Mrs. Griess is a member of Calvary Protestant Reformed Church in Hull, Iowa.

Twilight series, by Stephenie Meyer. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-16017-2. Reviewed by Lael Griess.

No doubt many readers have seen or heard of the fantastically popular Twilight series. These recent best-sellers, whose basic story line is a love affair between a teenage girl and her vampire boyfriend, have inspired a cultural vampire mania complete with movies, copycat books, television series, and even a new shade of lipstick suggestively called “just-bitten.”

Teachers in our Christian schools have reported that these books are popular among our young people as well, and though these books target an adolescent, primarily female audience, perhaps some of our adults have read them as well. Having just finished the saga in its entirety, I have some concerns to share with the people of God regarding these books. These warnings increase in gravity as they progress.

Twilight promotes a twisted and worldly view of romantic love.

This warning is obvious before even reading these books. A vampire as the hero and lover of a tale should make godly readers squeamish from the start. However, as the books progress, we learn that the hero, Edward, is a vampire of incredible self-control. In fact, he voluntarily drinks animal blood to avoid taking human life, and he refuses to consummate his physical relationship with the heroine, Bella, until after they have lawfully wed. This, coupled with the minimal bad language and censored violence, has fooled many Christian readers into believing these are “clean” books.

Don’t be duped. The connection between Edward’s desire to drink Bella’s blood and his love for her is nothing less than pornographic, a mixing of romantic love and violence. The lack of fornication in the books may be commendable if it were not for the fact that Edward and Bella continuously tempt each other to test their physical boundaries. Furthermore, the couple’s obsession for each other is pure idolatry, an ugly counterfeit for the sacrificial and lovely biblical love between a godly husband and wife.

Twilight idolizes youth.

American pop culture, with its marketing, products, music, movies, clothing, and books is decidedly youth-driven. The young are worshiped for their beauty, freshness, and strength, while the wisdom of the elderly is scorned. The Twilight books tap into this idolatry of all that is youthful. The main characters are all teenagers. In fact, the vampires in the story are frozen in their adolescence for eternity, and the surrogate “parent figures” of Edward’s vampire family are merely in their early to mid-twenties. Bella is disconnected from her parents, and the other adults in the books are portrayed as clueless and out-of-touch. At the end of the series, when Bella sacrifices all to be transformed into a vampire herself, she also becomes immortally 18 years old, beautiful, and youthfully radiant.

Twilight is poor literature that discourages critical thinking and discernment.

The Beacon Lights recently republished a copy of a speech Rev. Hoeksema gave to young people years ago in which he urged them to use their “thinking caps” ( June 2010, pp. 9-12). His exhortation was for the youth of the church to think deeply, particularly about doctrine. In that connection, he briefly lamented that young people read too many shallow novels. His speech is as pertinent today as it was then. Reading fiction that is deep and that speaks of timeless truths encourages using one’s “thinking cap.” These types of books foster discussion, encourage critical thinking, and develop skills of discernment, all of which are necessary skills for Bible study, intelligent sermon listening, and discerning the signs of the times.

The Twilight series does not encourage the use of the thinking cap. The characters are predictable and two-dimensional, the descriptions are often repetitive, the plot is at times sensational, at other times tedious, and the overall message of the books lacks depth or complexity.

In these ways, the Twilight books are very similar to many so-called “Christian fiction” novels that are frequently read in Christian circles. One wonders if a steady diet of these popular Christian novels, with their simple characters and love stories, leads to embracing books like the Twilight series. Certainly enjoying an occasional simple book is no sin. However, a steady diet of them may dull thinking skills.

Twilight disguises Mormon theology within the plot.

Stephenie Meyer, the author of the Twilightbooks, is a professing Mormon educated at Brigham Young University, and her Twilightseries smacks of her religious affiliation. Mormonism is primarily a religion of works, which explains why the main vampire characters of Twilight work so hard to fight their darker desires for human blood, choosing instead to feed on animals. In Eclipse, the third book of the series, Edward and his vampire family explain to Bella that they choose this lifestyle because they hope their souls have not been lost, and perhaps they can obtain salvation through their good works.

Mormonism also teaches that those who live the most exemplary lives will spend eternity in the “third heaven” as gods along with their spouses. Meyer’s vampires seem much more like gods than they do vampires. Edward and the rest of the vampires in the books are described with telling language; they are “perfect,” “godlike,” even “angelic.” In addition to their godlike physical beauty, they possess superhuman strength and speed, and some even possess special abilities such as mind-reading, predicting the future, and changing weather patterns. When Bella becomes a vampire as well, she is able to mimic the Mormon dream, spending eternity as a god with her mate.

Edward and Bella marry while she is yet a human, and on their honeymoon Bella conceives a half-human, half-vampire child. This is reminiscent of the Mormon story of Christ’s birth: that Mary conceived, not by the Holy Spirit, but by God engaging in a physical, sexual act with her. Unlike the Christian Savior who is fully human and fully God, the Mormon Jesus is half human and half god. Just like Bella’s child, he is a half-breed.

Twilight exploits the weaknesses and insecurities of adolescent girls.

The main character of the Twilight saga is teenage Bella. She thinks of herself as plain and uninteresting, and indeed she has no interests, hopes, dreams, or ambitions outside of becoming a vampire so that she can be with her boyfriend for eternity. She is awkward and clumsy, and as the new girl in school is uncomfortable and isolated. Her parents divorced when she was an infant, and though she loves them both, her relationship with them is disconnected and distant.

Enter Edward. He is the handsome heart-throb of the high school. He drives fast, cool cars and hangs out with other teenage vampires who are equally suave and good-looking. More importantly, for no apparent reason, he loves Bella.

The author knows her target audience well, and that is why this is my final and most serious warning. What teenage girl hasn’t felt awkward and unattractive? What teenage girl doesn’t desire to have the perfect guy admire her just because? What teenage girl hasn’t at times felt disconnected and lonely? As Edward and Bella establish themselves as a couple, their world shrinks smaller and smaller until they see only each other. This also strikes a chord with adolescent girls, who are tempted to obsess about boys in general, and more specifically about the possibility of experiencing such an exclusive relationship.

However, our teenage daughters are special not because a cool vampire loves them, but because, by His grace, the all-powerful God of the universe has set His irresistible and everlasting affection upon them. They may be tempted to be enamored of a love story like Edward and Bella’s, but in reality they possess a Divine love so much deeper and more beautiful that it makes the love story of theTwilight books seem shallow and empty. We pray for our daughters that their emotional security comes not from a boyfriend or the dream of one, but from their communion with the heavenly Father. We also pray for our daughters that, if it be His will, the Lord would provide them godly husbands, not so they can live a narcissistic love story, but so that together they can serve each other, the church, and the Lord.