Scholars of religion have begun to explore horror and the monstrous, not only within the confines of the biblical text or the traditions of religion, but also as they proliferate into popular culture. This exploration emerges from what has long been present in horror: an engagement with the same questions that animate religious thought – questions about the nature of the divine, humanity's place in the universe, the distribution of justice, and what it means to live a good life, among many others. Such exploration often involves a theological conversation. Theology and Horror: Explorations of the Dark Religious Imagination pursues questions regarding non-physical realities, spaces where both divinity and horror dwell. Through an exploration of theology and horror, the contributors explore how questions of spirituality, divinity, and religious structures are raised, complicated, and even sometimes answered (at least partially) by works of horror.
Brandon R. Grafius is associate professor of biblical studies at Ecumenical Theological Seminary.
John W. Morehead is an independent scholar who specializes in new religious movements, religion and popular culture, and interreligious conflict.
Introduction: Theology and Horror
Brandon R. Grafius and John W. Morehead
Section One: Horrifying Foundations
Chapter 1 Consider the Yattering: The Infernal Order and the Religious Imagination in Real Time Douglas E. Cowan
Chapter 2 The Theological Origins of Horror Steve A. Wiggins
Chapter 3 Mysterium Horrendum: Exploring Otto's Concept of the Numinous in Stoker, Machen, and Lovecraft Jack Hunter
Section Two: Christianizing the Monster
Chapter 4 Priests, Secrets, and Holy Water: All I Ever Learned About Catholicism I Learned from Horror Films Karrȧ Shimabukuro
Chapter 5 “We Have to Stop the Apocalypse!”: Pre- Millennial (Mis)Representations of Revelation and Eschaton in Horror Cinema Kevin J. Wetmore, Jr.
Chapter 6 Gnostic Terror: Subverting the Narrative of Horror Alyssa J. Beall
Section Three: Paranormal World, Monstrous History
Chapter 7 A Longing for Reconciliation: The Ghost Story as Demand for Corporeal and Terrestrial Justice Joshua Wise
Chapter 8 Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?: Two Models of Christian Theological Engagement with Lycanthropy Michael A. Hammett
Chapter 9 Endings that Never Happen: Otherness, Indecent Theology, Apocalypse, & Zombies Jessi Knippel
Section Four: Readings in Theology and the Horror Film
Chapter 10 “Do I Look Like Someone Who Cares What God Thinks?”: Narrative Ambiguity, Religion, and the Afterlife in the Hellraiser Franchise Mark Richard Adams
Chapter 11 Ferocious Marys and Dark Alessas: The Portrayal of Religious Matriarchies in Silent Hill Amy Beddows
Chapter 12 “They Say with Jason Death Comes First/ He’ll Make Hell a Place on Earth”: The Functions of Hell in New Line’s Jason Sequels Wickham Clayton
There’s something deliciously entertaining about looking for God in a midnight slasher film or a popular paperback horror novel. Just as tasty is discovering the horror narratives woven throughout religious scriptures. Welcome to the delights of Theology and Horror! This excellent collection of essays takes us on a tour of the movies, books, and even video games that gleefully terrorize us, asking what these collective nightmares tell us about belief, tradition, and concepts of the divine. From a gnostic reading of Cabin in the Woods, to an analysis of the resurrection of Jason Voorhees, to the religious matriarchies of Silent Hill, to an expedition through the hellscape of Clive Barker’s Hellraiser franchise, this collection explores the classics, the obscure, and even the camp, each essay rich with razor sharp scholarship, biting insight, and an endless enthusiasm for the thrills and rewards of horror.
Theology and Horror provides those who wish to explore the dark twists and turns of the religious imagination a delightful expedition into the shadowy domains of horror and the divine. Moving across the centuries, this volume shines a light into the shadows, revealing that some of the most illuminating theological questions we might ask are found not only in the pages of the Bible or in the writings of monks of late antiquity, but also in the more recent haunts of ghosts, werewolves, zombies, and more. These essays decisively prove that the roads where theology, horror, and popular culture meet are worth traveling, for not only is there much to see along the way, but there are so many questions we have yet to pursue.
If you have not had the opportunity to explore the growing literature on horror and religion, Grafius and Morehead have given us a roadmap through this dark and tangled forest, full of beauties and terrors. The superb introduction ushers us into a dark hallway of essays by many of the most significant scholars in this growing, vibrant, and spooky field. This book belongs on the shelf of anyone fascinated by the constant interactions, alliances, and conflicts between religion and mass culture.