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Friday, September 23, 2011

Book Review: "The Gospel According to Twilight"

TITLE: The Gospel According to Twilight: Women, Sex, and God
AUTHOR: Elaine A. Heath
PUBLISHER: Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

I have not read Heath's works before. Yet, I cannot help but finish this book in one sitting. No prizes for guessing how I feel about the book. The title is captivating. The introduction is engrossing. The book is both entertaining as well as illuminating. In many ways, Heath has marinated herself with the gripping style of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight saga. Using words familiar with Twilight enthusiasts and followers, as well as many gospel motifs, this book will be an immediate hit for both Christian as well as non-Christian public in two ways.

Firstly, the book ushers readers into a brief nostalgic journey through all four books in Twilight, Eclipse, New Moon, and Breaking Dawn. The author describes the book's characters insightfully. She details Edward's amazing capacity for self-control. She lambasts Bella's seemingly low self-esteem. She credits Carlisle's warm father figure. She points out the interesting role of the Cullen vampire Family that appears more human than the human race. At the same time, she contrasts the dehumanizing and dysfunctional image of the supposedly 'human' family of Bella's.

Secondly, Heath goes beyond simply providing point summaries. She draws out salient theological and gospel themes. Such like the themes of salvation, sin, and conversion. Reflections on the Garden of Eden, temptations, death, transformation. She is explicit in pointing out Stephanie Meyer's Mormon background, comparing it with the various points of theological interpretation. After contrasting Mormon teachings with Eastern Orthodox as well as Catholic/Protestant teachings, she highlights the unique perspective adopted by Meyer, and how Meyer's theology even differs from the traditional LDS Mormon teachings.

Heath's book brings a fresh perspective on the Twilight series. What is most helpful is learning the reasons why Twilight has become a hit among young girls. This is particularly important for parents of young teenagers, especially girls. As a self-professed feminist theologian, Heath is clearly passionate about the female cause. Her main peeve with the book is how it has placed the female sex (played by a weakly Bella) below a strong male figure (played by Edward Cullen). I appreciate Heath's penchant for details, and her ability to draw out the rich theological themes. As part of a course in Heath's teaching program in seminary, it would have been a pity if it is restricted only to seminary students there. Thankfully, with this book, the general public can catch a good glimpse without having to be in her seminary class.

The Gospel According to Twilight blends in contemporary culture interpretation with gospel awareness. The book is an excellent example on how to watch modern movies with gospel eyes. This in itself is worth spending time reading the book.


This book is provided to me free courtesy of Westminster John Knox Press and NetGalley without any obligation for a positive review. The comments above are freely mine.

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