Friday, April 16, 2010

Book Review and Giveaways: The Twilight Gospel by Dave Roberts

Welcome to the next stop on Litfuse Publicity's blog tour of Dave Roberts' The Twilight Gospel: The Spiritual Roots of Stephenie Meyer's Vampire Saga.

For the past several years, I’ve been intrigued with the popularity of the Twilight saga.  It certainly has rivaled the hysteria seen with Harry Potter, though this audience seems to be skewed slightly older and with a higher percentage of females.

Although I’m a fan of the Potter series, I didn’t feel highly compelled to read Stephenie Meyer’s books.  I don’t prefer vampire stories.  In fact, the subject of one of my lectures in a college speechmaking class was Bram Stoker’s Dracula and why my fellow Wheaton students should choose to not patronize the 1992 film.

There’s much debate in the Christian community about whether believers should be reading Twilight and its subsequent sequels.  Vampire mythology has always been rooted in death, darkness and occultist practices.  Just this month I read in Home Life magazine, “[we] encourage readers to think about why so many Christian women are drawn to the Twilight series when the plots and characters depicted are obviously contrary to biblical principles.” (April 2010)

As a reviewer for Litfuse Publicity, I was pleased to receive Dave Roberts’ book, The Twilight Gospel.  I wanted to get his perspective on this topic, especially as a Christian writer, speaker and minister. Dave is the author of the best-selling The Toronto Blessing and Red Moon Rising. He is a former editor of Christianity magazine and won awards for his work on Renewal magazine. He is a church pastor and conference director for three major annual conferences on worship, children's ministry, and women's ministry.

In order to prepare for Roberts’ book, I thought it would be appropriate to at least read Twilight, the first book in Stephenie Meyer’s series.  This would give me at least a working knowledge of Roberts’ topic, if not a completely informed one.  Because this book has been reviewed dozens of times over the years, I don’t feel the need to post a full critique.  I will say that I found Twilight entertaining, not as sinister as some have made it out to be, yet not for children or young teens.

After reading Twilight I dove into Roberts’ The Twilight Gospel.  He begins with short plot synopses of all the books in the series, plus the unpublished draft of Midnight Sun, available on Stephenie Meyer’s website.  Roberts then goes on to explain his motivations and goals for the book, showing that he has no desire to turn his back on popular culture.  Unlike many who criticize popular culture, he doesn’t write from a place of fear, but “from a place of wisdom”, wanting “to help people understand and respond and make good choices.” (p.22)

Chapter 2 is centered mostly on the history behind vampires and other “undead.”   I found this to be very helpful in understanding the bigger picture, as I’d either forgotten these themes or had never explored them.  The mythology behind these characters and stories has a long tradition, with varying degrees of darkness and occultism.  Fortunately for the readers of Twilight, there are no coffin-shaped beds, sinister gothic clothes or repellent crosses.

The rest of the book explores several themes that are of interest to Mr. Roberts.  He addresses the seemingly heavy emphasis on materialism and physical beauty seen in the lives of the vampires. We see how sexuality and occultist issues are handled, the “theology” of Meyer’s vampires, free will and pacifism. He concludes with a few personal words of wisdom, and a few book recommendations of his own.

My thoughts:  At 155 pages, The Twilight Gospel was a quick read and held my attention well.  I felt a little out of sorts at times, as Roberts refers to plot elements in books 2-4, which I haven’t read.  If you want to avoid plot spoilers, read this book after you’ve finished the series.  However, if this isn’t a concern because you’re reading this to be an informed parent or reader, do read The Twilight Gospel first.

While I don’t disagree with Mr. Roberts’ assertion that materialism and beauty are given a lot of emphasis in the Twilight series, these elements didn’t concern me.  Those factors are a part of the fantastical tale—to complain about them would be like complaining about Snow White being the “Fairest of Them All” or Cinderella having the most beautiful gown at the ball. However, if you are easily influenced by these issues, then he has some good points to consider.

Although the sexual tension in Twilight was much chaster than I’ve seen in other romantic stories, Roberts tells us that it takes a more predominant role in the subsequent books.  I admired Meyer’s choice to have abstinence to be the rule rather than the exception in Twilight, but Roberts writes that things become spicier as the series goes on.

