‘Twilight’ Dissed by ‘Focus on the Family’?

Chuck Colson, once Watergate conspirator, now Evangelical Christian spokesman and leader,  endorsed the Harry Potter series on his nationally distributed radio program, BreakPoint. He gave a big thumbs-up in November, 1999, at the release of Prisoner of Azkaban to the magic of the books, their  morality, and the opening Ms. Rowling created to the tradition of Christian ‘High Fantasy’ in English Literature.  Legend has it that one of the more significant supporters of his Prison Ministry programs called to say he was withdrawing his support if Mr. Colson didn’t retract his Potter endorsement — and retract he did, first with a brief radio announcement and eventually with a full scale warning to parents, the position he maintains today. (A sample of the negative feedback Mr. Colson received in 1999 can be found here.)

I think we’re seeing something similar in recent comments on a Focus on the Family radio program about Twilight. Let’s take a quick look at the Focus history of Twilight reviews, the backlash from Conservative Christians (TM), and the response of a literature professor to the consequent back-pedaling on the radio.The history is pretty straight forward. At Focus on the Family’s web site for popular culture, ‘Plugged-In,’ the book and movie reviews about Twilight have been balanced, always careful to note those scenes, language, and themes some parents may object to, while being for the most part positive about Mrs. Meyer’s work and the film adaptations. Check out their “book report” on the first book in the series and the movie review of Twilight. The review of Summit’s adaptation of New Moon is equally straight forward with ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ that you’d expect from a Dobson ministry and their audience.

But part of their audience was furious and have been raising a fuss on their internet sites about Dr. Dobson’s endorsing the Twilight franchise, and, along with it, the occult, free love, and Mormonism. If you think I’m kidding, check out World View Weekend’s Focus on the Family Praises Twilight Vampire Love Film.

If you want to read more of the Culture Warrior reflex-rejection of Twilight that is the back-drop of this hand (face?) slapping being dished out to Dr. Dobson and company, check out Eric Barger’s Bringing Twilight Out Into the Son or Caryl’s The Twilight Phenomena. My favorite is an “Interesting Sidenote” afterword to the weBlog take-down of Focus (‘Dobson’s Focus on the Family — or is it Focus on the Coven?’), a “side-note” that is clearly the point of the whole piece, in which we learn that Mrs. Meyer’s work is the work, in fact, of the Devil:

Author Stephenie Meyer

A housewife named Stephenie Meyer “received” the story of Twilight in a dream on June 2, 2003.  The vision she had of a vampire and mortal as lovers compelled her to start writing the story immediately.  She says she couldn’t resist the drive to write down her dream (a similar scenario to J.K Rowlings, author of Harry Potter).  Meyer gives a summary of that first dream:

“I woke up (on that June 2nd) from a very vivid dream. In my dream, two people were having an intense conversation in a meadow in the woods. One of these people was just your average girl. The other person was fantastically beautiful, sparkly, and a vampire. They were discussing the difficulties inherent in the facts that A) they were falling in love with each other while B) the vampire was particularly attracted to the scent of her blood, and was having a difficult time restraining himself from killing her immediately.”

Within three months, she had the entire novel written. Within six-months, it had been dreamed, written, and readied for publishing.

She admits she had little to no prior writing experience with only a B.A. degree in English and had to learn from the Internet how to submit a book proposal.  She tried a few times and “miraculously” got published with a $750 thousand dollar publishing contract! Miraculous happenings have been known to come from powers of darkness, and in this case, no matter how it’s sliced, the God of the Bible would not use vampires, sexual tension, lust, boyfriend worship, and teenage romance to spread His Gospel of eternal life and salvation through Yeshua.

Meyer, a Mormon mother of three, states that some of her inspiration in writing her vampire saga came from a band of musicians called Marjorie Fair.

“For New Moon, they were absolutely essential. They can put you into a suicidal state faster than anything I know . . . Their songs really made it beautiful for me.”

Also an inspiration for one of her characters was a band called My Chemical Romance. She states, “It’s someone . . . who just wants to go out and blow things up.

Scarily, Meyer’s fictional character Edward took on the “terrifying” form of “real” spirit when it leapt from the pages of her saga and communicated with her in a dream.

