Here’s a report about Danish teens using modern Vampire stories as platforms to think of spiritual matters. Given their immense popularity in the U.S., I also think that these stories can be drawn on to consider theological concepts with teens (and teens at heart) such as the Real Presence in the Supper, the relationship between the New and Old Testaments, and the work of Jesus Christ.
Both Vampire stories and the Christ story center on the identification of life with blood. This starts with Noah in the Old Testament. God tells Noah that he can eat animal flesh, but not animal blood, “You shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gn 9.4). Still, even in the OT, fallen humanity desperately needs the life that is in the blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement” (Lev 17.11, cf., Lev 11.14, Dt 12.23).
While the Old Testament flatly prohibits the eating of blood with the flesh, with the coming of Jesus Christ, the New Testament commands the practice, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (Jn 6.53-54).
Vampire stories invert this picture. Rather than the resurrected Lord who willingly offers his own sacrificed body and blood to give humans eternal life, Vampires are resurrected lords who sacrifice unwilling humans to take their blood for eternal life for themselves. The pivot around which both stories turn is the affirmation that the life of the flesh is in the blood.
So two points.
First, the Lord’s Supper mediates life to humanity precisely because the life of the flesh is in the blood. The only source of eternal life for humans is the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. Without being overly literal in our expectations, it seems to me that, taken as a whole, the Bible establishes the natural expectation that we must really receive the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ in order for his sacrifice to minister life to us. If there is no Real Presence in the wine and the bread, then we cannot receive life from Jesus Christ, and we are yet in our sins.
Secondly, we see movement from the Old to the New Testament. The Old Testament prohibits humanity from seeking life by drinking the blood of animals. They cannot save. “For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10.4). In doing so, even the Old Testament directs us to look to a future sacrifice by which we receive definitive atonement. God didn’t prohibit blood drinking in the Old Testament because it was repulsive, he prohibited it because it was too attractive, and humanity’s idolatrous impatience would have had us seeking to receive forgiveness in the blood of creatures who could not provide it.
A final observation on modern Vampire tales. Contrary to the horror stories of old, in many modern stories there are “good” vampires. That is, vampires who resist their natural inclination to feast on human blood. They instead seek to serve and protect humanity, denying the urges of their flesh. This is an interesting turn and can prompt discussion of when it is right to do what our nature urges, and when is it right to resist that nature.
James R. Rogers is department head and associate professor of political science at Texas A&M University. He leads the “New Man” prison ministry at the Hamilton Unit in Bryan, Texas, and serves on the Board of Directors for the Texas District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.