Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga

Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga

by Beth Felker Jones

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781601422798
Publisher: The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Beth Felker Jones is Assistant Professor of Theology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, IL. She is the author of The Marks of His Wounds: Gender Politics and Bodily Resurrection, as well as numerous articles and reviews. Beth is a mother and a pastor’s wife.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1
Forbidden Fruit
The Allure of Dangerous Romance
Suppose that each person possesses a certain amount of energy for wanting and hoping and wishing. This energy represents our deep longings. If we picture that energy as a pile of golden coins, we can imagine the ways we "spend" it. For many girls and women, we pour most of these coins out on romance. We spend the coins on imagining a true love, on hoping that we will meet Mr. Right, our Prince Charming. We sigh over "the one," our soul mate, the romantic love who will finally understand us, who will match up with who we are.
When we're little girls, we watch Snow White sing, "Someday my prince will come," longing for the day when she will meet the man of her dreams. According to the song, when she meets Prince Charming, it will be love at first sight. Snow White and her cousins, the princesses of all our favorite fairy tales, gladly spend their golden coins on yearning for that prince. We've been encouraged to share this longing, to make it our own story.
Bella's romance in the Twilight Saga fits with our tendency to spend our wanting and hoping coins on romance. This romance defies the rules and rushes forward despite all dangers. It is also completely absorbing—it demands everything from Bella (and from many readers of the books as well). Most of all, this romance is fated. Edward and Bella are soul mates, meant for each other. The forces that draw them together are more powerful than the difficulties and dangers that would keep them apart.
Intense and dangerous romance defines the Twilight Saga.
When Bella first sits down next to Edward in science class, he tenses up and looks at her with revulsion. She had noticed him earlier that day but doesn't yet know him. Bella can't imagine why she has provoked such horror from the boy next to her. His strong reaction makes her think about the phrase "If looks could kill."1 She senses the danger between them.
We later learn why Edward looked at her with such disgust. For him, the lure of Bella's flesh, the particular scent of her blood, is uniquely tempting. It is so tantalizing that he has to run away to keep himself from attacking her and undoing all the years he has spent protecting human life. Even though he has practiced restraint for decades, developing self-control, he must flee. For him, Bella is that enticing. Running is the only way to stop himself from ripping her to pieces then and there.
In New Moon, Aro, one of the Volturi guardians of the vampire world, is baffled at the way Edward can resist the "call" of Bella's blood when it speaks to him with such intensity. Why would Edward want to resist such a tempting lure? Why, when something is that desirable, that delicious, would Edward steel himself against the urge to bite?
At the beginning of Twilight, we meet a quotation from Scripture. In Genesis 2:17, God instructs human beings that they "must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die." The book's striking cover art, a ripe red apple, is the forbidden fruit of dangerous love. The romance at the center of Twilight is forbidden because it is so very dangerous.
As Christians, though, we need to pause before we romanticize the knowledge of good and evil. In Genesis, God gives the people many, many good things. They have all they need for joy and happiness and a great life. The choice humans make to disobey God and eat the one "forbidden" fruit is, literally, a fatal choice. It brings sin and death into the world. All of that happiness and goodness come crashing down around them.
Romance threatens to destroy Bella. The books create a constant, suspenseful awareness that Edward is always in danger of losing control and biting her. Every moment that Bella and Edward are together, he struggles with his desire to drink her blood. Bella's friend Mike expresses his distaste for her growing relationship with Edward. "He looks at you," Mike says, "like…like you're something to eat."2
Before spending time alone with each other, Edward prepares carefully, taking precautions to keep Bella safe. He makes sure that he isn't overly hungry. He does all he can to fight against the temptation of her very presence, especially if they leave the watchful eyes of others. He must prepare because his nature is, for Bella, life-threatening. Bella, though, seems unconcerned about her own danger. Instead, she worries that it would cause trouble for Edward if she were murdered on his watch.
Bella does admit, at least at moments, to finding Edward frightening. When he drops his "carefully cultivated façade"3 of humanity, he is both frightening and beautiful to Bella. Her attraction to him is tied up with the fact that he is dangerous.
Repeatedly, Bella confuses Edward by embracing the danger that lies in being with him. He tries, again and again, to warn her off for her own good. She refuses, again and again, to remove herself from this perilous situation.
2. Twilight, 221.
3. Twilight, 264.
Romance in the series is something dangerous and illicit. That is, it is against the law. Every rule of both human and vampire society is working against the couple. He threatens her existence with his thirst for her blood. She threatens his existence when she discovers his secret life. Bella and Edward want what they simply shouldn't have.
So how should Christians view illicit romance?
To start with, we don't exist alone. God has created us to live in community, and we do that as the church. The church exists as both the body and the bride of Jesus. Christians, then, are never rogue agents. We're parts of a body. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, puts it like this:
The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!"
And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need
you!" (12:21)
We need each other. We need each other in the area of romance just as in every other area of life. Other members of the body can help us to see things that we couldn't have seen on our own. They can help us discern whether our romantic interests are really in our best interests. They can help us to discern whether our romantic interests are in God's interests. Parents, pastors, Christian friends, and youth leaders can be the church for us in helping us to think about romance.
