I Believe in a Monster

Prompt: How have you been changed through your interaction with a work of art, piece of music or literature, or concept of math or science?
(a college essay that I wrote over the summer of 2012)

Do you believe in a monster? I do. No, I’m not scared of the boogey-man lurking under my bed or of ghosts hiding in the closet. I believe that a monster dwells at the core of each and every person. And I’m not being weird or morbid. You believe it too. In fact, everyone who has ever lived has believed this, whether they recognize it or not. I didn’t realize it until I read Shelley’s “Frankenstein” and Stevenson’s “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.” Initially, I wasn’t impressed with either book. I thought, “So two people wrote about monsters. Why should I care?”

But soon I realized I care a lot.

You see, in his heart Frankenstein is basically good. He only acted evil after circumstances warped him. It wasn’t Frankenstein’s fault, because in Shelly’s story, evil is a product of one’s environment.

Stevenson wrote from the opposite perspective. In Dr. Jekyll’s world, human nature is inherently both good and bad, therefore evil originates in human nature and not in outside circumstances.

Every person on earth believes in one of these two monsters, one of these two philosophies about the nature of man. Of course I knew from the Bible about the fall in Eden, and Sunday school taught me phrases like “sin nature” and “depravity,” so I fell into the Dr. Jekyll camp. But I didn’t understand the significance of my chosen monster until I saw its implications. The Dr. Jekyll worldview says that change must come from inside a person. The only way to change a person is to change their heart. As a Christian, I believe that only Jesus can change a heart. According to my worldview, Jesus is the solution to the problem of evil.

Frankenstein believers say that if you change circumstances, you can change a person: change begins on the outside. These people often put their faith in change agents like government to make the world a better place.

Woah. Two different starting points, two totally different conclusions. Suddenly, worldview moved beyond abstraction. Instead, it was a grid through which I could filter the movies I watched, the books I read, and the political issues I encountered. Reading about these two classic monsters was my first step to evaluating the cultural messages that bombard me every day.

It’s a habit now—this worldview evaluation—ingrained in my thinking process. I don’t always frame it with the Frankenstien-Dr. Jekyll metaphor anymore, but that’s where it started.

I could share many examples, but I’ll stick with two. Last week when I read the first book of the Hunger Games (for purely evaluative purposes, I promise), I paid close attention to the themes and messages. The author did not glorify or promote killing, score one. She didn’t make government a god; instead, she exposed corruption and forms of bad government—another score. Funny, I hadn’t expected to like the book, but I found that I agreed with a lot of its substance.

This morning, in the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shooting, I heard news reporters talking about more restrictive gun laws to prevent such tragedy. I wished I could tell them it’s not the guns that make people evil. People are born depraved and more government is not the solution. Jesus is.

Because I believe Jesus is the only solution and I have seen the difference He makes, I want to be a missionary. Did I reach this conclusion as a result of reading Shelly and Stevenson? No. God used many books and circumstances to shape this dream; Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll were simply tools in His hands, used to show me how to “test everything and hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21). They served as the foundation for critical thinking that shapes my decisions. Besides that, they go so show just how much we all need Jesus.

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