Why Are We So Attracted to Vampires? (Happy Halloween!)

 We are kicking off a new series from Susannah Clements, author of The Vampire Defanged, leading up to the new Twilight movie, Breaking Dawn (you know you are going to go see it). In this first post she offers some important insight into why we are so attracted to vampires:

 With Halloween approaching, the stores have been filled with all kinds of vampire costumes—including classic Dracula outfits, Vampire princesses, rocker vampires with spiked hair and fake leather coats, and Twilight vampires for both boys and girls complete with twinkly lights so they sparkle like Edward and Bella.

 Vampire costumes have been more abundant in the last few years because of the vampire craze in pop culture, but vampires have always been a popular choice for Halloween. We’ve been telling ourselves stories about vampires for a really long time, and they give us a way to explore certain issues that are important to us as humans. The vampire is a monster with a mostly human face – kind of like us, but with a more pronounced darkness or a more uncontrollable appetite. As such, vampire stories are a powerful way of exploring what it means to be human.

 The vampire as a metaphor can mean what we want it to mean – which is why we keep going back to it. Although the vampire used to represent temptation, sin and evil, those traditional associations have faded recently as the vampire has become domesticated and even morphed into a romantic hero. Whether the vampire is portrayed positively or negatively in a story, it usually embodies some kind of craving, desire or need that must either be controlled or destroyed. That aspect of human nature strikes a chord in us, which is why I think we’re so attracted to vampire stories (and costumes).

 We see versions of vampires around us all the time now. Vampires are still featured on a couple of very popular television shows. Sexy, brooding vampires are still the most popular heroes of paranormal romance novels. Count von Count is still counting the bats in his castle on Sesame Street. And men, women and children will be dressing up like vampires on Halloween—wearing a cape and fangs, or a Victorian corset and fishnet stockings, or twinkly lights like the lead characters from their favorite novels.

 The pop culture phenomenon will almost certainly fade, but our interest in vampires isn’t likely to go away. We’ll keep telling ourselves stories about vampires because those stories have never been just about monsters. They’ve always been about us.

The Weekly Hit List: October 28, 2011

Pastor Bob Cornwall reviewed A Public Faith on his blog Ponderings on a Faith Journey. Check it out here.

 

Also, look for a great review of Lee C. Camp’s Who Is My Enemy? in the Nov/Dec issue of Relevant magazine.

Rachel Held Evans recently featured two Brazos titles on her blog.

First, she recommended Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible and previewed a series of posts that she will be doing on the book in January.

Then, she strongly recommended Stephen Binz’s Women of the Gospels and Women of the Torah studies (part of the Ancient-Future Bible Study series).

 

Hip-Hop Redemption Book Giveaway

Congratulations to Patrick Craig, Andy Goodliff, Nathan Gilmor, Ken Berry, and Jared Yaple! These five lucky winners will receive a free copy of Ralph Basui Watkins’s new book Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme.

For more on Hip-Hop Redemption, check out www.HipHopRedemption.org.

And check back next week for our next giveaway!

Lectionary Reflection for the 20th Sunday after Pentecost

From Matthew (BTCB) by Stanley Hauerwas, commenting on Matthew 23: 1-12

Jesus’s commendations to his disciples as well as his condemnations of the scribes and Pharisees presume, as he has just acknowledged, that he is the Messiah. Jesus’s criticism of the scribes and Pharisees is drawn from God’s gift to Israel through the law and the prophets. He is not condemning the Pharisees and the scribes because they do not acknowledge that he is the Messiah. Rather, he is making clear that they cannot acknowledge that he is the Messiah because they do not live by the very law they advocate. He does not, for example, condemn the wearing of phylacteries and fringes. The externals are not the problem, but they become a problem when they no longer serve to shape the life of prayer. . . This is a sobering list of failure and judgment, with descriptions of hypocrisy and failure in which we cannot help but see ourselves. It is surely the case, for example, that many of us are kept from entering the kingdom by the lives we lead as Christians. Our problem is very simple—we simply do not know how to live as a people who believe that Jesus is the resurrected Lord. The joy and freedom that should name the lives of those freed from the demons become lost amid attempts to make our difference depend on matters that do not matter. We become adept at praising the prophets of the past, having lost the ability to discern the prophets among us.

©2006 by Stanley Hauerwas. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.

Video: Finding God in Hip-Hop?

In this new video Ralph Basui Watkins introduces his new book Hip-Hop Redemption (Baker Academic) and its companion website. Check out the video below and then join in the conversation at www.HipHopRedemption.org. Also, tomorrow is the last day to enter to win a copy of this fascinating new book. To enter, go here.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Matthew Dickerson – Part II

We recently got a chance to talk with Brazos author Matthew Dickerson about his book The Mind and the Machine (2011). Here is Part 2 of that interview:

What do Lewis and Tolkien have to say about the heart of human nature and why are their insights important in an increasingly technological age?

C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien dealt with timeless issues. Issues that transcended geographical and cultural bounds as well as temporal ones. That is one reason that their works were so powerful. Though they did not live in the age of the internet, or even of household computers, they did see the unfolding of the 20th century and the explosion of technologies that began in that century, from nuclear power to (in Tolkien’s case, at least) space travel.

