The combination may seem odd, but it is definitely a valid one.The Bible and horror, I mean.My colleague in this venture, Brandon R. Grafius, has published the first book in the Horror and Scripture series, Reading the Bible with Horror.This is a fascinating little volume that explores the productive use of horror films when it comes to interpreting the Bible.The Bible isn’t all horror, of course, but a good deal of it is.That’s one of the keys of biblical interpretation—no one method covers it all.At least when I was teaching I used eclectic methods both because some methods work better than others in some places and because no one method is the correct one.Using horror to interpret the Good Book is one of the newest methods out there.
The methodology involves looking at horror films (mostly) and finding biblical parallels.Both the Bible and the movies interpret one another.This can be a kind of reception history—the idea that to understand Scripture we must look at how it has been “received.”The way that people read Holy Writ after it was written is as important as the way biblical specialists read it.We all know what literalism is, and biblical scholars are well aware of its shortcomings as a method.There are tons of other methods that seek to show the relevance of the Good Book, and one of them is to see how horror makes it so.To get to this point the reader must get beyond our social bias about horror as a degraded, evil genre.Some of it is quite bad, of course, but much of it has redeeming value.Redeeming value so obvious that it can be used to interpret the Bible.
Grafius studies only limited examples here, for instance, the book of Job with its human suffering and superhuman Leviathan.He also looks at hauntings and biblical ghosts, as well as haunted locations.His chapter on haunted houses made me stop and think quite a bit.He concludes with what will be the most challenging concept for many—the idea that God can be monstrous in the Bible.He clearly can.Apart from theodicy, one of the major reasons critics attack Christianity is the character of God as portrayed in the Bible.Grafius isn’t attacking Christianity but rather he’s trying to show how a most unlikely source can shed genuine light onto it.Reading the Bible with Horror is an insightful step in that direction, even if it’s a step into a rather haunted house.
One of my greatest phobias is that people will think I’m arrogant. Those who know me realize that I’m highly self-critical, as befits a lapsed Fundamentalist. Self-image isn’t my strong suit. So it is with great trepidation that I celebrate a tiny bit at another book contract. Book number three (still not officially titled) now rests with McFarland Books. Shortly after I signed the contract for the book nameless here forevermore, Lexington and Fortress Academic announced a new series: Horror and Scripture. Maybe you know the feeling too. You’ve just done something you’re proud of and then you’re upstaged. My book deals with the Bible and horror films—what could be more Horror and Scripture than that?
The new Lexington/Fortress series has two editors. One of them is a friend of mine. (Monsters and horror don’t often mix with the Good Book, and those few of us interested in such things receive glances askew.) She asked me if I’d consider contributing to the series. This takes a lot of careful thought on my part. I have a sum total of about an hour a day to write, often less. I can read research-related material on the bus, if I can stay awake, but other than weekends—already quite busy catching up from not being home all week—I have very circumscribed writing time. Nevertheless, I do get up at 3:00 a.m. so that I can have that vital hour to write. Why not focus my efforts onto another book? Perhaps insanely, I submitted a proposal. This week a contract came.
In the short span of one year I’ve gone from being able to claim two books to four, almost like a parable. My untitled book is written and submitted. My contracted book is already half-drafted. After my McFarland book I’d already begun work on a sequel, you see. It lacked form and substance, but the proposal forced me to bring it together. Now, barring any unforeseen disaster, I should be able to submit this new book within a couple of years. By admitting this to you, dear readers, I fear I open myself to accusations of either arrogance, or at least greed. It is, actually, rather like this: my wife often tells me “we must cut the coat to fit the cloth.” I don’t have an academic position, but I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry over the past decade. Research is a constant in my life, as it is with most credentialed people, no matter their jobs. So it is with fear and trembling that I announce my next book: Nightmares with the Bible. Watch this space for cryptic updates as the details unfold. And please don’t think less of me for it.