Guest Blogger: HG Ferguson
“Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ” has become sort of a rallying cry in some circles of those who write Christian speculative fiction (hereafter called spec fic). It has generated the obligatory “buzz” in the blogs and on its face, appears quite admirable. Its proponents maintain that since we are called to be children of Light, God’s Light, we should therefore shy away from any iteration of “darkness” in literature, in films, and even in our own writing.
This usually takes the form of a polemic against any and all iterations of horror, which is still an unacceptable genre in the minds of the majority of Christians, but it also morphs into other expressions. Recently a blog on Speculative Faith warned us of the danger of Darkness in Disney where poor Quasimodo was again brought to the wheel and whipped, metaphorically speaking. Much time was spent dealing with songs like Dark Fire and the dangers of the “dark” subject matter in this film. And it is indeed true, there is darkness in this version of Dumas’ tale.
That being said, this form of Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ did not tell the whole story of Disney’s treatment. Frollo’s song is condemned, but Esmeralda’s hauntingly poignant prayer-song to God in the church about God loving the outcasts is ignored, not even mentioned. Why? Because those who urge Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ rarely if ever tell the whole story.
Why is that? It flows from a complete misunderstanding, even disregard, for what the Bible actually teaches about Light and Darkness. Because what the Bible actually does teach on this subject is fast becoming “negative” and we only want to give a “positive” message because Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ!
As Christians who write spec fic, we seek to be “subcreators,” as Tolkien instructs us, creating different worlds, different times, fantastic events, fantastical creatures. As in every other aspect of life, is the Word of God meant to be our guide, the controlling, constraining rule of our writing faith and practice? Absolutely! And if we acknowledge that the scriptures are our guide, what do we find there concerning Light and Darkness?
We find they are together. The one declares the other. And often, darkness comes first before the light. The very first words God wrote prove this: Genesis 1:1 and following. God creates the world. And the world is shrouded in darkness. Darkness comes first. Then God declares, “Let there be Light!” The Darkness frames the Light. The Darkness is part of the whole picture, the whole Story we are meant to see. By God, who wrote the Story this way. We also see this in the gospel of John, in John 1:5, where John says “And the Light in the Darkness shines…” The word order in the original Greek is emphatic. John emphasizes the Darkness there, so the Light becomes even brighter.
Darkness and Light belong together.
Are we not, as Christians, supposed to declare the whole counsel, the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:27), even as Paul did? Of course we are. We need to write God’s thoughts, God’s Story after Him. Wᴇ Nᴇᴇᴅ ᴛᴏ Lᴏᴏᴋ ᴀᴛ ᴛʜᴇ Lɪɢʜᴛ ignores the very pattern laid down by God Himself.
So what does this have to do with spec fic? Think about it. Think hard. What would Harry Potter be without Voldemort? The scene where the Dark Lord is “reborn” out of the cauldron is one of the darkest, most twisted and hideous things I’ve ever beheld. Rowling achieved a moment of consummate horror here, consummate darkness. Why? Why have this scene? Because it shows us what Voldemort is, what he has become, because of the path he has chosen to walk. The darkness of Voldemort’s splintered soul contrasts what we see in Harry. Voldemort lusts for absolute power; Harry abhors it. Without the one, the other does not shine.
What would LOTR be without Sauron, or even more to the point, without Saruman? Tolkien shows us the darkness Sauron wreaks on Middle-earth, not just the Phial of Galadriel. We see the darkness Saruman inflicts upon the innocents of Rohan, and then the Shire. Why? To make us look at and understand the path Sauron and Saruman chose to walk. They spurn the Light. And look what happens to them. The one is swept away by the Spirit of God, a wind, and the other dies of a slit throat, penniless, rejected, accursed.
What would Narnia be without the White Witch, without Tash? The one is crushed under the mighty claws of Aslan, and the other is so sublimely hideous we want to run out of the book screaming as soon as he shows up! Why? Because Lewis makes us look at their darkness…and what the darkness does to them. The Witch perishes. Tash parades in all his abominable pride and plumage. Both are condemned.
What would Star Wars be without Darth Vader? I hardly need argue more. Meaningless. Incomprehensible. Certainly not true, in the highest thematic sense. Indeed, all these classic works of spec fic become meaningless and incomprehensible without the darkness they make us look at.
So, like Paul, we need to declare the whole counsel of God in our stories whether the subgenre is fantasy, science fiction, horror, dystopia, steampunk — we need the darkness as much as we need the light.
Because that’s how God does it. And why? Because God wants us to take a good, hard, long look at what happens to those who spurn the Light and choose to walk in Darkness.
This is not “a negative message,” it is the very Truth of God. To return again to the “review” of Disney’s Hunchback, much is shared about how dark Frollo is, but nothing is said at all about what happens to Frollo. God judges the evil one in a very strong and biblical way. He punishes and destroys both Frollo and Frollo’s darkness in one final act of utter damnation!
This is why we need to look at the Darkness too in our writing. The day will come when Darkness will be no more, it will be punished, it will be destroyed, and all those who have spurned the Light will perish with it. This is why we need the darkness as much as we need the light. It is the whole counsel of God. Let’s tell God’s Story, then, after Him. Let’s proclaim the Light and His love. Let’s also reveal the Darkness and what it has in store for those who embrace it.
God’s whole Story. In doing so, God will bless both us and what we craft in His Name.
Author, theologian, graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary and Oral Roberts University, HG Ferguson brings biblical truth and articulate power to bear upon matters of both spiritual arcana and his work as a writer of horror fiction from a thoroughly scriptural perspective. Always outside the box of convention, but never outside the lines of what God has told us in His Holy Word. Look for HG Ferguson’s ghost story Jezebelle this fall from PLS Bookworks, where the darkness haunting a small southern town takes a road trip — into implacable evil and mindless destruction. And some Light too.