What Would Buffy Do? What Would Buffy Do?
The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide

Jane Riess
ISBN 9780787969226 (0787969222)
John Wiley & Sons, 2004

Category: Arts & Media
Reviewed by: John Wilks

I don't know about you, but I have been mightily impressed over the past few years at the popularity of the WWJD (and the PUSH) bracelets that so many Christian teenagers wear. Nearly half of my children now wear them, and since there are seven of them that's not an insignificant number. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a significant part of their lives during the late 1990s and early 2000s. I'm always on the look out for books that will appeal to them and help them think about their Christian walk: as a book that brings the two together, neatly parodying the bracelet, this one goes on the list.

If you are looking for a book that will warn of the evils of demons and witchcraft, this book will not really meet your expectations. Instead, it will do something much more valuable. Reiss takes the show on its own merits, and constantly shows how it upholds a very high moral and ethical tone. As a good example, Buffy loses her virginity to the 'tame' vampire called Angel, only to see him revert to an exceptionally terrifying vampire as a result. Consequences must be faced in the world of Buffy Summers. She eventually has no option but to kill the person she loves, just one of a range of sacrifices she must make. This is worlds away from the sacrifice of Calvary; no one is suggesting that they be equated, but as an example of the extremity of sacrifice that people might have to make in their lives, it takes some beating.

A paragraph that really caught my attention is on the subject of forgiveness:

For Willow, and also for us, the experience of having been forgiven is the best reminder of why we forgive: Giles's comment to Buffy bears repeating: We don't forgive people because people deserve it but because they need it (p. 90).

Given that Willow's crime was to nearly destroy the world, and that she was only prevented from achieving this by declarations of unconditional love, this seems to readily indicate how Christian values, attitudes and even theology are so close to the surface of this series that features demons, gods and vampires.

One issue that I feel Reiss deals with very well is the general absence of God from the series. I am reminded of the saying 'pray as if everything depended on God, and live as if everything depended on you'. Any of us can learn from Buffy simply as an example of getting on with life as if it really did all depend on us, and God could not act. Some people would not like that. But there is also an honesty that I find resonates with me: most of the time I do feel as if it is all up to me. I can't and don't sit around waiting for God to do things for me. (One of) the difference(s) between me and Buffy would be that I do pray about things. Would that people who want to complain about the absence of God from this series would try 'saving the world. a lot' just as Buffy Summers does!

This is an excellent book for anyone who has enjoyed the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but especially for any late teens and early twenties. You do not need to have seen more than about three episodes to have enough handle on the characters being discussed. Reiss excellently lays out the high moral universe of the show, and indicates how we can learn from this for our own Christian walk. Youth group leaders would also find it an excellent source for working out how to use episodes of Buffy to spark ethical issue debates.

Top of Page WWJD = "What Would Jesus Do?
PUSH = "Pray Until Something Happens"

John Wilks, November 2004

Dr John G F Wilks is the Director of Open Learning at London School of Theology, Reviews Editor for Evangelical Quarterly and author of Scripture Union's Deeper Encounter Study Series.

Previously published by London School of Theology. Reused here by kind permission.

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