pedagogy, vampires, zombies

Sub question…

A sub question of sorts to the previous post Vampires and Cracked:

To open my class this fall, I’m taken with the idea of shamelessly ripping off a page from Graham Ward, who apparently held a discussion in class about which is more theologically significant: vampires or zombies? I find this an enlightening question on many levels, have raised something like it myself in the past, and one that I think the undergrads my find accessible and interesting, or at least quirky rather than boring.

Of course this is an exercise in theopolitical imagination, which is the point. I can’t think of a grand question to begin on the first day and carry through the entire semester, so I have a main thesis that each discussion section interacts with, and the vampires vs. zombies discussion is no exception: Revelation is an important doctrine for religious belief, particularly for Christian faith, and the implications of revelation are important and far-reaching for Christian life today.

So if I’m going to ask about vampires, does this mean I need to watch the gawd awful Twilight series?

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humor, vampires

Vampires and Cracked

For a rather long time I’ve found vampires and zombies to be quite interesting for theology: zombies are of course mindless hordes consuming life around them, and often set in shopping malls so as to expose capitalism’s logic; while vampires exude a combination of consumption and eroticism. Oddly, however, while zombies are still evil, brain-eating fiends, vampires are no longer the incarnation of evil lust but just sensuality.

There is already a book on this, The Vampire Defanged: How the Embodiment of Evil Became a Romantic Hero by Susannah Clements. But equally interesting, and more entertaining, the awesome “After Hours” series by cracked.com took up the discussion back in May:

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capitalism, incarnation, vampires

Humans vs. Vampyrs

I has been often noted that vampires are the ultimate consumers. Roy Terry at the Ekklesia Project Summer meeting had a great sermon on it. However, after thought, I reject the notion that vampires are the ultimate consumer. In fact, they are the weaker species.

Take for instance Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s op-ed for the NY Times titled, “Why Vampires Never Die.” What Del Toro and Hogan get right is the plurality of vampire stories today:

In a society that moves as fast as ours, where every week a new “blockbuster” must be enthroned at the box office, or where idols are fabricated by consensus every new television season, the promise of something everlasting, something truly eternal, holds a special allure. As a seductive figure, the vampire is as flexible and polyvalent as ever. Witness its slow mutation from the pansexual, decadent Anne Rice creatures to the current permutations — promising anything from chaste eternal love to wild nocturnal escapades — and there you will find the true essence of immortality: adaptability.

Vampires find their niche and mutate at an accelerated rate now — in the past one would see, for decades, the same variety of fiend, repeated in multiple storylines. Now, vampires simultaneously occur in all forms and tap into our every need: soap opera storylines, sexual liberation, noir detective fiction, etc. The myth seems to be twittering promiscuously to serve all avenues of life, from cereal boxes to romantic fiction. The fast pace of technology accelerates its viral dispersion in our culture.

But I contend that this is all Del Toro and Hogan get right because vampires are not simply seen as adaptable, they are now made in humanity’s image.

No vampire story I have ever read, save for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, has ever emphasized, or even made note of, is the liberation from being a vampire. In Dracula, to be a vampire is to be possessed. It is as if one is no longer in control as a human being; the mutation is so complete that any foundational notion of humanity is gone. And yet, at the end of a vampire’s life — when they are staked — a sense of relief, quite literally a liberation from the torment of an undead life, washes over the face briefly before death. In a very real sense, the plague is gone and the human is briefly restored.

This conception of vampire is no more. Today there is nothing to be saved from. Today there is nothing to complain because the vampire is the Übermensch, or the next phase in evolution, or whatever. The monster has been made to look like the human, because clearly, there is nothing wrong with our life, right?

The irony, here, is that we are the greater monster in our action. Our narcissism blinds us. We can neither recognize the evil, nor stop ourselves from making, taking, and coercing the monster into playing the human life. Dracula interacted with humanity without losing himself to the life of humanity. He subverted life until he was caught.

Dare I say we do this of God as well? Hegel certainly does. We can no longer recognize good or evil because we consume everything. Even God. We have no palate. We have not taste buds. We have no bottom to our gluttony. The power of capitalism is, that as gluttonous fools, we consume everything. As adults, and the structural systems themselves, we are clearly no different than a spoiled brat. Wallstreet ought to disgust us, instead of the candy land we perceive it to be. If we can’t see our consumption of vampires for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or more to the point, that we have become the vampire’s worst nightmare, how can we see the evils in the tangible narratives? Something is very wrong with us. And we have even, in an ironic twist, killed Nietzsche’s god as well.

What will save us? I suggest and argue for the logic of the incarnation. We do not consume ourselves to heaven, like we could not build our way to heaven. In the eastern sense, God divinizes us.

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