She says she had an additional dream after Twilight was finished when her vampire character Edward came to visit and speak to her. The Edward who visited her in the night told her she’d got it all wrong because he DID drink human blood, and could not “live” on ONLY animal blood as she wrote in the story.  She said, “We had this conversation and he was terrifying.”

Conversation with spirits (saying they need human blood to suck!) and frightening dream visitations by spirits are part of occult communication.

Meyer’s spiritual experiences could well be influenced by her Mormon faith which allows for communication with the so-called “the dead”; indeed “the dead” of former generations are baptized into Mormonism in Mormon Temple ritual.

In 2007, Stephenie Meyer wrote portions of a work titled, “Prom Nights from Hell,” which is about supernatural events surrounding evil prom nights. On May 6, 2008, she released her adult novel, The Host, which is about “invading alien souls” that take over a person and get them to do what they want.

This behavior is called demonic possession, a state Jesus came to set captives free from.  Meyer’s so-called fiction “crosses over” to severe occult philosophy.

I’m not terribly surprised, consequently, that on a recent Focus on the Family radio program the radio ministry reassured their listeners that they are, in fact, not on the side of the devil. I’m told they, a la Colson, have retreated to the ‘point of prudence’ which is to issue a warning to parents that adolescents seeing the New Moon film may be encouraged to jump off cliffs (or feed themselves to Italian vampires?) if relationships don’t work out and to have unhealthy boyfriend-girlfriend hook-ups in the first place.

Elizabeth Baird Hardy, literature professor and author of Milton, Spencer, and the Chronicles of Narnia: Literary Sources for the C. S. Lewis Novels, has written Focus this charitable letter, admonishing them for their retreat. I have her permission to quote it in full:

Dear Focus Friends,

Focus on the Family is a ministry near and dear to me and my family.  We have frequently been blessed by the wonderful work done by Focus. As a college instructor, my schedule is such that I am frequently in the car to listen to Focus on the radio, an experience I usually relish. However, I am concerned about the content and tone featured in the today’s and yesterday’s programs, in which guests expressed their concerns and issues with the popular Twilight Saga.

While I know we must be vitally concerned with what our young people read,  as an English teacher and literary scholar, I was deeply troubled by the guests’ frequent comments that imply this popular series is somehow a terrifying new threat. While these individuals seem very sincere and their hearts are undoubtedly burdened with true love and concern for young women (and others), many of their concerns seemed questionable. I was particularly struck by one guest (forgive me, I was driving and did not catch which ) and her comment about the dangers of Edward’s love because he is willing to die for Bella and she for him.

His attempted suicide (and her perceived one) are plot elements of New Moon, which is built upon the scaffolding of Romeo and Juliet. How many students read Shakespeare’s beautiful tragedy every semester? Do we wring our hands that these students may model their lives on our tragic Montague and Capulet? Or, even worse, wrench it from their hands? I certainly hope not. Rather, I hope we have intelligent and interesting conversations with them about love, passion, and perhaps even the complex moral, alchemical, and spiritual drama played out in Verona (and echoed in Meyer’s novel).

Another guest (or perhaps the same one, again, my apologies) was concerned about Edward Cullen as a dangerous person for young women to adore. How many generations of women, including myself, swooned over  Heathcliff of Wuthering Heights or Mr. (Edward) Rochester of Jane Eyre, both far more dangerous and even abusive in their passion (though Edward Cullen has literary roots in both)?

Certainly, we should be directing young women (and everyone else, for that matter) toward Christ, but I think our guests might do well to remember that literature, and literary discussions may be the best tool to help anyone understand the Twilight Saga, built as it is upon the framework of some of the most beloved love stories in the canon of Western Literature. Concerned parents really ought to read ANYTHING which they are unsure their children should be reading. If they read Twilight for themselves, they may open not only a few spiritual conversations (and not all negative ones), but they may also discover, together, some new old favorite authors like the Brontes and Austen and become better readers, thinkers, and parents.

May I advise parents, and other readers, to read John Granger’s Spotlight: A Close up Look at the Artistry and Meaning of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga? It is an excellent analysis of the Saga (including why this really isn’t even a series about vampires at all.) Mr. Granger is also an outstanding speaker, homeschooling dad, and fine Christian who would be a wonderful guest on Focus.