Overall I enjoyed The Twilight Gospel.  I didn’t feel the urgency that Roberts feels in some of his topics, but I can understand where he’s coming from.  I wouldn’t call this the definitive Christian response to Twilight, but it certainly raises some interesting ideas, ones that are worth considering as these stories continue in popularity, both in print and on screen.  I’m glad that he was able to show us how good, admirable themes are found in Meyer’s books.  He also presented some negative aspects that should be considered.  I agree with him: “Enjoy, but do not believe.”


*          *          *

For our readers, a double contest!


CONTEST #1: If you'd like to win one of two copies of The Twilight Gospel, here's what to do:
  • Leave a comment below; this counts as your entry.
  • Entries accepted until 11:59pm on Saturday, April 24th
  • Open to U.S. addresses only.
  • Make sure at least one posted comment includes your email address. If you'd rather not have your email posted here, you may contact me directly to give me that information after you've entered here.
  • Two copies will be available to win.  Winner #1 will get a new copy directly from Litfuse, and Winner #2 will receive my review copy.
  • I will compile the entries and the winners will be chosen by Random.org, so even one entry can make you a winner!
  • Should you win, I will contact you on Sunday the 25th for your mailing information.  Please take measures to ensure that my email will make it past your spam filters, lest you miss my message! (CalicoCritic@gmail.com) You'll have 72 hours to respond before I pick another winner.
  • If you're Winner #1, I will forward your mailing information on to Amy at Litfuse, and she will be responsible for mailing the book to you. 
  • If you're Winner #2, I will be responsible for mailing my review copy to you.
  • More information on the giveaway policies can be found on the Contact / Policies page.

Bonus Entries
Please make note of all your bonus entries in your comment(s).  You may post separate comments or a single large comment.  Here are your bonus entry options:
  • Comment on this:  What is your experience with the Twilight saga?  Have you read all the books, seen all the movies or consider yourself a "Twihard"?  Or are you more like me, new to the books or just considering the series?
  • Follow the blog by clicking on the Google "Follow" button on my sidebar (old or new followers both get the bonus entry, just let me know you're following).
  • Follow me (@LHartness) on Twitter (Please tell me your @UserName).
  • Tweet about this book's giveaway on Twitter.com; be sure to use an URL linking back to this blog posting in your tweet. You may do this as frequently as every 8 hours between now and April 24th at 11:59pm EST.  For each tweet, please come back and post the direct URL link to that specific tweet, not just your @Username. These tweets are separate from the ones for Contest #2 below.

That's it for Contest #1!  Good luck to all the entrants!



CONTEST #2: $50 Amazon.com gift card from Litfuse!









Want another contest?  Litfuse is giving away a $50 Amazon.com gift card.  Here are the instructions:

Twitter members,  TWEET this to be entered for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Amazon.com:


Understand cultural and Biblical insights surrounding The Twilight Saga by reading #TheTwilightGospel. Please RT! http://ow.ly/1vjc6


You must use the hashtag #thetwilightgospel to be entered.  These tweets are separate from any tweeting done for Contest #1. You do not have to return here and offer the URL of your tweet, as Litfuse will be tracking them with the hashtag.  Of course, sharing that you tweeted for Contest #2 will make me smile! ;)


Good luck to all, and thanks for stopping by!


Coming Soon:  Book review and giveaway of Sandra Gravett's From Twilight to Breaking Dawn: Religious Themes in the Twilight Saga (Chalice Press)

CymLowell


FTC Disclaimer:  All books have been provided to me free of charge to review, with no other expectations, obligations or other compensation.

39 comments:

  1. Can't enter Contest #1 as am non-US, but for Contest #2 (which doesn't seem to have any geographical restrictions), here is my entry: http://twitter.com/cherrymischivus/status/12266780904

    Cherry Mischievous
    mischivus101-warrior [at] yahoo [dot] com

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've read the series. Not the best series in the world, but it's still entertaining. I definitely like the Harry Potter series better.

    I follow on Twitter. Username: Door2Wonderland.
    I follow on Google.
    I retweeted your tweet about the review and giveaway.

    Thanks for the great giveaway!
    Kelsey
    krae991 at yahoo dot com

    ReplyDelete
  3. Cherry:

    You're right-- I looked at the contest's web page (the short URL included in your tweet), and there doesn't seem to be any restriction. Amazon gift cards are easy to share internationally, I imagine.

