Monday, December 5, 2011

Deconstruction: Night of the Living Dead Christian 16

Werewolf vs. werewolf hunter: BRAWL!

Welcome to the detailed (and, unfortunately, spoiler-rich) review of Night of the Living Dead Christian. For a briefer review that doesn't give anything away, read the main review. If you're curious, here's a discussion of why I'm doing this.

This is a rather long bit of reaction, so I'm breaking it up into sections. Hopefully that will allow for more bite-sized discussions. So, now that you've all been fairly warned, we'll pick up the deconstruction after the jump:

Right, so: Luther is a werewolf. He wants to be free of this curse. His friend Matt (the narrator) is helping him. They have gone to visit Luther's father, a minister, who was able to help one of Narrator-Matt's friends (a vampire). Luther is unable to untangle his current goal from his personal issues with his father, and winds up pummeling the minister and demanding a solution for what's missing from his life.

At this point Borut, the monster-hunter, makes an explosive entrance. How did he get here? Reverend Martin called him. Luther, however, is not exactly helpless: he has the pistol that his wife left at his house. Borut and Luther now begin an epic battle through the church,and Reverend Martin asks Narrator-Matt to help his son. This seems really, really NFBSKing odd coming from the man who called out the monster-hunter in the first place, but Matt calls 9-1-1 and follows the rampaging pair into the sanctuary.

Borut is in the sanctuary, which is lit “with thousands of candles” because apparently Lutheran churches have budgets like that? Or maybe Reverend Martin just doesn’t hold with this newfangled electricity? Or something? (Sorry, this particular Hollywood-ism is a pet peeve of mine - candles are expensive. Electricity is cheaper and safer, which is why pretty much everyone in real life relies on it instead.)

Anyway, the battle continues, and Borut stabs Luther with a knife. Narrator-Matt intervenes and pulls Borut off Luther, and during the struggle they manage to knock over a candelabra and set one of the pews on fire. (Apparently they have cloth covers, and no fireproofing whatsoever. Possibly even some sort of anti-fireproofing, in fact.) Matt attempts to put the fire out, and only makes it worse.

So: the building is on fire, there’s a werewolf hunter running amok, and Luther has taken a rather serious knife wound. Feeling that he’d prefer to die by fire than at Borut’s hand, Luther decides to hide under the stage. Why he wants Matt to come with him is an open question; it seems like if they really were friends, Luther would want Matt to get out of the burning building.

And then Reverend Martin comes to their aid - or, well, maybe that overstating the case. He tries to coax Luther out from under the stage. He points out that Luther has friends who love him - and that those friends are the church, too. And Narrator-Matt finally manages to say something useful about his experience of Christianity: “They are the church, also. They’re broken and ridiculous and possibly insane, but they love you, Luther.”

I like this. I really like this. Nearly all of my favorite Christian writing embraces this idea that grace and salvation have nothing whatsoever to do with perfection. A lot of it seems to be written in reaction to the strange idea that Christians are expected to be, or to become, perfect - an idea which I’m pretty sure is no part of the messages in the Bible.

Luther objects, of course. Ignoring the question of his friends, and the implications of their love, he demands to know how God could possibly love someone like him. He asks why God would be willing to sacrifice Himself for someone like him.

Reverend responds with possibly the most sensible thing that he’s said so far: “My son. When someone says he loves you, you need not always ask why. Sometimes it is enough to know that he does.”

But Luther isn’t quite ready to hear this, it seems. He responds by pointing out that his father called the werewolf hunter to come kill him... which Luther (rightly, I’d say) doesn’t exactly interpret as a sign of love.


  1. I'm posting as "Anonymous" here, but I guess my name can be "Arrow".

    I've been following this deconstruction and really enjoying it, primarily because the author seems witty, thoughtful, and able to address criticism in a calm way. He seems like a fairly remarkable human being.

    My reaction to the story, which I have not read, is that it seems to constantly fall into the trap of two different audiences. One audience, the more fundamental Christians, might be reading out of their genre when the text addresses monsters -- but they have a distinctive vocabulary and set of expectations for redemption stories. The other audience, the typical vampire/werewolf/fantasy readers have lots of opinions about vampires, werewolves, and fantasy (including the language and plot), and -- unfortunately -- with their own beliefs about redemption/religious narratives.

    I think it's very difficult to speak to the two audiences at the same time and to achieve the same goal. It's like walking a tightrope that is constantly wobbling. The father-son relationship here is, maybe, a victim of this dynamic. The fantasy audience has particular expectations of a father-son dynamic in redemption. For that audience, by calling in the monster-killer, the father has clearly abandoned the son. The father becomes the monster and the son is humanized. However, in a typical Christian redemption narrative, the father might pull an Abraham-sacrificing-his-son move, and that audience will still accept the father's love.

  2. Hey Arrow! Sorry I've been slow to leave comments, I've been traveling and am just getting caught up.

    You're exactly right about the two audience issue. Frankly, lots of Christians walk right past my books at the bookstore because they think that they are making fun of God. It's disappointing, actually, that this is the case, because I like to think that most Christians are wider read and more tolerant of other points of view than may be actually true. Maybe it's different on television rather than books....

    My editor and I fought a bit about how Luther should react to his father after this whole encounter. She thought he should be a lot more cold toward him in the ending parts of the book than he was. I saw that as him moving toward forgiveness, though not as the "accepting his father's love." Anyway, maybe Michael will share his thoughts about the last chapter and whether that hit him as off or not.

    Anyway, you're spot on about the two audiences. It's a hard tension to hold, and of course as a Christian myself I'm sure I misjudged in places how people from other backgrounds would read things (as comments and posts from both Michael and Geds can attest).

    This has been an instructive process, though, and I feel like I'm learning a lot that's going to strengthen the next book.


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