Thank you very much for your time. May God continue to richly bless you in your tireless effort to bless and support families and lift up our Savior.

In Him,

Elizabeth Baird Hardy

Senior Instructor of English, Mayland Community College, Spruce Pine, NC

I’m not holding my breath for the phone call from Focus especially as I suspect their hope was that their radio program convinced the Twilight-focused Culture Warriors that they were firmly on the anti-vampire and contra-Twilight side of things. But Prof. Hardy’s understanding, that is, reading the books as literature rather than litmus strips of fidelity and righteousness by which we gauge our neighbors and their children, is the right one, I think.

I covet your comments and correction as always.


  1. Seems to me we’ve heard before the charge that an author of imaginative fiction wrote the books through demonic influence.

  2. John – – As you have beautifully demonstrated in your writings we have an inner desire, Mutima as the africans say, or that ‘God shaped vacuum (Pascale) in our hearts we strive to fill as our spirit strives to be in union with the fullness of Glory found in the Incarnation of the Logos . . . And specifically that Fantasy fiction, which plays a mythical or even religious role in our lives (Eliade), allows for the suspension of disbelief (Coleridge) so that the deepest of our spiritual questions might be answered through the use of our noetic faculty as we seek theosis.

    Why is it then that there is such harsh, adamant, frankly irrational onslaught of negative criticism for books as such? It usually comes from those who genuinely, though ignorantly, are trying to preserve a Christian cosmology in the lives of the faithful. And though much of the criticism is done without just consideration for the texts themselves, it certainly isnt done just because they are hateful people. Is it simply that those in such fundamentalists circles just view all of fantasy fiction as ‘dismissive distraction?’ and hence nothing but non-fiction christian media is to be watched or read? Or is it something more?

    Travis – – I have enjoyed your works as well, Especially your lecture on the meaning of the phoenix and your explanation of the ‘caulderon of story’. Good stuff!

  3. John, you know that I’m not a Twilight reader, by my own choice. But I certainly would never characterize the books or the author or the readers in such a negative manner as Focus on the Family has done. I find their attitudes to be too fundamentalist for me to give them much of my attention. I’m sure they mean well, but I think they often do more harm by putting forth such fearful and negative information, when I don’t think they’ve really taken the time to view the criticized material on its own merits. If they have read the books and then come to the conclusion that they can’t recommend them, fine. But I don’t think the Twilight books really should have such dire warnings – based, not on my reading, but on my daughter’s comments and on yours.

    Though I don’t think I would like the books, I do think that there is always room for discussion between parent and child, no matter what the books are. And if these books open that conversation about relationships and even about religion, then great. I’ve said before that if my daughters were teens and reading Twilight (which my 28 year old has), then I would be reading them as well.

    What I have found with some people I know who are against Harry Potter, and probably against Twilight, is that they only want to read and listen to Christian books and music, and want the same for their children. In my opinion, that’s very limiting. And their definition of what qualifies as Christian books (I won’t call some of it literature), is sometimes very narrow.

    I agree that her response letter is very charitable, perhaps more than it needed to be. I think that some of the parents who are afraid of everything out there may need to hear words that jolt them back to the reality that we live in the world and have to learn how to deal with it. We aren’t supposed to be so isolated that we never encounter someone who isn’t just like us.

  4. Thank you, Pat.

    Just a note of clarification, though. The longer passage quoted above is not from Focus on the Family but from Christian critics of Focus who believe that the ‘Plugged-In’ reviews had not been sufficiently negative. I suggested that Focus’ radio conversations were more negative consequent to these criticisms as a sop to that portion of their audience.

    I doubt very much anything said on the Focus radio show went so far as even to suggest that Mrs. Meyer was demonically inspired.

    And how about those Jayhawks wiping the floor with our local Lehigh University Hawks? Ouch!

  5. Perelandra says

    Our dear darling Michael O’Brien coyly raises the “demonic influence” issue with both Meyer and Rowling. Did he never read C.S. Lewis’s accounts of inspiring images? I wonder if he’d think the great chemist Kekule’s solution to the structure of benzene was demonic since it famously resulted from a dream?

    Interested parties are directed to

  6. Perelandra says

    Interested readers should check O’Brien’s site which your software wouldn’t let me post.

