I am a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have watched the entire series, including the Angel spin-off, about six times. I’m watching it again now. Part of that is comfort; I know the show and know that I will enjoy it, so it’s easy to put on when I just want to relax. However, when I want to pay attention, the show is very perceptive of the human condition.
For those who don’t follow the show – I’m not sure why such a person would exist, but I will try to have compassion for you – Buffy is a former cheerleader who is set apart by destiny to battle vampires and other monsters for the safety of humankind. Or, as the intro explains: “In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer.” This, of course, is typical hero genre rhetoric wherein there are good people and bad people and the job of the good people is to destroy the bad people. While fun, that is not what makes the show great.
Rather, the show is great precisely because it proceeds, over the course of seven television seasons, to deconstruct that very premise. It turns out the vampires and demons aren’t all bad. Not only are there good demons, but all the characters, demon and Slayer alike, are a mix of good and bad. Through the eyes of a sixteen-year-old, coming to terms with her identity and her place in the world, we find that our easy labels don’t really tell the whole story. Perhaps they don’t even tell a very interesting story. Perhaps the more interesting story is that struggle for identity and meaning, for morality and integrity, that does not take place out in the world, but inside ourselves.
In Romans 7.15-25, this is precisely what Paul describes. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we know the good, but often, if we are honest, we are unable to do it. Whether we call it demons or passions or id or sin, there is something that compels us to act in ways that are contrary to our own will. This something can grow into, not merely a collection of unwanted behaviors, but the very way that we understand ourselves. This is the thing that Paul – and Buffy – truly want to save us from.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we place Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Paul the Apostle in dialog with special guest stars Evagrius Ponticus and Sigmond Freud.
Grace & Peace,