This idea that the church should have a role in our romantic stories is a grating one. I understand if you'd rather head for a long, painful visit to the dentist than ask for someone else's opinion about who you should or shouldn't dream about.
The idea of romantic accountability irritates us because we think of romance as a very private thing. Bella and Edward certainly do. Bella hides the truth about Edward from her parents. She ignores Jacob's feelings about the dangers of her relationship. Though Edward's family eventually grows to love Bella, he deliberately ignores their early worries about the complications involved with him loving a human girl. He breaks the vampire taboo against revealing his world to a human. Their attraction to one another is so very strong that it seems there is nothing for them to do but ignore the rules meant to
keep them safe.
Yet nothing in the Christian life is truly private. We belong, after all, to God and not to ourselves. While this idea seems to go against the way we want romance to be, it is actually one of God's very good gifts. God made us so that we shouldn't be alone, and God didn't do this to annoy us. God doesn't give us the church to impose a bunch of arbitrary rules on us. God gives us the church as a blessing. The fact that you are not alone is a good thing. It means you're not at your own mercy.
You and I both know that the church is not a perfect place. It is a place for sinners, so we can't expect the church's efforts to help us be discerning about romance to be perfect either. It helps, though, to remember that the church exists for a reason. It exists for God's glory. It exists to be Jesus' holy bride.
When we ask the church—parents, friends, leaders—to hold us accountable about romance, we're not giving people license to control us with whatever their own preferences might happen to be. We're not asking, for instance, if someone else thinks this or that person is physically attractive. I can imagine all kinds of really bad reasons why people might think we shouldn't be attracted to someone. If someone dislikes a person because of his race or because he isn't from a wealthy family, we as Christians wouldn't find any help for accountability there. Still, we need accountability. We're asking other people to help us be the church, to glorify God and become His holy bride, in every area of life. Including romance.
As we look for accountability in the area of romance, we have a way to tell what good romance or bad romance is like. If attraction to someone else glorifies God, this is a good sign. If the person who captures our romantic interest is good at serving Jesus and helps us be good at it, this too is a good sign. When we're caught up in romantic feelings, these good signs may be the kind of thing we miss. Worse, we may miss bad signs, like our attraction to someone pulling us away from God or encouraging us to be less than the people God wants us to be. We may even miss it if our attraction is actually putting us in danger.
Step outside of Bella's shoes for a moment, and imagine you were her best friend. Would you have been worried about the danger involved in her romance with Edward? Romance should not be dangerous. We have jokes and stereotypes about girls being attracted to "bad boys," but the truth is that those attractions often cause a lot of pain. Bella's disregard for her own safety is a warning sign, one we should pay attention to if we see it in ourselves or our friends. We especially need accountability when we might be putting ourselves in danger.
The romance in Twilight is all-consuming. When she falls in love with Edward, Bella doesn't have space for anything else in her life. The books use words like obsessed or consumed to describe Bella's feelings for Edward. Edward influences everything Bella thinks and does. She is willing to surrender her entire life for Edward, ready, in his words, "for this to be the twilight" of life, "…ready to give up everything."4 Readers of Twilight are consumed by this romance too. I've heard plenty of accounts of the series eating up all of someone's time and energy, almost swallowing her up.
As Christians, we have to be immediately suspicious of an account of romance that consumes our entire being. One of the strongest warnings in Scripture is against idolatry. Again and again, the people turn away from God's commandments:
4. Twilight, 497.
You shall have no other gods before me. You shall
not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything
in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in
the waters below. You shall not bow down to them
or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a
jealous God. (Exodus 20:3–5)
In the New Testament, Paul describes the sad state of living in idolatry. We human beings have become fools and "exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles" (Romans 1:23). We've made a bad trade, Paul is saying. We've traded in God's glory for sad images. While you and I probably don't pray to an idol carved to look like a bird or a reptile, we are still tempted to idolatry. We're tempted to trade the most amazing, priceless, astounding thing in the world—the glory of the immortal God—for images. We trade God's glory for illusions.
Is there anything that demands you give allegiance to it before you give glory to God? That thing is an idol. Is there anything that wants to consume your whole life, to take from you all your energy and longing and wishing and hoping? That thing is an idol. It is easy for romance to become such an idol.
Paul continues his description of idolatry in the first chapter of Romans. Not only do human beings make this bad trade, but the trade has consequences. What happens to human beings when we trade in God's glory for something else? We're handed over to our sinful desires. We're trapped.
The message of the Bible is that God should be the center of our lives. Jesus highlights this message when He quotes from the book of Deuteronomy:
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and
with all your soul and with all your mind and with
all your strength. (Mark 12:30)
Jesus is not talking about loving God halfway. He's not talking about spending half of your energy on God and half on other things. Jesus repeats the word all four times in the verse above. How should we love God? With all that we are. With heart, soul, mind, and strength. With passion, longing, thought, and energy. With desire, time, attention, and activity. In Jesus, we see someone whose whole life is about God. He offers us the chance to have the same kind of life.