    Thanks for listing your Contest #2 tweet here. You don't have to, as Litfuse is going to keep track of those entries by hashtag. I'll go update the contest rules to reflect that.

    Kelsey:

    Thanks for entering!


    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very nice review, Laura! My email is jpjfsmama@gmail.com, and I have clicked to follow your blog. :)

    I am a Twihard, and a dedicated Christian. I only first heard of these books about 1 1/2 years ago, and was not interested in reading them, as they are about vampires. But I had several Christian friends who read them and loved them, that I thought I should at least check them out. I was pleasantly suprised to find out that the main "hero" vampires are not your typical vampires. They value human life and do not kill humans to sustain themselves. That made the whole difference for me. And while there is some sexual content, I found it to be fairly tame. I think the first two books would be OK for mature middle school girls who talk to their parents about things, but the last two books are more appropriate for maybe older high school girls? I really found it to be more passionate as opposed to sexual. The author is a Mormon, so she generally sticks to decent morals.

    As for the materialism/beauty themes, I think they're counter balanced well by the fact that Bella is not wealthy, and doesn't really care to be wealthy. And in the 2 - 4th books, the Native American characters are quite poor, and they are depicted as being content with their station in life, not pining after wealth.

    When I read fiction, I am constantly seeking God on what the book is making me think about, and feel, and how does that relate back to Him. For me, the love that Bella and Edward have for each other showed me what my relationship with God should be like. Edward is not God, and he does have some weaknesses, so the comparison is not perfect. But Edward's love for Bella is much like God's love for us. And Bella loves Edward with a passion that we should have for God.

    So that's how I came to be drawn to Twilight. I realize that the author probably did not have this purpose in mind when she wrote the book. But when a book (or movie) brings out strong feelings in us, I think we should ask God what that's about, where is it coming from? Why has this touched me so deeply? What am I longing for that this is bringing out in me?

    Thanks, Laura!

    ReplyDelete
  5. WOW Leslie! Those were awesome comments! I love your perspective, both as a Christian and as someone who's read all of the books. Great thoughts-- thanks for taking the time to share them!

    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  6. I would be interested to read this book being a Christian and someone who has read the twilight series. I have read all the books and have seen all the movies so far.
    I am a follower
    I am a twitter follower @bangersis
    I tweeted http://twitter.com/bangersis/status/12296570491
    Thanks!
    email bangersis(at)msn(dot)com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Christina - xristya@rock.com - I'd be interested in reading The Twilight Gospel (Contest #1, Main Entry.) Pre-publication Stephanie Meyers stated in magazine articles that one of the reasons that she wrote the books was to encourage celibacy, so it's strange that she should create sexual tension later!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Christina - xristya@rock.com - (This is for Contest No. 1, Bonus Entry) - I just won the first two books of the Twilight Series and haven't read them yet. I've seen the first two parts of the series on DVD, though, and thought at least the first one, Twilight, was a "different" vampire movie, with no sex and with Edward being able to fly through the trees!
    The second DVD (forget its name right now - is it Eclipse or New Dawn?) surprised me by having Jacob take off his shirt, etc., and although she didn't have sex with him, I thought that Bella
    was too quick in detaching from Edward! I also thought the Special Features were interesting, with all of the girls throwing themselves at the stars on Team Edward or Team Jacob! Why must the focus be on one or the other male, instead of on a relationship?

    ReplyDelete
  9. Christina:

    Thanks for your entries and comments! The second movie/book is called New Moon, which I have neither read nor watched yet.

    As far as the "Team Edward" vs. "Team Jacob", yes, they're focusing on one male in their team names, but they're also really rooting for which relationship they like best. It's the old Love-Triangle thing when you're hoping that one of the suitors wins her heart in the end.

    But I also agree with you-- the "Teams" are very teeny-bopperish. However, I'm a bit guilty in this realm, as I've given my support to "Team Peeta" in Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games book series!

    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  10. I don't plan to read the Twilight series. Even though some may see God in them, as Christians, it's those who read them that aren't Christian and do want to follow the things that are not of God. I don't mean to be a spoil-sport. Just don't like the content.
    I follow by Google friend.
    desertrose5173 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  11. Carmen:

    Hey, no worries! I'm glad you shared your thoughts and entered the contest. I think you'll like this book, although you might not agree with everything within it.

