74150567Pop quiz. The movie ‘Van Helsing’ is:

1. A horror movie.
2. An action movie.
3. A metaphorical examination of evil.
4. A comedy.
5. None of the above.

All those who put down ”5”, “None of the above”, expect your no-prize in your mail box in the next few days.

*”Van Helsing” a horror movie? I know of early Malayan Shaw Brothers ”Pontianak” (Vampire) movies that were much scarier. *Action movie? B+ at most. Doesn’t even come close to the ”Mummy” movies. *A metaphorical examination of human evil? Stick to the classic “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” movies. *Comedy? Stephen Sommers can take lessons from Mel Brook’s “Young Frankenstein”.

Early in ”Van Helsing”, the Dracula character has a monologue where he describes his existence as hollow. Ditto the movie.

With the production technology available to movie producers these days, it”s not really that difficult to put together a collage of sight and sound to stir the senses. The challenge is put real heart into a movie. ”Van Helsing” is heartless. It’s hard to really care for any of the characters. The movie moves along too fast for your emotions to get engaged.

Which is just as well, as the movie pushes the common modern celluloid myths about evil. They include.

1. Evil is ugly. You can always tell who the bad guys are. They are the ones that really need botox treatments and all the cosmetic help they can get. (The only think they have going for them is their dentition. Clearly, vampires and werewolves brush their teeth twice a day and have dental check ups twice a year.)

The bible however, describes evil in very attractive terms. Satan disguises himself as an ”angel of light”(2 Corinthians 11:14) The serpent is portrayed as attractive and seductive( Genesis 3). Indeed he is the ”Day Star” (Isaiah 14:12). If evil were so repulsive, we would be able to detect it easily. We would be on our guard. But true evil is not ugly. Indeed it can be very attractive. And as Sharon Gallagher reminds us in a recent article in RADIX, evil “is not that easy to spot.” (Vol. 30 No.4, 20)

2. Evil’s main weapon is direct, spectacular attack. Movies like ”Van Helsing” imply that our main fear from evil is to be attacked by wild, ugly, flying beasts out to drink our blood. In other words, evil’s basic approach to hurting human beings is direct spectacular attack.

Now I believe in demonisation, and have been involved in a few (very few) deliverance situations where evil spirits were expelled from afflicted individuals. But I still believe that Satan’s most effective attacks are much more subtle. That his main weapons are temptation (Genesis 3:1-7) and deception (2 John 1:7) A fixation with spectacular, obvious manifestations of evil blinds us to the temptations that assault our spirits everyday. And we fall.

3. Evil can be defeated by human resources alone. If movies like ”Van Helsing” are our only sources of information on how we can defeat evil, we would come to the following conclusions:

a. Evil can be defeated by human bravery. If we only had the right heroes and heroines who are willing to stand up to evil we will be ok. We don’t really need God. References to God and the church in the movie are purely cosmetic. The Vatican has a secret ops division that includes Buddhist monks and Muslim mullahs working with Christian monks to find new and violent ways to destroy evil????

b. Evil can be defeated by human technology. Perhaps this reflects the modern worship of technology, but the hero Van Helsing, is equipped with all sorts of cool weapons. (Technology alone can save the day? Everybody go watch a documentary on the Vietnam War.)

c. Evil can be defeated by violence. The good guys may look good and the bad guys may be ugly, but both sides depend on violent conflict to pursue their purposes. This is made crystal clear from Van Helsing’s first battle, with Jack the Ripper. (So that’s where the Ripper went to after he finished with ”The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.”) Unfortunately, we are reminded daily that violence only gives birth to more violence.

There is a plethora of movies and TV programmes that feature battles with supernatural evil these days. Most of them push the same myths found in ”Van Helsing”.

A Christian response would welcome the recognition of the existence of supernatural evil, and the existence of malevolent spiritual beings. But a Christian response would also maintain that:

*Human beings cannot defeat evil without divine assistance. (Mark 5:1-20) *Jesus Christ came to defeat evil once and for all by His decisive victory on the Cross. (Colossians 2:6-15) *Christians now help see that victory actualized in the world through preaching, teaching, deliverance, prayer and compassionate service. (John 20:19-23) *Jesus” victory over evil will be finally unveiled when He returns again. (Romans 16:20)

There is just too much real evil in the world today. Movies like ”Van Helsing”, help us escape from the real thing for a while. But even movies have their own world view. Let the viewer beware.

Events from Iraq to the Sudan remind us that real evil is rife and apparently unstoppable. It is God’s Word that gives us the true reading on evil, and how it can be defeated.

The Scriptures, not movies like ”Van Helsing”, remind us that evil has been defeated by a loving God who loved us enough to come die for us on the Cross. May the reality of that victory renew our stamina not to be overcomed by evil, but instead, to overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)

“The prince of darkness grim We tremble not for Him; His rage we can endure, For lo! His doom is sure One little word shall fell him. ” (Martin Luther)

Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan