UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
A screenshot from the 1968 film, Night of the Living Dead. (Credit: BloodyCinemaUSA/YouTube)

My love of horror movies is not at odds with my love of God

'Like many Christians in the late ‘80s, I went through a period of purging myself of secular pop culture.'

By Dave Canfield

I love horror movies. I’m not sure where this started. My grandmother, a fearsome Catholic matriarch, had a Halloween birthday, so perhaps watching her scare the hell out of neighbourhood kids who came to her door planted some seeds. I have so many positive stories to share about my lifelong horror fandom, I could probably write an entirely separate column on it. But since my love for the spooky has often spilled over into my day to day, and certainly my spiritual journey, I’ll be offering up the occasional anecdotes here. They could fit comfortably under the title of “Confessions of a Creature Feature Preacher.”

For those who don’t carry the “spooky gene,” I’ll simply use a quote often attributed to George Romero, the director of the 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead” (but its origin is unclear) and let them decide to continue reading. As the story goes, when asked to justify how anyone could be entertained by zombie movies, he said, “If you can’t see the humour in dead people eating the living, I can’t explain it to you.” This line always makes me think of communion and the notion of us dead sinners eating the “living bread" of Christ, so I don’t feel this is at all unfair.

Still, like many Christians in the late ‘80s, I went through a period of purging myself of secular pop culture. Encouraged by popular Christian thinking of the day, I did so in the most thoughtful way I could. I threw away almost everything I owned. That’s right. If an album, book or object didn’t focus completely on Christianity, I tore it up and tossed it. This created a lot of shelf space in my room, but surprisingly little more in my heart for spiritual matters.

Somehow, I hung on to my love for the spooky by filling the void with a steady stream of books and videos that detailed the horrors of backward messages hidden in music, the evils of Christian rock and books salaciously detailing the lurid testimonies of various Christian teachers turned from Satanism and the occult. If I had heard God speaking to me through this irony, I’m pretty sure it would have sounded like this: “Hey dummy. It’s OK to have a taste for monsters and the macabre. You don’t need to cover it up like a vampire on a day pass.”

I continued my cultural asceticism during my journey into a Pentecostal religious culture often referred to as the faith movement. It was nice to be in religious services that didn’t require me to sit down. In fact, I used to bring my aerobic cassettes with me to worship and no one even noticed. But Jesus was the only thing we were really allowed to be excited about.

"Christians told me that God unconditionally loved me and wanted me to be healthy and wealthy, but that I had better keep my Stephen King reading stealthy."

At these churches, Christians told me that God unconditionally loved me and wanted me to be healthy and wealthy, but that I had better keep my Stephen King reading stealthy. I’ll never forget the pastor’s son-in-law confronting me at the local mall about how immature I looked carrying that big King book around instead of my Bible. The fact that he looked like one of the perfect pod people from “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and had a girl on each arm didn’t register at the time. I was too busy feeling ashamed.

And they reminded me the Lord did not like Halloween. Seems Granny, besides being (shudder) a Catholic, had been born on Satan’s favourite day of the year. I have always imagined a cage match between my thick-set grandmother and the squat preacher of that church duking it out for holiday supremacy, but I digress.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was only a few short years from discovering that I didn’t have to choose between God and Godzilla. While the church was selling me its own brands of supernatural entertainment and culture dressed up as theology, I was clinging tight to my need for mystery and a God that could handle the ambiguity of a dark world.

This is the fourth in a blog series called "Out-There Faith" by Dave Canfield.


Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!

Faith

Chris Pratt's church, while claiming to accept everyone, states in its doctrine of faith that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. (Photo: Chris Pratt/Instagram)

Celebrity megachurches need to clarify LGBTQ acceptance: pastor

by Emma Prestwich

Zoe Church, where actor Chris Pratt worships, may not truly "open their doors" to everyone, like he claims.

Promotional Image

Editorials

The United Church Observer's editor and publisher, Jocelyn Bell. (Photo: Lindsay Palmer)

'The Observer' will soon relaunch with a new name and design

by Jocelyn Bell

Our magazine will be going through some changes, but we see blue skies ahead

Promotional Image

Video

Meet beloved church cats Mable and Mouse

by Observer Staff

They're a fixture of Kirk United Church Centre in Edmonton.

Promotional Image

Society

February 2019

Marriage problems: Is the ancient tradition worth saving?

by Pieta Woolley

Bitterness and boredom seem to define many mid-life marriages, but we might not have to settle for apathy ever after

Ethics

February 2019

A Yukon artist and a Tlingit trapper create this stunning jewelry

by Amy van den Berg

The fur jewelry in Whitehorse boutique store V. Ægirsdóttir is creating a new possibility for future partnerships with the region's trappers

Columns

February 2019

Why white people need to stop asking, 'where are you from?'

by Mike Sholars

"...For all intents and purposes, Canada is the only home I really recognize or remember. But none of that matters if I look like I don’t belong, and that single question makes that abundantly clear every single time."

Promotional Image