More than anything else, romance in the Twilight universe is something fated. Bella and Edward are meant for each other. They are the ideal of what romantic soul mates should be. Their connection is powerful, immediate, and irresistible. They are drawn to each other, pulled together as though by a magnetic force. Bella seems to exist just for Edward. Her very makeup, who she is at the core, is a perfect match for his desire.
In addition to Bella and Edward's romance, the series portrays another strong instance of fated romance. In Jacob's werewolf pack, werewolves find romance through "imprinting." When he meets the "one," the fated love, the werewolf immediately imprints on the other person. Jacob describes this in strong terms. He explains to Bella, "It's not like love at first sight, really. It's more like…gravity moves. When you see her,
suddenly it's not the earth holding you here anymore. She does. And nothing matters more than her."5 Imprinted pairs experience "peace and certainty."6
Sam, the leader of Jacob's pack, has imprinted on a woman named Emily. Sam accidentally harmed Emily when he was in his wolf phase. Before he imprinted on Emily, though, Sam was in a committed relationship with someone else, Leah, but when he imprints, he has no choice but to leave Leah behind. The treatment of Leah's situation in the series is incredibly frustrating. Her rage and pain at Sam's rejection isn't handled with much seriousness. Sam, in the romantic world of Meyer's series, has no control over this rejection. The bonds of a loving relationship cannot hold him when fate steps in and he imprints on Emily.
5. Stephenie Meyer, Eclipse (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2007), 176.
6. Stephenie Meyer, Breaking Dawn (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2008), 153.
Emily also receives very little attention in the narrative. We see that the injury Sam caused her is a source of pain, particularly for him, but we don't see much about the difficulty of living with and loving a werewolf who unintentionally scarred you. We don't hear much of Emily's voice or about what choice she had in loving Sam. She would, presumably, have had very little choice if fate truly meant her to be with him.
We hear even less of the voices of other characters imprinted on by werewolves. Jacob's friend Quil imprints on a child named Claire. The reader is assured that there is nothing inappropriate in his loving devotion to the toddler. Quil will not desire her romantically until she is a grown woman. For now, he is a devoted baby-sitter. But the narrative doesn't address the question of the inherent imbalance of power in a relationship between a girl and a man years older than her. Even if Quil would still be physically young when Claire grew old enough for him, he'd still have years of experience she wouldn't. It would be difficult for there to be much that was mutual about such a relationship. Quil would always have the upper hand, the stronger voice.
The assumption that romance is fated is very widespread, and it's portrayed in a compelling way in Twilight. What are the consequences of accepting this idea of romance? First, if romance is determined by fate, if my love has to be my soul mate, the one I am meant for, then the possibilities of choice and accountability disappear. I'm no longer free to make good choices about who I want to share my life with. Instead, I am bound by fate. Also, I can no longer seek the good advice of other Christians about my romantic life. Fate is the only advisor I need.
Fated romance thus not only destroys our freedom to choose at the beginning of a relationship, but it also threatens our freedom to continue to choose love in the face of difficulties and distractions. If I were bound by the idea of the fated romantic soul mate, I would follow him whenever I found him, even if that meant leaving someone else behind, like Sam leaves Leah for Emily. The idea of fated romance destroys good marriages in just this way. If I become convinced that someone other than my husband is actually my soul mate, then I lose the freedom God gives me to keep on loving my husband through thick and thin. I lose the freedom to continue to choose love daily, to keep my  commitments, and to enjoy all the rich blessings of a steadfast love.
The idea that you belong with a soul mate, then, robs you of your freedom. It steals from you the power God gives you, through the Holy Spirit, to make good choices, choices that are for God's glory. The idea of a soul mate binds us. It wraps us in chains. Why, then, are we so captivated by this idea? I think it's because we want to be loved by someone who is just for us, someone who really fits with who we are. We want it desperately. We're hurt and we're broken, and we want someone to meet us exactly where we are.
No human being, however, can fulfill us. No human being can complete us. No human being can give our lives meaning. If what we hope for from romance is fulfillment, completion, and meaning, we are going to be sadly disappointed. We'll demand something from another person that he or she cannot possibly give.
The good news is that we don't have to give up our hopes. But we do need to put them in the right place. God is so much more than human beings can ever be. This doesn't mean that God will do whatever you want or that you can mold God to be the way you'd like Him to be. It does mean, though, that God has a really beautiful way of meeting us exactly where we are.
God knows exactly what human need is and knows exactly what to do about it. God jumped right into the world with us. God became "flesh and made his dwelling among us" ( John 1:14). God-in-the-flesh fits what we need so perfectly. Jesus is God there for us, experiencing what we experience, struggling with our struggles. He's been tempted. He's known need.
We needed to touch and see God's love for us, and God came to us as the touchable, seeable, Jesus. We needed to be healed, and Jesus took on all of our mess, all of our guilt, to heal us. We needed to know who God was, and Jesus came so that we could see "his glory" (verse 14).
This is more compelling than a consuming romance. This reaches right into the depths of our being to touch us as we truly are.
1. What are your favorite romance stories? What makes them so compelling?
2. Who can you turn to for accountability? Wait. Don't skip over this question. I hope, if you're young, that the answer might include your parents, but if there are reasons it can't right now, do some brainstorming. A family friend? Someone at church? at school?
down the block?
3. Who can you offer accountability to? Who can you help to see what kind of choices will serve God's glory?
4. Even with no vampires around, how can romance become dangerous in our lives?
5. What would it look like for romance to be about glorifying God?
6. Talk about the concept of the soul mate. Do you think it is a problematic concept? Does it have a lot of power in your life?

