I know I’m way behind the curve, but I’ve just finished reading and watching the first installment in the Twilight series. For months, I’ve heard nothing but raves about the book/movie (written by Stephanie Meyer) from teenagers. But, every time I asked, “What’s so great about it?” they can’t give me an answer beyond, “It’s just great.”
I went out on a mission to find out for myself what was so great about it. The prose of the book is hardly stellar – normally I’d just set such a book aside after a few chapters – but something about the story kept me going. And, I couldn’t figure out why.
I began to see pretty quickly what about the story is compelling to teenagers. It’s a vampiric Romeo and Juliet story. Edward and Bella are two cross-eyed lovers from dramatically different sides of the tracks – one frail, uncoordinated human; one powerful, murderous vampire.
What underlies this story is much, much more. It’s a story of the complexities of sacrificial love. The vampire denies his own nature in order to keep the one he loves alive. The frail human risks her own life in order to be with the one she loves.
In a prominent line in the movie, Bella says, “I’d never given any thought to the way that I would die. But, dying in the place of someone I love seems like a good way to go.”
Underlying what could easily be seen as a vapid teenage romance is a deep-seeded yearning for unconditional love and a higher sense of purpose for one’s life (and death). Who among us doesn’t want to be loved despite our faults – or, more dramatically – in spite of what we ARE. Who among us doesn’t want to feel that our life and death is worth something more than just taking up space on earth?
It’s fascinating that popular culture has found a way to tap into this passionate yearning of young people to give and receive this kind of love. Maybe those of us in the church can channel just a bit of that romantic teenage passion toward a God that loves them more than any boyfriend or girlfriend ever could. Maybe we can channel that overflowing love into a passion for social justice, like churches did with young people during the civil rights movement. Maybe we could channel their creativity into loving God enough to sacrifice their lives for their faith. This is my own passionate yearning for young people in the church.