High School is Hell: Parallels to Life in the Church

One of my favourite themes in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that high school is hell. From the cheerleaders who spontaneously combust, look to the swim team that is made up of creatures from the black lagoon, to the fact that the high school was literally sitting over a hell-mouth, Whedon explores the common high school experiences through a supernatural lens. Not only does his comment on the high school experience, he also captures the irony of Hollywood and our culture exalting high school as the “golden years” of our lives. Sunnydale High looked like an idyllic California school, but those who attended knew the truth of the darkness and problems that existed in its hallowed walls.

Are there parallels between the “high school is hell” motif in Buffy, and the reality of living as a Christian in the North American evangelical Church?

Like Sunnydale high, there seems to be more focus on the drama of relationships and interpersonal conflict than on the purpose of the institution. For Sunnydale high, the purpose was education; for the community of faith it is worship.

Like Sunnydale high, from the outside the community of faith tries to look like a sunshiney-bright place. In reality, what resides within it is infighting, outgroups, bullying and ostracizing.

Like Sunnydale high, the community of faith is a place that has jocks, beautiful girls, geeks, losers, punks and brainiacs. There are the hyena people who bully and prey on the weak. There are those who are ignored and are basically invisible. There are the jock and popular girls who are the “in-crowd” and who define what is popular and cool.

What both Sunnydale high and the Church in North America have is a slayer who protects and fights against the dark powers of the hellmouth.

At Sunnydale High that slayer is Buffy. In the church, that slayer is grace.

Grace fights against the legalism.
Grace comforts the outcasts.
Grace unites the different cliques and reshapes them as they journey through they come together to worship.
Grace takes on the darkness and wins.

  • Yup, I thought I was done high school and then I became involved in the church…..deja vu!! BUT grace is also there for the taking. I learned how to take it, and even more importantly how to give it to all the in crowd, the geeks and jocks and invisibles and and and…….what an amazing journey.

  • eortlund

    Wow, great post, Amanda.

  • I love that! “In the church, that slayer is grace.”

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  • As a Buffy and Joss Whedon fan, I not only knew of each episode you were refering but totally get this idea of high school never ending in the church. As a pastor, I get to see each of these groups, cliques if you want to call them, and know how they interfere with people sometmes becoming part of the church. One thing about Buffy was that not only was she the slayer, but she also offered grace and forgiveness to all who were willing to change. Even Faith she was willing to work with towards the end of the series.

    Now, what about Firefly and the journey of faith? Shiny.

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