In our day, I think the biggest technologies that have changed our lives have to do with computers and communications. Certainly it would have been difficult before 1990 to have foreseen the way that the internet would change our lives, or to have predicted the emergence of Google, FaceBook, or YouTube. Still, it is worth pointing out that modern digital computers were already emerging in the 1930s, 40s and 50s (when Lewis and Tolkien were having their most productive years as mythopoets). The principles and ideas behind them were getting attention. And so by the middle of the 20th century, many of the biggest philosophical questions pertaining to computers and humans were already being asked and explored by great thinkers, writers, and philosophers. As for the role of technology in society, that question has been around for as long as humans have lived and used tools.

Tolkien and Lewis certainly explored those issues in their writing. Tolkien commented, more than once, that central to his fantasy novels was an exploration of the use and role of technology—what he called “the machine”—and that “magic” in his writings offered a metaphorical representation of technology. (I explored this in great depth in my book From Homer to Harry Potter, co-authored with David O’Hara.)

Of course all that their works suggest, imaginatively, about technology, would take a long time to explore. Some agree with their ideas. Many disagree. If you think that their writings ring true, and offer a picture of the good life, then you have to take seriously their thoughts about technology. But my only point here is that both of these men were both brilliant thinkers and brilliant writers, and so whether you ultimately agree with them, or disagree with them, what they had to say mythopoetically deserves attention; it is a thoughtful treatment of an important topic: the human use of technology.

The Weekly Hit List: October 21, 2011

J.R. Daniel Kirk posted his fifth and final entry on his blog Storied Theology on Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible. Check it out here.

Who Is My Enemy? author Lee C. Camp recently published an article in the Huffington Post entitled “Moving Beyond ‘Clash of Civilizations’.” Check it out here.
 An excerpt from Miroslav Volf’s A Public Faith was posted on the blog for Political Theology. Read it here.

Don’t forget about our current giveaway. We will be selecting five winners who will receive a copy of Ralph Watkins’s new Baker Academic book Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme.

To enter, go here.

Giveaway: “Hip-Hop Redemption”

Our sister division Baker Academic just released a book by Ralph Basui Watkins that we believe will be of interest for The Brazos Blog readers. We will be posting more on Watkins’s Hip-Hop Redemption: Finding God in the Rhythm and the Rhyme in the coming weeks.

For our next giveaway, we will be giving away 5 copies of Hip-Hop Redemption.

To enter, simply fill out the form below. Don’t forget to share this giveaway on Twitter and Facebook!

This giveaway has expired – keep checking The Brazos Blog for more giveaways.

Between the Lines: A Conversation with Matthew Dickerson

We recently got a chance to talk with Brazos author Matthew Dickerson about his book The Mind and the Machine (2011). Here is Part 1 of that interview:

1:  Are social media and our increasing reliance on technology indicative of future human and technology integration?

When I was a college student, my friends and I were aware of our university’s seeming efforts to control where and with whom we spent time our social time.  We used to criticize these efforts as attempts to engineer our associations and relationships. The term “engineer”, of course, was metaphorical in one sense; no significant modern technology was being used. It was done through rules and incentives.

In hindsight, what went on twenty-five years ago feels like nothing compared to the extent to which our present society—and, indeed, human life itself—is increasingly both engineered and technology-dependent. For example, how so many of our relationships are entirely virtual? I am “friends” with people I’ve never met, and may never meet. And these friendships take place through tightly controlled technologies whose main goal is the extraction of personal information from users, and the sale of products to users.  Their goal is not to foster healthy relationships. The fact that these technologies may be used in real and good relationships is coincidental or accidental.

Even more concerning, we treat human bodes like machines to be mechanically tinkered with, or in cases entirely re-engineered. I’m not speaking if surgeries like hip and knee replacements, or vision correction—technologies that help seriously wounded, aged, or diseased bodies to continue to function, and for which I am thankful. Nor am I speaking of drugs for the physically or psychologically ill. Rather, I am speaking about drugs to change our very personalities, and of technologies to engineer our bodies to be something different. We use technologies to change the sizes of our noses, breasts, and buttocks. We even change our biological sex through both drugs and surgery.

We are not so much integrating human and technology as we are confusing the two.

And for that reason, I think that the trend will continue, and even accelerate. Too few people are asking questions about what is desirable. We tend to ask, instead, only about what is possible. That is the nature of a culture, like ours, that is enamored with technology, and sees it as a means of salvation. And my main response to this is a simple line of questions. “Has it made us happier persons? Has it made us more content as persons? Has it made us better persons?”

Video: Miroslav Volf on the Arab Spring and A Public Faith

Here is our final video clip with Miroslav Volf on his new book A Public Faith. In this clip, Volf discusses the Arab Spring and the common good.

The Weekly Hit List – October 14, 2011

J.R. Daniel Kirk continued his review of Christian Smith’s The Bible Made Impossible on his blog Storied Theology:
Part II

Part III

Part IV (“So my love fest with The Bible Made Impossible continues.”)

Scot McKnight posted his third blog post on Who Is My Enemy? Check it out here.

Camp’s Who Is My Enemy? and Volf’s A Public Faith were both included in The Christian Century’s “Take & Read” list for Practical Theology.

Speaking of Volf, check out Byron Borger’s review of A Public Faith on the Q Ideas website.

The Brazos Blog’s Song of Songs Giveaway

Congratulations to Robert Marcello on winning our most recent giveaway. Robert will receive a complimentary copy of Paul J. Griffiths’s Song of Songs entry in the Brazos Theological Commentaries on the Bible series.

Check back here next week for our next giveaway.