Grimm for Grownups

Consider this for a bedtime story: A little boy has lost his favorite action figures. But the toys don’t stay lost for long. Possessed by demons, they swell to life size, come back, and mow down the child’s entire family. That may not sound like the kind of story you’d want to read when you’re alone at night, but millions of people seem to love it. It’s from a book called The Regulators, the latest best-seller by horror-meister Stephen King, writing under the pseudonym Richard Bachman. Why do people rush to read King’s gory books—even when they know they’ll be scared witless? It’s because in a secular world that tries to reduce everything to flat scientific facts, he at least acknowledges the reality of supernatural evil. In a recent issue of the magazine Books and Culture, novelist Susan Wise Bauer calls Stephen King “Grimm for grownups.” Bauer is referring to the Brothers Grimm, who recorded classic children’s fairy tales in the nineteenth century. Stories like Sleeping Beauty, The Three Bears, and Little Red Riding Hood. The reason children love these classic tales is that they’re stocked with scary villains—wicked witches, evil queens, and big bad wolves. Children instinctively know that evil exists, and stories that portray good triumphing over evil give them hope that good will win out in their own lives as well. Stephen King’s stories do the same thing for modern-day adults. King acknowledges that supernatural evil exists and that it stalks the earth. His serial killers are in league with Satan himself. His madmen are hounded by demons. King then shows characters overcoming the vicious evil that threatens them. The trouble is, they do it without God. For example, in King’s book Desperation, a small-town sheriff is possessed by a demon that has just escaped from a nearby copper mine, turning the sheriff into a crazed killer. The demon hops from one human to another, turning each host into a maddened murderer. How is this serial madness finally stopped? The demon is killed when the man who is possessed by it straps explosives around his waist and jumps down into the copper mine where the demon came from. According to Bauer, the ultimate message is: “You can beat spiritual forces without God’s assistance.” It’s the perfect answer for the modern mind: Supernatural evil—but no supernatural God. This flies in the face of scriptural teaching. As Christians, we know that we cannot really triumph over evil without God’s help. It’s true that we are in a spiritual battle. Ephesians tells us that our battle is against the “spiritual forces of evil.” But the passage goes on to tell us to put on the armor of God. We cannot defeat the forces of evil on our own strength. So, instead of grabbing Stephen King’s latest novel, why not pick up a book that illustrates the power of God over evil? Try one of the fantasy novels of J. R. R. Tolkien, or The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. Or scoop up a biography that displays God’s power over evil in real life, such as Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography, The Hiding Place. These are books that illustrate the truth: that the only place we can defeat the forces of evil without God is in our imaginations.


Chuck Colson


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