Stephen King And Catholicism

Hey,

I’ve started this thread because I am reading some books from Stephen King and I am wondering how much Horror fiction can relate to Catholicism. To me there is a clear distinction of Good and Evil always in these books. The good being regular people trying to cope with bad things happening around them. Evil being the monstrous. I’ve been looking for blogs on catholic opinions on Stephen King but not really got anything useful. What do you guys generally think of his books related to your faith?

P.S Two small requests:

  1. Don’t be rude. Explain your position clearly and politely.

  2. Don’t condemn the books without a large amounts of sufficient evidence.

God Bless,

Juho

I really enjoyed Salem’s Lot Very scary and the book was much better than the movie. I enjoyed Shawshank Redemption. Good story. I got turned off when some of his other stories just rattled on without an end. I know I expected good to overcome evil and in some it just doesn’t happen. And I was not happy to read where he included the child’s casket falling open in Pet Cemetary His wife was very upset with that because they had almost lost their own child in an accident. Just went too far. Man has talent.

I have read a couple of his books but one of the best ones was The Stand. Very good and relates a lot to Catholicism, although it is pretty horrific. But the lines between good and evil are clearly marked. i think its one of his best sellers to.

I’ve been an avid reader of King for years. King is a Methodist, and his wife Tabitha is a Catholic (although, by his description, it sounds as though she doesn’t toe the line on all issues).

Although I’ve seen Catholic characters in his work ('Salem’s Lot’s Fr. Callahan, for example), I’ve not seen much in the way of Catholicity (i.e., that which would be distinctly Catholic as opposed to “mere Christianity”) in his work. But maybe I wasn’t looking for it.

I liked Salem’s lot too but I agree on the pet cemetary. It went a bit too far and really scared me (which I think is the point). I think in horror in generally one of the points is to describe death in a way that makes it really in your face (that idea is from Stephen King). So generally good does not always overcome evil like in fantasy or something like that rather people actually have to face the fact of their own incapability to escape death. Also Tolkien said that he was in reality always writing about death.

I like King’s later works much more than his earlier ones. I suppose later he gets more and more from easy tricks to a more literary style and sometimes even social comments.

Most people love that book. For me it’s been sitting in my bookshelf for a long time with lesser interest. I’ve been more interested in his short stories. I think his work at least does not oppose catholicism (or Christianity) except that sometimes in his personal more biographical writing he seems a bit liberal in some issues. Not that it matters to the story though, because the author is not a dictator of the story but rather a exposer of it. The reader then on my mind (and what I understood King’s too) makes the story his own. I think if reader is catholic they might find a catholic meaning in it not found by the author.

I don’t like horror stories. I find fear and the triumph of evil and glory of death to be contrary to hope. Plus, there’s enough horror in sin to worry about. Not that one should worry, mind.

Well I don’t think an author who is not even a catholic would try to enforce catholicity in his works. I even think works made by catholics do not usually enforce catholicity, example for me is Tolkien. I really don’t see direct catholicity or enforcing that in his work but I do see the moral background of an devout catholic English gentleman in it. Also with King there seems to be an underlying tone of Christianity coped with traditional horror story values. Now a days is popular to mix monstrous up with non-monstrous for example in works like Buffy the vampire slayer or something like that which feels a bit like rewriting traditional gender roles or something. I don’t see that in King’s work. It seems that the evil is always evil rather then traditional evil changed to a new role.

I don’t think King glorifies evil or death. He shows the reality of it and brakes taboos in a harsh way which is what horror should do. He does not however show what happens after death (which is a gate we all shall pass). Even in works like pet cemetary which to me is one of the most horrific things I’ve read he shows how a man with his own choice does not accept God’s plan for his life but wants to change it. His son dies in a car accident (if I remember right) and he wants to get him back to life and uses something really evil to do that. Son comes back but without a soul (my interpertation) and little by little drives the whole family in to doom. To me there is a real moral teaching in that. Even I admit the story is horrific.

