am also a fan of Dracula films. Not one of the films ever does the novel justice, in my humble opinion, but I love them all the same. One of my favorites, is Francis Ford Coppola’s “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, which tried to remain true to the novel, but also explored the sensual side of the story as well. In fact, my main beef with the film is that it went overkill on making it erotic, taking away the beauty of the subtle eroticism that is inherent in the novel. As a result, it felt more like a romance than it did a horror.

In this film Dracula becomes a sort of tragic antihero. The film opens with the historical Dracula who is defending Romania, and Christendom, against the Turkish Muslims who are invading his land. One of the Turks attached a note to an arrow and shot it through a window in Dracula’s Castle; the letter was subsequently read by Dracula’s wife. The note stated that Prince Vlad Dracula had been killed in battle. Bereaved and beside herself, the princess committed suicide by jumping out of the castle window and fell to her death into the river below. When Dracula returned home, he found his dead wife laid out on the chapel floor. Before he could begin to even process what had happened, the priests told him that his wife’s soul had been damned to hell for committing suicide.

This graceless and condemning pronouncement of his true love sent Dracula into a rage. He grabbed his sword and stabbed it into a stone cross, which immediately began to gush with blood. Dracula then grabbed the Eucharistic chalice and, after he filled it with the blood, drank from it. It is in this moment that man died and the monster was born. Honestly, though, Dracula became a monster as a result of another monster in the room: GRACELESS THEOLOGY. It was the theology of the priests, who are supposedly Christ’s representatives, that killed Dracula the man and created Dracula the monster. Dracula’s response to the priests is best summed up by the lyrics of the song “Dracula” by Iced Earth: “I am the Dragon of blood, the relentless prince of pain. Renouncing God off His throne, my blood is forever stained. For true love I shall avenge. I defy the creed that damned her.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am certainly not justifying with Dracula’s reaction, nor am I suggesting that Dracula was right to “defy God.” What I am saying is that there is no greater monster than graceless, bad theology. Some Christians have placed themselves as judge and jury against what they feel is sinful or immoral. Yet, has Christ called Christians to be judge or jury? Or has Christ called us to be representatives of and witnesses to the love and the grace of God? I think the answer is clear. And I think it becomes clear who the real villains were in this particular telling of Dracula. Monstrous theology makes monsters of those who believe in it, and it also ends up either destroying and/or damning its victims, sometimes creating monsters out them as well.

In the spirit of Halloween, let us become the “Monster Squad.” Let us hunt down and eradicate the demons, the ghouls and the monsters that lurk in our theology. Let us be thoughtful and prayerful about what we believe and how express that. Let us be humble in our faith and recognize that ONLY GOD IS THE JUDGE and that we are not called to take the place of God. Let us remember that Christ has called us to be representatives of the Kingdom of God, to be witnesses of God’s grace, to to be bearers of God’s profoundly unconditional, limitless, and enduring love. Let our theology be the kind that points to the sacred worth in all people; and let us lay to rest any theology that sets out to destroy.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“One of the main tasks of theology is to find words that do not divide but unite, that do not create conflict but unity, that do not hurt but heal.” – Henri Nouwen

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be humble and to be faithful in representing your grace and love to all people. Amen.

Be Still, My Soul

Read Mark 5:1-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE “Be still, and know that I am God! I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.” (Psalms 46:10)

The-Wolf-Man“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the Wolf’s Bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” At first when Larry Talbot hears those words recited to him by the engaged woman he is attempting to seduce, he laughs it off as superstitious hogwash. One thing that could certainly be said is that Larry was certainly not pure in heart but, then again, who is? Regardless, Larry was a modern, civilized man, and there was no way that he was going to buy into werewolves and in any mythical monster.

Yet, as it turns out, later that night following those words being recited to him, Larry is bitten by what looks like a large wolf and his life becomes a living nightmare. As the full moon draws closer, Larry became more and more convinced that he was, in fact, bitten by a werewolf. He was so paranoid that he tried to convince his father who refused to believe him. Instead, his father put him in the care of a psychiatrist. On the morning following the full moon, Larry found himself lying in bed with tattered and dirty clothes on. His window was open wide and dirty footprints could be seen. At first they were wolf-like, but each footprint became more and more human. Once he saw this Larry knew his worst nightmare had come true: he was the wolf man.

As you have probably figured out, I have just summed up the first half of the movie, “The Wolf Man”, starring Lon Chaney, Jr. It is one of my favorite films because I find that I truly relate with the character. I think many, if they are honest, can relate with him. We are all flawed people. Even when we have the best of intentions, we are not pure in heart. We often try to hide the impurity and the ugliness; however, at some point, that ugliness always shows. No matter how hard we try to suppress the beast within us, whatever that beast is, the full moon eventually rises upon it and the beast is unleashed. This, of course, is a metaphor and our inner “beasts” take the form of anger, depression, hatred, bitterness, addiction, gossip, divisiveness, cynicism, and many other things.

This is a reality. We may not like to admit it, but we all have a beast that lies underneath the surface just waiting to come out of the darkness to take over and destroy our lives and the lives of those around us. The question is, will we like Larry deny that the inner beast exists? Will we deny our impurities? Will we pretend that we are all “good” people who have no weaknesses or hangups? Or will we come to terms with the fact that, while our life can be beautiful at points, it is also true that we find ourselves walking thorny paths? Will we acknowledge the thorny paths we are on. This reminds me of the first verse of a famous hymn, “Be Still, My Soul: the Lord is on your side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain; leave to your God to order and provide; in every change God faithful will remain. Be still, my soul: your best, your heavenly friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”

While “Be Still, My Soul” is talking about having strength in times of tribulation, there really is no greater tribulation than trying to fight our inner demons alone. The reality is that we were born in a broken world as broken people. The more we deny our weaknesses the more our souls suffer the consequences of that inner struggle. The Good News here is that you need not fight it at all. Christ has power over our demons if we will only allow him into our lives and into our hearts. That takes humility, it takes repentance, and it takes a willingness on our part to be transformed and to change; however, is the alternative a better option? The same Christ who cast Legion out of the possessed man in the reading for today, is the same Christ who can conquer the inner demons, the inner beast, in your life. All you need do is have faith, to be willing to change, and to allow Christ to still the storm in your soul.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY “Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know the Christ who ruled them while he dwelt below.” – Katharina von Schlegel

PRAYER Lord, still the storm within my soul. Should it ever return, remind me that you are Lord in my life and that I need not fight the battle alone. Amen.