When Bible Met Horror

My colleague (if I may be so bold) Brandon Grafius has recently published a piece titled “What Can Horror Teach Us about the Bible?” in Sojourners.  Brandon and I have never met in person, but we’ve worked together a number of times.  We share an interest in horror and we both teach/taught Hebrew Bible.  We’re not the only ones who’ve got this fascination.  When I was able to attend the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature annual meetings in person, I would often meet up with others who, apart from their respectable jobs, have a real interest in horror.  There are quite a few of us.  Some journals, like Sojourners, are starting to ask the obvious question: what do these things have in common?

I can’t claim to have watched all the horror movies ever made.  It’s actually pretty difficult to access some of those I’d like to see and, believe it or not, I’m actually a selective viewer.  Often my choices are dictated by research.  Back when I was young, in college and seminary, I’d go to see horror movies with friends.  Since I was living alone in seminary that sometimes led to sleepless nights.  I recall vividly being unable to sleep after watching David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly.  (To this day I still haven’t seen the original with Vincent Price.  I see that it’s available to stream on Amazon Prime, and since we’ve got the internet back perhaps it’s time I do that.)  What I can claim is that I’ve always watched movies for religious elements and that I often find horror isn’t lacking in that department.

The point of Brandon’s article is that there are horror stories in the Bible.  Indeed, the more I ponder the Good Book the more I see that makes it a frightening text indeed.  Once you get past the sugar coating, there’s fear of substance inside.  Funnily enough, it seems Jesus didn’t often play the fear card, although even he did so from time to time, according to the Gospels.  Religion, which gives us such hope, also makes us so very afraid.  I’m really glad to know that I’m not the only one who’s started to come to that conclusion.  So maybe it’s natural for those raised religious to be fond of monsters.  Getting others to admit it can be tricky, and I’m sure some genuinely don’t like them.  Still, when you’re in a scary place, it’s best not to be alone.


Great Resignation

Although many people my age are retired, I’m looking at a couple more decades of work at least.  A large part of this is because I specialized in a field I didn’t realize was dying.  I suspect clergy in the eighties, when I had to decide on majors and education choices, thought the declines in church attendance were a blip—a statistical anomaly until things went back to the way they “usually were.”  I majored in religion as an undergrad and then went on to seminary and finally to a doctoral program, all along that trajectory.  At every step of the way I was assured there would be jobs.  I’m seeing now that religionists don’t always look ahead.  It’s important to look back, but society begs to differ.

The reason this comes to mind, apart from being part of my daily reality, is an article a minister sent me.  The piece by Melissa Florer-Bixler  in Sojourners is titled “Why Pastors Are Joining the Great Resignation.”  It explores a number of reasons around pay and working conditions that ministers are quitting.  My thought, unscientific but logical, is that many of them are realizing society has moved away from the standard church model.  They recognize that the insistent biblicism that led to a past of Americans being in church under threat of Hell has diminished.  “Worship,” as it is generally done, no longer speaks to people.  I’ve experienced a great many worship styles and venues.  (I still attend them, but I’m a creature of habit as well as obligated by profession.)  When the realities of the world sink in you start to see the old model of praising an angry God because he demands it just doesn’t make sense.  People like Trump get elected anyway, so what’s the point?

Many pastors are underpaid.  Unless you run a mega-church budgets are tight and the need of people is great.  Much of the effort of the congregation I attend is directed to social justice causes.  There are so many.  So very many.  People are in need and the pat answers of call to worship, opening hymn, and sermon just aren’t doing it for them.  Congregants need pastoral care, as do people unchurched.  I’ve been through seminary and a professor in one long enough to know that few really get the idea of how to inspire by their words.  These are folks looking for a living who don’t fit into the capitalist model.  So there’s a decline.  As I read the piece I wondered what jobs they were switching to.  If my experience is anything to go by, the options are limited.