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Forbidden Fruit: The Allure of Dangerous Romance 13

2 Dazzled: How Love Works in the Twilight Saga 28

3 Body and Blood: Twilight's Take on Abstinence and sex 45

4 The Superhero and the Girl Next Door: Gender Roles in Twilight 62

5 Baseball and Loyalty: Twilight and the Ideal Family 82

6 For Eternity: The Good, the Bad, and the Reality of Marriage in Twilight 98

7 Monster Spawn or Precious Child? Children in the Twilight Saga 115

8 Inhuman Strength: Twilight and the Good Life 129

9 My True Place in This World: Bella's Search for Purpse 145

10 Passion for God: The Power of Desire in Twilight and in Real Life 160

Epilogue: Jesus, the Light 171

Book-by-Book Discussion Guide 175

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Touched by a Vampire: Discovering the Hidden Messages in the Twilight Saga 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
Novel_Teen_Book_Reviews More than 1 year ago
As half the world has read the Twilight Saga, including myself, I was very excited to find a book that talks about some of the stuff that makes Twilight so appealing and why. If you love God and the Twilight Saga, I encourage you to pick up this book. Read it yourself. Do a little book club with your friends. Ask your youth pastor to do a group at church. Or ask your mom to read it with you. When something becomes as popular as Twilight, it's a good idea to step back and ask yourself why. You want to be able to think for yourself and know what you like or dislike about it and not just follow mob mentality on the issues. Beth Felker Jones explains in this book why Twilight hooks girls so desperately. She talks about love, sex, marriage, purpose, family, and desire in relationship to Twilight and the Bible in a way that gets you thinking about what God has to say on these subjects. Many Christians have applauded this series for the premarital abstinence between Bella and Edward. But does Twilight's redemptive qualities outshine it's darkness? This book is written for fans, parents, teachers, and youth workers. Take a closer look inside Twilight and see what you find.
cherryblossommj More than 1 year ago
Frankly I hate it. I was looking forward to this book in finding both good and bad values from the opinions of a Biblical perspective of author Beth Felker Jones. Yet what I found was that with every opinion that she put out there I felt was twisted and incorrect. Her views of fate and true love, as well as jealousy were just the beginning of my irritation and extreme differences of opinion. Continuing on with taking things that are good in comparison to most fiction readily available to our teens today and making it appear to be masked evil is just annoying. I'm frustrated with this book because I was expecting something so much better. But then I'm just one opinion and look for the light within the darkness and not the darkness within the gray areas.
Tori21 More than 1 year ago
I like how the Jones talks about the idealism of true love and sole mates but she also twists this story into fitting with her own ideologies on the subject. It is also clear that some of the Jones' ideologies are not true of all Christians. For example, she talks about how the idea or belief in sole mates can take away your God given free will, leaving a person incapable of making good choices because they believe someone is their sole mate. However, it is possible that sole mates exist and are not destructive loves. Many Christians believe that god creates sole mates. I'm not saying whether he does or not but for someone to say that he doesn't and that believing in sole mates goes against Christianity is simply ridiculous. It is true that someone can use the "he's my sole mate" line to justify a love that they know is wrong or destructive but the belief in sole mates itself is not to blame for that. It is the person's inability to see the truth about someone. That leads me to another point that Jones makes. She eludes to Edward and Bella's love as sinful because it is forbidden, dangerous and consuming. I can agree with her position on consuming love. Love should never entirely consume someone as it did to Bella. It is unhealthy to let your love for someone become your identity. However, Jones also suggests that Bella's obsession with Edward is unhealthy because she idolizes him above God. This would be a valid point if Bella were a Christian to begin with and her love for Edward had lead her away from god. The book does not elude to the religion of the characters. It only suggests that a vampires sole is automatically damed. There is no indication that Bella's sole would have been saved had she not become a Vampire or that it won't still be saved