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Episode Summary

Why do we like horror films? What draws us to the shadows? All the more poignant for the Christian who shouldn’t watch the bad movies. But let’s take the point seriously: How might we watch horror films Christianly? Which is to say: How do we watch them well? Theologian and film critic Kutter Callaway (Fuller Theological Seminary) joins Evan Rosa for a discussion of some truly frightening horror films. His new podcast “Be Afraid” is produced by Christianity Today, and explores horror films and the theology and psychology of fearing rightly. In addition to discussing some of our favorite scary movies Kutter Callaway and Evan Rosa discuss: The psychology of fear and why people might willingly rehearse their fears; the radical vulnerability of human life that makes us susceptible to horrors; the Bible as horror genre; the human inclination toward the numinous, unknown, mysterious, and uncanny; managing our terror about death; and ultimately, how to fear rightly. This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.

Episode Notes

Why do we like horror films? Why do we gravitate to the theatre for a collective catharsis—living out our nightmares vicariously through the unwitting victim on the screen? What draws us to the shadows? All the more poignant for the Christian who shouldn’t watch the bad movies. But let’s take the point seriously: How might we watch horror films Christianly? Which is to say: How do we watch them well?

Theologian and film critic Kutter Callaway (Fuller Theological Seminary) joins Evan Rosa for a discussion of some truly frightening horror films. His new podcast “Be Afraid” is produced by Christianity Today, and explores horror films and the theology and psychology of fearing rightly.

In addition to discussing some of our favorite scary movies Kutter Callaway and Evan Rosa discuss: The psychology of fear and why people might willingly rehearse their fears; the radical vulnerability of human life that makes us susceptible to horrors; the Bible as horror genre; the human inclination toward the numinous, unknown, mysterious, and uncanny; managing our terror about death; and ultimately, how to fear rightly.

This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.

Show Notes

  • Listen to Be Afraid, with Kutter Callaway
  • What’s so scary about clowns and dolls? And why is Kutter Callaway afraid of them?
  • Toy Story as Horror Flick
  • The Shining, psychological horror, and when children are involved.
  • William James, Father of American Psychology
  • Rudolf Otto
  • Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans—the numinous, equal parts compelling and terrifying
  • Awe and terror—”big, overwhelming, and unknown”
  • Marilyn McCord Adams’ Christ & Horrors
  • “It brings us to the end of ourselves”
  • “There’s nothing to be afraid of” is a lie!
  • Should we be afraid?
  • “Perfect love casts out fear”
  • The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.
  • Learning how to fear rightly
  • Christian leverages fear all the time
  • “Fear the one who can destroy both body and soul.”
  • M1028—graphically violent and theologically backwards
  • What have you learned about fear from a psychological perspective?
  • Justin Barrett and the cognitive science of religion
  • Humans have the near-universal tendency to infer agency to things that go bump in the night.
  • “We don't run from a bear because we're afraid. We're afraid because we're running.”
  • Practicing and rehearsing “how to be afraid”
  • Storytelling and catharsis
  • Sophocles, Oedipus Rex, and feeling the chills of tragedy
  • Art and storytelling that traffics in empathy
  • Get Out—empathy and viscerally feeling something—”that movie disturbed me on a level that I needed to be disturbed.”
  • Paul Riceour on narrative and reappropriation—applied to horror and feeling empathy for the other
  • The Exorcist—slow and quiet by modern standards, but outbursts of terror
  • Theodicy in The Exorcist
  • Are horror films beautiful?

About Kutter Callaway

Kutter Callaway is the William K. Brehm Chair of Worship, Theology, and the Arts, as well as associate dean of the Center for Advanced Theological Studies, and associate professor of theology and culture. He is actively engaged in writing and speaking on the interaction between theology and culture—particularly film, television, and online media—in both academic and popular forums.

Dr. Callaway holds two PhDs, one in theology and the second in psychological science, both from Fuller. His most recent book is Theology for Psychology and Counseling: An Invitation to Holistic Christian Practice (2022). Past books include Techno-Sapiens in a Networked Era: Becoming Digital Neighbors (2020), which he coauthored with Fuller’s Associate Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture Ryan Bolger; The Aesthetics of Atheism: Theology and Imagination in Contemporary Culture (2019); and Deep Focus: Film and Theology in Dialogue (2019). Past books include Breaking the Marriage Idol: Reconstructing our Cultural and Spiritual Norms (2018), Watching TV Religiously: Television and Theology in Dialogue (2016) and Scoring Transcendence: Contemporary Film Music as Religious Experience (2013). In addition, he contributed to God in the Movies (2017); Halos and Avatars (2010), the first book on theology and video games; and Don’t Stop Believin’ (2012), a dictionary of religion and popular culture.

Callaway cochairs the Religion, Film, and Visual Culture group at the American Academy of Religion. He also partnered with Paulist Productions to produce the YouTube series Should Christians Watch? His professional memberships include the American Academy of Religion, American Psychological Association, and the Society of Biblical Literature. He is ordained as a Baptist minister.

Production Notes

  • This podcast featured Kutter Callaway
  • Edited and Produced by Evan Rosa
  • Hosted by Evan Rosa
  • Production Assistance by Macie Bridge
  • A Production of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture at Yale Divinity School https://faith.yale.edu/about
  • Support For the Life of the World podcast by giving to the Yale Center for Faith & Culture: https://faith.yale.edu/give
  • This episode was made possible in part by the generous support of the Tyndale House Foundation. For more information, visit tyndale.foundation.

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