There is a need in our lives for atonement. There is a need for blood.
I think there’s something interesting about our faith that it recognizes a need for blood and connects that need for blood with a sense of atonement.
We have within us a basic sense of our desperate condition. As Malcolm Muggeridge regularly insisted, the depravity of humankind is at once the most unpopular of the Christian doctrines and yet the most empirically verifiable. We are aware—or reminded often—that we are not quite what we should be, what we could be, what we were intended to be. Something went wrong, something we yearn to see made right, but somehow find ourselves incapable of the kind of restoration we seek.
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Fulfilling that need for atonement with blood recognizes that blood carries the power of life; that it cannot be taken without some sort of pain. Blood and suffering and atonement are all wound up in each other.
Blood is also regenerative, as opposed to flesh or bone. It can be replenished and so it can be stolen or I can afford to give it away.
Which, if you let it, raises interesting questions about vampires, especially our modern stories.
Because vampires are the monsters we most often tell stories about. Granted they’re the most human like in form, so they’re easier to tell stories about. But there’s also something about the blood lust, the seduction, the particular terror of conscious exsanguination, or of being turned and so losing yourself, becoming the waking dead.
Twenty years ago, vampires were metaphors for humanity’s fears; the stories were horror stories and vampires were the monsters. Today, vampires are metaphors for us told in romances straining toward immortality more than monstrosity.
And in romanticizing the stories we’ve changed the rules. Older vampire stories were all about possession, when they represented our fears. But because the modern romantic vampire chooses not to satiate his own desire (by drinking her blood) his only reason for being there is his enjoyment of being with her without any thought of his own need or desire. That makes it an incredibly (and unrealistically) selfless love.
And yet, as much as girls swoon over Angel or Edward, they are often more powerfully drawn to Spike or Damon. I think, in part, because they’re having fun with it. They’re not the angsty guys brooding in a corner. At the party, everyone wants to hang out with the guy who’s having fun – even in Supernatural – Dean is the fun one and everyone loves him more.
The problem is when the soul comes back into the equation. In almost all vampire tales, vampires are soulless. In the exchange of being drained of their own life and consuming the lifeless and powerless blood of the vampire they trade their souls for immortality here on earth, essentially trading their eternal nature beyond this realm to be confined to this body and this state of being.
And yet, the reality of faith is the opposite. In communion we symbolically eat Christ’s flesh and drink His blood because the blood of Christ gives eternal life.