even though she is a vampire. Bella became a vampire only because she believed that they still have soles which is also what allows her to love Edward and not be afraid of him. She believes in his sole and she knows he will not harm her. Which leads me to the danger. Jones also compares Bella and Edwards relationship to that of an abusive one because of the danger that their relationship imposes but Edward is not abusive. He does not intentionally harm Bella. In fact, Edward would do anything to protect Bella. However Jones would have you believe that because of the risk that their relationship imposes to the safety of Bella that is is a negative relationship. I would like to counter argue that point by proposing this question: Should the first lady, Michelle Obama, leave her husband solely on the fact that his occupation poses a risk to her own safely? The president is not abusive. In fact he is probably just like Edward in his sense of desire to protect his loved one but he cannot help the fact that who he is puts her at risk for danger. An abusive relationship is one in which someone intentionally harms the other not one where someone does everything in their power to keep the other from getting hurt. Overall I would like to say that while there are some valid points about healthy, happy and religious relationships. The Twilight series is not a good pallet to make those points from. The Jones' idea's would be more powerful and respectable if she used real situations and real stories to make her points. Let's leave the fiction to be exactly what it is; Just fiction.
MelodieFleming More than 1 year ago
Jones does a great job of encouraging Christian fans of the Twilight saga to explore themes from a spiritual perspective. This is not an attack on Meyers or her books. Characters are treated like real people and readers are encouraged to think about their decisions and motivations as they move through the drama. A thought provoking discussion starter.
ChristysBookBlog More than 1 year ago
Touched by a Vampire by Beth Felker Jones is an indepth look at the messages in the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer. From marriage and children to self-worth and faith, there are plenty of messages to be found in the series of books, and Jones looks at them all through the light of Christianity. My daughter and I are both big fans of the Twilight series so I was intrigued by the idea of digging deeper into what Meyer has to say about the big issues of life, especially in view of her Mormon faith, and Jones covers every issue thoroughly. Looking at the Cullen family as a metaphor for the Mormon ideal was eye-opening. Some readers may be angered by Jones occasional criticism of the way Meyer portrays a loving relationship through Bella and Edward, but she makes some excellent points about how Bella's complete lack of self-worth and Edward's protectiveness make an romantic fairy tale, in real life they could lead to a destructive, abusive relationship. This book is definitely NOT for those who have not read the series. In deconstructing the books, Jones gives lots of spoilers that would ruin it for those who haven't read it yet. For those who have read them, it's important to keep an open mind and try not to get angry with Jones for exposing flaws within the psychology of the books. Her points are valid and thought-provoking and will give readers a completely different point of view regarding the series and may even inspire a re-read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I think that Jones does a good job of examining what values the series promotes in light of Scripture. She does not bash the Twilight books nor condemn the author, Stephanie Meyer. Recognizing the Saga as interesting and engrossing fiction, she explores what Christians can agree with and what Christians should be careful to reject in the messages of the books. She carefully addresses messages that may seem hidden in order to expose these messages that get into our heads, even if subconsciously, when we get involved with what we read. I think this is a great example of engaging culture and thinking critically about what it says, rather than embracing any message that comes along. This book would be a good resource for anyone who works with teenage girls. It is a quick read, easy to understand, and appropriate for any audience. For some points Jones may seem a little redundant, but I think she tries to stress certain issues because those are the most prevalent in the books. It helps develop points for discussion so that leaders, mentors, parents, and friends can separate fiction from truth.
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Jazmine Rondina More than 1 year ago
this is so stupid