I’ve never much cared for horror films. This has, over the years, dealt a bit of a blow to my aspirations to be taken seriously as a movie buff, but there it is. By the time most of you read this, Halloween will already have passed, but I’m writing this on 31st October, now an almost entirely secular celebration of all things scary and spooky, including horror films.
Horror films play on an aspect of our psychology that allows us to see certain things as both real and unreal at one and the same time. When we watch movies, we ‘suspend our disbelief’ enough to enter into the story and experience some of the emotions appropriate to the story’s content. But we also know, at the same time, that what we’re watching isn’t real, that it is an artfully contrived fiction devised for our entertainment. And in the case of horror films, if we didn’t know that then we would not, in fact, be entertained.
That little trick of our brains, the ‘real and not real at the same time’ mechanism that allows us both to enter into a fictional world and to recognise it as an artifice, can’t always be taken for granted. When it breaks down, our emotions in response to (for example) a spooky movie can be altogether more real than we would like.
This weekend we begin a period in the church’s year when we reflect extensively on those who have died. The headline is simple – those who place their trust in Jesus Christ have nothing to fear in this life or the next. So, whatever we are doing when we remember those who have now died – the great Christians of the past both named and un-named; those whom we have personally loved; people who died in war – we are not calling that into question. We place our hope in Christ.
Hope is a word that has a special meaning for Christians. Unlike the vague aspiration of everyday language, a ‘real yet unreal’ thing if ever there was one, Christian hope is based on the promises of God. As such it is a confident expectation. That confidence in what God has done for us in Christ should be at the heart of all of our thinking, all of our praying, most especially when we turn our thoughts to what lies beyond the veil of bodily death.
May God bless you all,