  7. Coleridge and “Kubla Khan” are obviously out, too, Perelandra! Lewis, of course, had dreams about lions around the time he was beginning LWW, which then fused to his childhood visions of the faun and his packages and the terrible Queen on her sledge in the snow. Interstingly, he stated that these were not always happy lion dreams. In fact, they were often nightmares, rather like those Jill Pole has in the Silver Chair.

    And, despite recent events, I do still recommend Plugged In as a great resource, especially for parents who are trying to decide on films for the kiddies. The reviews are usually very objective, with a nice breakdown of concerns like profanity (who would have guessed Avatar was littered with F-words?)

  8. Arabella Figg says

    Okay, I shoot this back to the Christian Twi-haters who tend to misunderstand and therefore deplore mythology: why was a succubus invited to a Narnian feast? If Lewis is inviting them into childrens’ stories…well, throw Lewis out of the family circle.

  9. I caught the tail end of one of these broadcasts. They did compare Twilight to Narnia on the subject of magic, but it was very strange. The reason it’s ok for Lewis to have magic in Narnia is because Aslan is a big, strong, wonderful image of God. That’s it! I think you should send them a copy of your book, “Looking for God in Harry Potter.” 😉

  10. Do you mean I should send them a copy of Spotlight?

    Please note that ‘Looking for God in Harry Potter’ has been updated and revised and re-issued as How Harry Cast His Spell. If you recommend folks read ‘Looking,’ I won’t get a cent because it is out-of-print.

  11. Dallas Carter says

    John– Just got my copy of ‘How Harry cast his spell’ a few days ago! I started ‘Finding God in Harry Potter’ and made sure I received the updated one! Excellent!

    For future reference, do you receive commission when when your ‘kindle’ edition is sold? I’ve been recommending the book and I want to make sure you get credit for it 🙂

  12. Thanks for the clarification, John.

    Actually, Lehigh played well. Wish I could say the same of my Jayhawks when they played No. Iowa on Saturday. Bleah. I’m still having March Madness withdrawal. So . . . go Kansas State Wildcats. (Wow, that kind sticks in my craw, but I’m trying.)

  13. “Do you mean I should send them a copy of Spotlight?”

    That, too, but in Looking.. sorry, I mean “How Harry Cast His Spell” 🙂 you provide a fabulous introduction to Christian literature. I think that most people assume that for any work of art to be Christian, it has to be a blatant religious tract about Jesus battling and defeating Satan. The folks on the Focus show didn’t seem to have any idea of why the Narnia books were Christian literature, other than to say that Aslan is God, and the LWW is an allegory about the life of Christ (which, if taken too literally has a number of huge holes in it).

  14. Elizabeth says

    And Lewis really resisted all that a=b allegory, too. He felt it was artficial and lost the true power of the story.
    You know, I haven’t heard a peep from the Focus folks, yet, hmmm.

  15. This topic is interesting to me while I am raising impressionable young kids. I will extend this topic in my post to include music with literature.

    I always feel frustrated when Christians attack others and call them not “christian” enough. While I am glad there is gospel music and books that deal directly with the subjects, these things won’t reach or influence the general populace very much. Mostly they just “preach to the choir”.

    I enjoy music and literature that are about life in general with their refrences deep and thought out. These also tend to reach a wider audience that can then dig in a tackle (or be influenced by) the refreces to Christian themes and morality in a more general way. I want to have books and music I can discuss with my kids when they are preteens and then teens that are about things that will relate to their life. This can lead to amazing conversations and I can get in my values without coming across as preachy. I think that many others might come to know and even be influenced by Christian teachings and values through their exploration of the issues in some of these “popular” books and songs.

    Sometimes I wonder if some of the people who take such a narrow view of life always deal in reality.

  16. Elizabeth says

    Great point, Lynn.
    A family member of mine stopped attending church when she was in college several years ago, not because of anything she was reading (although some of it might have been eyebrow raising), but largely because a pastor claimed that Christian rock music was sinful and bereated the church’s young people if they listened to anything but traditonal “gospel” music (quite a bit of which is far less scriptual than the average Newsboys song). This man did permanet damage to a young woman’s spirit.
    No wonder we have to work so hard to get past those Watchful Dragons; they are inside the gates.

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