Blame Buffy (er, uh, actually, that would be Willow)


It’s a bit funny that the Telegraph picks a downright smoldering picture of Sarah Michelle Gellar—cropped in a fashion that shows her bare-shouldered—in a report that says the decline in young women’s attendance at church has to do with the church not being relevant to them. On the upsurge, they note, is their attraction to Wicca, glamorized in pop culture such programs as Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Now, *this* Cafe editor is to Buffy the Vampire Slayer what Jim Naughton is to Friday Night Lights, but despite my insider knowledge of the series and all its DVD extras, the money quote that gave Telegraph editors its handy story frame is partly accurate. Buffy was a show about female empowerment, and that is something that spoke to the people who watched the show when it ran for seven years in the waning years of the 90s until 2004.

Saving that commentary for the comments, but the study notes some reasons why women have been leaving the church. It underscores that the recent brouhaha over women bishops’ in the Church of England may drive some people out for theological reasons, but it may help address why people have been leaving all along:

Her research, published in a new book called Women and Religion in the West, cites an English Church Census which found more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989.

Over the past decade, it claims, women have been leaving churches at twice the rate of men.

In addition, the census is said to show that teenage boys now outnumber girls in the pews for the first time.

Dr Aune says the church must adapt to the needs of modern women if it is to stop them leaving in their droves.

She believes many women have been put off going to church in recent years because of the influence of feminism, which challenged the traditional Christian view of women’s roles and raised their aspirations.

Her report claims they feel forced out of the church because of its “silence” about sexual desire and activity, and because of its hostility to single-parent families and unmarried couples which are now a reality for many women.

But it also says changes in women’s working lives, with many more now pursuing careers as well as raising children, mean they have less time to attend church.

The story is here. And remember, kids, Willow wound up in a 12-step program to kick the magic habit. Don’t try this at home.

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Tara Cranford Teague
Tara Cranford Teague

Willow comes back after her "12 step program" to perform really clean magic, very carefully and respectfully, and through it she sets free every slayer in the world. Talk about harnessing the power correctly; who wouldn't want that? And if these female slayers can attain personal freedom from fear of oppression, both physical and sexual, if they can have a life course set for them, and if they can be fully embraced, needed and wanted for ALL the gifts that they bring through the communal efforts and sacrifices of a small group of people headed up by women; why wouldn't they jump on that? Isn't that what Jesus is supposed to do for us, too? I think the fact that the Church says over and over again that the gifts and talents of women are not wanted is what makes us turn, in some small part, to fantasy such as this. But beyond fantasy, I think that there is allegory, Christian allegory, in Buffy, that is entirely useful to the conversation.

I think the real issue that the Church authority have with Buffy and her gang is that it is female centered. And her rock is Willow, not Peter. However, if fear did not dominate our conversations (fear of women, of gays, of blacks, of whoever we have chosen not to like today), then we could appreciate the allegory and storytelling that represents both the Christian story and the story of our lives. We could see God and Jesus, hope and grace, a place for everyone at the table, in a wonderfully inclusive show where friends, over and over again, show self sacrifice, helping those weaker than themselves and working together to right injustices in the world. It is a show wherein a community of believers who are not sure how any of their daily lives are going to work out continue with the task set before them.

In Season 5 (Spoiler Alert), Buffy sacrifices herself in order that all of creation may live. It is one of the most creative and affirming retellings of Christ's death that I have seen, and it certainly reaches young people. For us to see Christ in the hearts, minds and actions of those around us today, including in the media outlets around us, is a joyous thing. Whether Christ is seen in the face of a newborn, a Bishop, or a group of teens determined to save the world from destruction, I, for one, am thankful for the sight. And this sight is all around us, if we stop looking for how modern storytelling eclipses God and start looking for inclusivity of all.

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