Christian Horror

Posted: June 10, 2008 in Ramblings

Hello-o?! Hello! (hello, hello, hello). Echo! (echo, echo, echo).


Having a blog that nobody reads is kind of a surreal experience. It’s akin to being on a deserted island with nobody around for miles. I mean, I could get totally naked on here and run around screaming, “Woohoo! Woohoo!” and no one would care.

Of course, the moment someone does start reading this, I’m putting on a palm leaf.

I joined the Writer’s Water Cooler forum yesterday, left a couple of posts. It’s a nice site. Lots of traffic. Some interesting things to read.

I wasn’t overly surprised to see references to Frank Peretti and Ted Dekker on the site – but what was interesting was to see the interviews where they both disclaim the Christian Horror moniker. They prefer the title “Christian Thriller” or “Christian Suspense.”

Maybe that makes sense from a marketing pov. I dunno. I’m not so sure I don’t want to be known as a Christian Horror author. I think there are some incredible opportunities in that vein – certainly in terms of branding (the Christian Stephen King!), that sort of thing.

I suspect (know with high degree of certainty) that Frank and Ted (may I call you Frank and Ted?) are recoiling from the label of Horror because of its obviously evil (pronounced ēē‘vîl) connotations.

I submit to you that Grace, the cornerstone doctrine of Christian faith, is itself a Horrific concept. We don’t think so, as we tend to be on the receiving end of it. But look at it from Jesus’ point of view for a moment. The doctrine of grace is this: punish the absolutely innocent with torture and death so the guilty can get away scot-free.

In any other context or story, we would be horrified by such a premise! And rightly so. It is a gross injustice. And without it, we are damned.

Let’s take it a step further: if you were present at the crucifixion (and I’m assuming you have a modicum of Christian faith, or at least human decency), and the Roman soldiers handed you the hammer and nails, would you crucify the Son of God?

If you don’t, you cannot be saved. You’ll go to hell (do not pass Go!, do not collect $200). If you do, you are damned for crucifying the Son of God. It is only in damning ourselves that we can experience salvation.

Horrified yet? (or maybe just by my repetitive use of the word “damn”?)

I don’t advocate gratuitous violence. The Coppersmith is a violent book. But it isn’t gratuitous. The violence is integral to the story line, to show how bad evil is. The Bible is full of violent stories. What is worse, is the Bible’s stories of violence is all true-crime. That my stories are fictional sanitizes the horror somewhat, by removing us from it a step or two.

Someone may well protest: fiction stories use adjectives and descriptions to show us the violence. The Bible doesn’t.

I submit to you the Bible didn’t have to. The people of Its day were well acquainted with blood and death. They saw suffering first hand. A simple word or phrase detailing what happened was enough to evoke the imagery. One of the simplest phrases in the Gospels is “They crucified Him.” People who witnessed crucifixion knew exactly what that meant, and all it contained. By contrast, the prophet Isaiah described crucifixion in more detail, if only because his immediate audience wasn’t as well acquainted with it.

Today, the word “crucify” means practically nothing. We use it to describe character assassination (heavens! Someone said something mean about me!). How different and removed from the actual horror. We’ve lost something in our civilized world (and no, I don’t think we want it back – though I do believe it’s coming back whether we want it or not).

So using description with horror works to overcome the distance – to bring the reader near and allow him or her to viscerally experience evil – so that we may be less accomodating of it in our own lives.

And that’s why I write Christian Horror Suspense/Thrillers.

  1. Yeah, it just occured to me that Adam and Eve used a FIG LEAF! Much bigger. Wider.

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