I personally find much of his work a little too nihilistic. Yes, The Stand was exceptional and has a definite Christ figure in it. I find much moore Catholic imagery in Dean Koontz who is quite blatant about it.

In either case, I think think many of the books portray positive values, if you so no find the trappings offensive.

Hmm…

I’ve never really found that his books promote Catholicism in any way, but I have noticed that any negative portrayals of Christians are usually of Fundamentalists, etc (Mrs White in Carrie, anyone?), though those negative protrayals usually don’t sit well with me. Catholics, on the other hand, are usually portrayed in a much friendlier light.

SPOILERS AHEAD:

For instance, though Fr Callahan seemed to lose his faith at the end, Salems’ Lot had a clear message: you need Jesus to defeat evil. Perhaps I am mis-interpreting it, but the scene in which Barlow tells Callahan to put down the crucifix actually had huge meaning to me. Without faith in the Passion of Christ and His love and mercy for us, the symbol of the crucifix will not help us. You do not defeat a vampire with a crucifix because of superstition or magic, you defeat a vampire with a crucifix because you are asking our Lord to come between you and the evil you are facing!

A positive portrayal of Christianity was probably most apparent in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon. Trisha spends the whole book contemplating whether God is just a vague force of the universe or the loving, personal God that we believe in. In the end, she agrees with us because she believes that she could not have survived in the woods without Him. I really, really liked that.

/Spoilers

In general, I would not recommend King’s books to just anybody. I think it takes a certain kind of person to not be completely turned off by his brand of horror.

On the topic of Pet Sematary, I am just starting the book. I have seen the movie and have heard that it is probably his most disturbing work. Could somebody go into a little more detail for me, since I already know the story. I’m a little unsure I want to finish it now.

I wouldn’t recommend horror for most people unless they like that kind of stuff but I think King is not as bad as some others. I hate it when horror has relativistic even evil values which is common for people more in that mind set. Most terrible books from King for me is when he is writing as Richard Backman otherwise most of his work is quite OK. Early work to me is more nihilistic then later work.

SPOILER:

About Pet Sematary. I haven’t seen the movie but the book itself is one of the purest and cruelest horror I’ve read from King. He doesn’t really seem to sympathize with the characters in it. The most scary scenes are when main character goes to the graveyard to pick up his boys body to bury it to the Pet Sematary and when his wife in the end also comes back from dead. (these are at least most memorable for me). Somehow the whole family gets destroyed by this mans obsessiveness for trying to escape death. The book also had a sad tone for me through out it due to the sons death and the insanity the sorrow drives this man to.

When the son comes back to me its obvious is not the son but a demon in the sons body. The son kills the neighbor (I think it was a neighbor) and his mother and partially eats his mothers body, which drives the main character totally insane. He kills his son second time and burns the house of the neighbor and then takes his wife in to the pet sematary. When she comes back she is also a demon rather than herself and in the end kills the main character. Nobody is spared in this novel.

It is really horrific novel and quite scary to me. The good thing about it is that it acts in away as a horror story should. It is a clearly a warning stating do not ever mess with evil, magic or whatever or you will get burned and probably your whole family too. I like that aspect of Kings work a lot. He clearly is more traditional than some of the horror now a days. His stories horrors are mostly evil and shows the bad things that come with messing with them.

It has been sooo long since I read Salem’s Lot, but I believe I was disappointed in Barlow having triumphed over the priest. My feeling was the priest did have belief, though maybe minimal. Raising the crucifix, however hesitantly, is proof of that. The crucifix was a blessed object and the priest represented Christ. The gates of hell should not have prevailed against the priest.

I never got the idea of King supporting Catholic ideas or teachings in his works.

MORE SPOILERS:

I don’t remember either of these things happening in the book… are you sure you’re not getting your stories mixed up? I just remember that when Louis (the main character) is seen by his co-worker carrying his wife’s body up to the Pet Sematery, his co-worker freaks out because his hair (Louis’s) has turned completely white… and then the novel ends with him sitting at his desk waiting for his wife to come back and the last word in the book (IIRC) is when Rachel comes in, lays a hand on his shoulder and says “Darling…” But it doesn’t say she kills him.

