Back in the Middle Ages the big story was Jesus vs Satan, with our souls the prize. Then along came the 18th C Enlightenment to advise us Reason not Religion was the way to live this story. And so it’s no surprise that by today thousands of churches are empty in Europe and emptying in the United States. After all, reason dispels most of those old medieval superstitions.
And yet — almost as if the human heart needs what superstition can provide — we have found new Satans to fear and fight. The popular Gothic fiction of zombies, vampires, werewolves, and mad exorcists. Apparently the strict, cold logic of Reason proved to be a sparse diet for our repressed fears and revulsions. Humanity still seems to need the dark corners of our mind served with more than the thin white light of Reason.
The popularity of “Twilight, ” “Dark Shadows,” “The DaVinci Code,” and “Harry Potter” speaks to this need. The need to be afraid of the dark, the mysterious, and the unearthly. But then in the end to somehow defeat the evil ones and save our soul.
The 19th C had the eerie Gothic novels of the Brontes, the horrifying stories of Poe, along with the birth of Frankenstein, and the wild imagery of Romantic poets like Shelley and composers like Wagner. Then in our own centuries the screen has been able to capture the entire range of the occult lurking in our lives.
Authors like Elizabeth Lowry writes in her “Gothicka” that traditional, mainstream Religion is not simply disappearing. It’s being replaced by a New Age kind of religiosity in which we ourselves can become part of the occult. Kissing, marrying, birthing with the demonic. “Thereby finding the transcendent within ourselves,” as Lowry puts it.
She would get a rousing argument from today’s inflamed Fundamentalists who see the danger of the satanic and demonic everywhere in our culture. Starting in Hollywood and LasVegas all the way to the college campus and the White House..
So here’s the question, Gothic fans. Has Satan lost his footing in the battle for our souls…? Or has he cleverly disguised himself in the shape of zombies and vampires, luring us to the same hell only by different routes…?
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