    Thanks for stopping by!

    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  12. I'd love to enter the contest!! I really like the twilight series even though there are things that I don't like about it. I love that it has caused so many teens to READ!!!


    I'm a blog follower
    I'm a twitter follower (in_the_hammock)

    Thanks!!

    inthehammockblog (at) gmail (d0t) com

    ReplyDelete
  13. After reading your review I want to read "The Twilight Gospel"
    What a great review

    binthenow@gmail. com

    ReplyDelete
  14. I am now following you on twitter
    @oHIoKit

    ReplyDelete
  15. I am also following your blog
    Kathryn C

    ReplyDelete
  16. Did a RT
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12380659604

    ReplyDelete
  17. Did a RT
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12407109591

    ReplyDelete
  18. Contest #1: I have not read The Twilight books and feel a bit uncomfortable with the themes, but I would like to read this book to be acquainted with the author's perspective and maybe to share dialogue with friends and family who read Twilight.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Julia: Great! And if you don't win this contest, I have another similar book coming up soon.

    Laura

    ReplyDelete
  20. I can't enter #2 ..no tweeting for me. But #1 sounds like a very interesting book.

    lkish77123 at gmail dot com

    ReplyDelete
  21. tweet
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12430864546

    ReplyDelete
  22. I would love to be entered I am new to your site and enjoy it very much I have just become a follower and I would like to win the book but really want the gift card.

    mamat2730(at)charter(dot)net

    Twitter@mrsred49

    ReplyDelete
  23. RT
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12493743286

    ReplyDelete
  24. Contest #1 - Even though I have not yet read the Twilight series, this book sounds like something I would really like to read!

    Contest #2 - RT http://twitter.com/4MyReview/status/12521526806

    ReplyDelete
  25. What a amazing giveaway, I really want to read this book.
    asha.marie@hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  26. I loved reading the Twilight book's however I hate the second movie.
    asha.marie@Hotmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  27. i am following on twitter
    @ashabutterflys

    ReplyDelete
  28. i tweeted about the giveaway.@ashabutterflys

    ReplyDelete
  29. Since I'm the same religion as the woman who wrote the Twilight Series, the author's take on the books interest me. I have read the twilight books, and I do enjoy them a lot, but I'm definitely not a Twihard (+2)

    k8thebookbuff@yahoo.com

    ReplyDelete
  30. tweet
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12544600812

    ReplyDelete
  31. I read all of the books and saw both movies...I have to say the books were way better.

    hewella1@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  32. This book sounds interesting.

    hewella1@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  33. Posted your giveaway at literarylitter.blogspot.com

    Good luck :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hi Laura,

    Thanks for the notice about the giveaways!

    I'm a GFC follower (porcelaine)
    Twitter follower (@porcelainedoll)

    Question: What is your experience with the Twilight saga?

    Believe it or not I've never read the books or seen the movie. Unlike most, I'm just discovering what the fanfare is about. I guess we're in the same boat.

    Contest 2: I retweeted the giveaway

    Contact: lilporcelainedoll{at}gmail{dot}com

    Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  35. tweet
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12682649225

    ReplyDelete
  36. This looks sweet!

    Julie102794@gmail.com

    enter me ;)

    ReplyDelete
  37. tweet
    http://twitter.com/oHIoKit/status/12739760299

    ReplyDelete
  38. I know this is an old post, but I found you from Book Review Wednesday and I found this review very interesting. I loved the Twilight series, I'm a Christian, and I didn't find them as sinister as some have made them out to be. The Twilight Gospel sounds interesting, I'll have to look it up.

    On a side note, you mention you're a Wheaton grad, that was one of my potential college choices, but I ended up at Houghton.

    I'm a new follower.
    Joy

    ReplyDelete
  39. Joy:

    Hey there! Thanks for stopping by! I'm glad you read the post, even though it was written a while back. I agree with you, the series isn't as sinister as I thought it would be. However, that opinion is coming from someone who's read Twilight, but is only on page 208 of New Moon. But so far it's been fine.

    Wheaton is a great school, and I'm sure Houghton has worked out for you as well.

    Thanks for being my next follower-- we're almost to 200!

    Laura

    ReplyDelete

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