Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Benefits of Horror

The novelist, Stephen King, is mostly known for writing books in the literary genre of horror. Many of his novels have been turned into horror movies. Unfortunately, some of these movies tend to glorify horror. But a good novelist has a real understanding of the development and the effects of evil. King’s books often depict the progression into great evil.

Many of King’s stories recount man’s inhumanity to mankind. They describe the effects of selfishness, greed, ambition and the desire for power and control, etc. King shows us the beginning stages of evil and then traces it to its logical conclusion. Evil is similar in many ways to the pilot light on a furnace. The thermostat tells it when to fan into flame. Likewise, our selfish desires can fan evil into flame. As these evil tendencies become more and more pronounced we begin to experience true horror. We convincingly see the effect of evil upon both the perpetrator and his society.

As we read books in the genre of horror we find ourselves both intrigued and repulsed. I think our love – hate relationship with horror is due to the understanding of our own potential for evil. When we really examine ourselves we see that deep down we are basically selfish. We are greedy. We seek power and control. We are enamored with status. We might even step on someone else to reach our ambitions. We are forced to face two haunting questions: “How far will I go? Will I also carry evil to its logical conclusion in order to achieve my desires?”
The repulsion we feel in viewing horror can be a deterrent against evil. The novel helps us understand how evil can sometimes begin almost innocently but over time become a true horror. Horror helps us to personally come face to face with evil. Not only does it show us the evil in others, but it points out our own sinful desires. We see it in the lives or ordinary men and women who once lived ordinary lives. As C. S. Lewis once remarked, the dullest and most uninteresting person can become a horror and a corruption that one usually only meets in a nightmare. We are forced to examine our own lives, our priorities and our own desires. The real horror, from which all horrible deeds proceed, is the human heart or soul. Are we the type of person who could do the same evil that we see on the screen and read about in the novel?

If we are truly honest with ourselves, the answer is often yes. We do have a propensity towards evil. We are sinners. This should lead us to seek the mercy and protection of God. We need his mercy as we confess to him the selfish thoughts of our hearts and seek his forgiveness. We need his protection to prevent the power of sin from gaining control over our lives. We need to develop a relationship with him. It is only in having a relationship with the living God that we can avoid becoming a horror ourselves.

A good novelist, such as King, has the ability to look evil square in the face and describe its horror. We see it for what it is – pure evil. We understand its all consuming power. We see its beguiling selfish attractiveness. We realize that it ultimately comes from the human heart. And if we take the time to look in the author’s mirror of horror we may see our own reflection staring back at us. We may see the seeds of evil brooding within our souls. Ask yourself, “When I seriously look in his mirror, what do I see?

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