Which leads to Meyer’s Mormonism, a religion that most associate with clean-cut boys going door-to-door looking for converts. So it’s understandable that I’d be on the alert for a Mormon message hidden between the lines of Twilight. Well, if it’s there, I didn’t find it. In fact, Meyer insists, “I never write messages.” Of course, any writer’s personal beliefs factor into what they write, but Meyer does a much better job than most Christian writers do of telling a story without hitting you over the head with a moral or spiritual message. It’s hard to write a compelling story if your real motive is to teach a lesson. It ends up feeling forced, an affliction the Twilight series definitely doesn’t suffer from. Instead, Meyer has created a fantasy world that seems utterly real, which is why so many readers can’t get enough.

For me, the biggest issue I’d have letting a teen I know read this series is the one that seems the most innocuous on the surface: the love story (and those concerns have nothing to do with the interspecies dating going on). While Edward keeps his hands to himself, showing superhuman restraint for a 17-year-old boy, he’s far from a parent’s dream. He drives too fast, has an endless supply of disposable income, is way too good looking and spends most nights in Bella’s bedroom without her father knowing (since vampires don’t sleep, what else does he have to do?). Add to that his knack for always showing up at just the right time, his ability to save Bella from any danger, his fierce protectiveness and his utter lack of teenage gawkiness or uncertainty, and he’s every girl’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. He’s more than a boyfriend and even more than a vampire, he’s her own personal god. Edward is the one she goes to for help, advice, protection and love. With Edward in her life, Bella’s parents are completely superfluous. She only hangs around because her scatterbrained mom and absent-but-loveable dad need her so much. It’s dysfunction with a capital “D”.

That said, is getting caught up in Edward’s world really any worse than being devoted to a favorite soap opera, a teen TV drama or a reality show? All of those feature teens doing things no youth pastor would condone. It can be easy for parents to adopt the attitude that anything that comes from a Christian source is good and anything from a non-Christian source is harmful. It certainly simplifies the approval process when it comes to movies, books and TV shows. But nothing is perfect, and even the most wholesome fare can become an obsession. So maybe we should spend less time wondering how to keep Twilight out of our teens’ hands and more time what we put into them. 

As Christians, we should give much more thought to everything we allow to entertain us. It isn’t just he wizards and the vampires that pose a threat. In fact, they may be more harmless than the stuff we allow to chip away at our morals everyday. Pop culture is a powerful thing. If you don’t think so, ask your family and friends how many Bible verses they can quote and then ask them how many TV theme songs they can sing.

**This commentary first published on January 13, 2009.