FWIW, I think “Misery” was the worst when it comes to terror. It’s a nightmare come true: total dependence on a criminally insane person who’s obsessed with you. No external demons, just the ones within Annie Wilkes… and to a certain extent, Paul Sheldon. And aren’t the demons within us more likely to destroy us than those on the outside?

If you get a chance, read his memoirs, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. You’ll find out Stephen King is very much human!

There’s a part in the Stand where two of the characters annoy the ‘Walking Dude’ (who is the villian of the piece and a Satanic figure) by laughing at the essential ultimate vapidity of evil which annoys him - much along the lines of the old idea that the Devil cannot bear to be mocked. That they do it in the face of certain death annoys him even more - that bits always stuck with me.

I think those two things that i mentioned are more suggested then told directly. To me it was obvious when Rachel came back that that was it for him. At least on a certain level.

I’ve read his On Writing two times through and probably will be reading it soon again. I also been reading now his earlier Danse Macabre which tells a bit about the whole genre of horror. Although I am not a huge horror fan I find it quite interesting. On a personal level I am more interested in Science Fiction and Fantasy.

I’ve seen the movie Misery but I’ve never read the book. But I’ve never found psychopaths scary, not even such as Hannibal Lecter. To me I’ve always known there is an darkside or sinful side in any human and therefore these kinds of personality disorders doesn’t strike me as truly evil rather than sinful. And also to me that side can be seen in any person. Every time we get angry or something like that it shows the wounds caused by sin inside us. Never really trusted humans to be good therefore Misery kind of terror does not work for me as horror but rather as human behavior.

Excellent topic! I’ve been reading Stepen King for at least 30 years, and I’ve read every one of his books (including a few unpublished manuscripts housed at his alma mater, the University of Maine). I used to ‘sneak’ my mother’s copy of* Salem’s Lot *and read it by flashlight under my sheets when I was a kid. He is one of my favorite authors.

As others have mentioned, *The Stand *is probably his most Christian work. As I recall, he has described it as a story of ‘dark Christianity’ (or something like that). And, Fr. Callahan, the weak-kneed priest from *Salem’s Lot *shows up again in one of King’s later books in the Dark Tower sequence (perhaps Wolves of the Calla?)

But: in my opinion, the book where King most deeply delves into questions of religion is The Dead Zone, which is one of my favorites. Johnny, the protagonist, becomes–for all intents and purposes–an Old Testament prophet who is cursed with the knowledge of the future, and damned to act on what he knows at the cost of his life. It is a powerful, thought-provoking book.

One final thought: King’s book *Danse Macabre *is a wonderful overview of his influences as a writer, and his thoughts on horror fiction. I wish he would write an updated version; it’s about 25 years old. Well worth reading. Enjoy!

I’ve read most of King’s books, and I agree that much of it could be interpreted as pro-Christian. There is always that clear distinction between good and evil, such as in Pet Sematary, The Stand, and the Dark Tower series. I thought The Shining was a good, figurative lesson on what can happen if you allow yourself to be lured into evil. In Desperation, the boy is a definite Christ-like figure, complete with the loaves and fishes. It has a wonderful message about God at the end. These are just a few examples.

However, I couldn’t even finish Insomnia. It was a pretty ****** book anyway, but I quickly grew tired of the pro-choice message. I believe King is a politically liberal Christian.

For me, the scariest of his books were Misery and Gerald’s Game. That feeling of helplessness, being trapped, scares the daylights out of me.

LOL… Sorry about my post being censored like that - it wasn’t on the “bad” words. I thought it was allowed. :slight_smile:

I prefer his earlier works to the newer ones. My personal favorite of his is “The Long Walk” which is psychological horror in a dystopian society. I also really enjoyed “Roadwork” which is about a man who is being forced out of his home so the city can build a freeway. I’ve never really seen any of his works as pro or anti Christian per say… since they are all set in a fictional universe.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.