On the surface Buffy the Vampire Slayer seems like a show that conforms to mainstream Christian beliefs. This is reflected by the trailer shown above in which we see the heroic main characters fight against a variety of demons and monsters with the cross featured prominently as in several scenes with the main character. However while on the surface Buffy seems to be a show that is tied to a positive portrayal of religion the reality is much more complex. Listed below are some of the main reasons that Buffy is not what it first appears when it comes to matters of God and spirituality.

The Existence of God
For a show that is based on the Hellmouth and where the main heroine spends several months in heaven Buffy the Vampire Slayer is often surprisingly quiet on the questions of theology and the existence of God. This ambiguity about the possible existence of a creator is brought up in the episode Conversations With Dead People, in which Buffy responds to the inquiry of a newly risen vampire about whether God truly exists by telling him there is “nothing solid” on that. Buffy despite being the “Chosen One” and the greatest champion against the forces of darkness has no special insight into the question of God’s existence. Throughout the series when confronted with religion Buffy either tries to avoid the situation or tries to avoid the serious nature of the topic through humor. Buffy makes use of holy items in her battles but they rarely have little more importance then tools and are not tied in with any greater spiritual message. It is never made clear if there truly is a higher power responsible for the cross’s ability to repel vampires or if it is simply a mystical weakness like the way they burn up when exposed to sunlight. It is important to note that people of all religions or atheists are capable of using the crosses against vampires so faith has nothing to do with the effect of the cross. In regards to Buffy’s time in heaven it is made clear that there are thousands of heavenly dimensions and while Heaven was a place of contentment and bliss for Buffy there are no indications it shares anything in common with the biblical Heaven.

Buffy does not conform to Christian morality
There are several instances in Buffy that seem to play into the idea of a cosmic battle between good and evil but beneath the surface they are opposite of convention. One of these instances is the final confrontation between Buffy and Angel in the second season. The scene is very much the inverse of one of the most classic examples of vampire literature, the staking of Lucy in Dracula. Dracula was very much in line with the ideas of traditional Christian morality and Buffy performing an action that is essentially the direct opposite has interesting implications. There is a marked contrast between Buffy her vampire lover Angel and the destruction of the vampire Lucy Westenras in Dracula. Lucy is depicted as corrupted by the evil of Dracula and by driving a stake through her heart her fiancée is able to free her and grant her entrance to heaven. Buffy is a direct reversal of this, when Buffy kills Angel he has just regained his soul and goodness. Buffy killing him does not to save his soul but rather damns him to hell after he has already regained his soul. She does this to stop a ritual that he put in place while soulless that would have brought about the end of the world. Assuming that the divine truly is present in the Buffy cosmology then this instance would in fact depict Buffy acting against conventional mortality and sending a recently redeemed soul to hell. Also religious ritual is associated with darkness and evil. While Buffy is the one who employs holy relics, she sees them as little more than tools. In contrast vampires and demons seem constantly driven by religion and ritual. The Master spends the majority of the first season imprisoned in an abandoned old church; the primary minion of the First Evil Caleb constantly quotes scripture and adopts the mannerisms of a preacher. Vampires constantly make references to rituals and also often talk of defying god and Jesus Christ. Even the vampire Spike who mocks the others for their practices engages in ritual during his attempts to heal his lover Drusilla in season 2.

The question of good and evil is not solved as simply as first appears
It seems that for good to exist in the Buffy universe a soul is required. Vampires with souls may not be human but it is the lack of the soul that makes vampires evil. However no origin is given for the creation of souls. Like Buffy’s crucifix it is a source of mystical power that has connotations of a connection with some kind of God or creator but not a definitive link. The treatment of souls raises the question if they have any connection to the divine or are simply a product of the many mystical sources present in the Buffy universe. Angel after committing countless acts of unspeakable atrocity as an especially vicious vampire receives his soul due to a gypsy curse intended to make him suffer with guilt for his past sins. Another vampire Spike gains his soul through an even darker means; by successfully completing the gauntlet of a powerful demon he wins back his soul in pursuit of Buffy. In Angels own series we see that souls can be stored in an urn and taken and restored through magic. The fact that the soul can be so easily manipulated brings into question if it has any connection to the divine at all. Also important is that despite what appears and first glance the Buffy universe is not solely driven by a conflict between good humans and evil demons. In the final season the ultimate servant of the first evil is Caleb a man who has given himself over to the darkness. Conversely we see that demons are not evil as shown to us by characters like Clem and Lorne, Demonic beings who are friends or allies to the central characters. Indeed it is even implied during parts of the Jasmine arc in the Buffy spin off series Angel that demons can indeed have souls. In addition to this, even when he is an unsouled vampire, Spike actively makes the decision to regain his soul and become good. What at first appears to be a clear conflict between light and darkness the actuality of the situation in Buffy is far more complicated.


Clem                  
               

Lorne  
                             

Angel                           


Spike

The show rejects biblical teachings
In the very first episode Giles refers to the Bible as mythology. He then goes on to describe how the world started off as a hell dimension until it was abandoned by the Old Ones and humanity evolved. This is totally at odds with biblical teachings where the world started off as a paradise until Adam and Eve committed sin.

My source for preparing this  page was the article by Erickson, Greg.2004.  “Religion Freaky or a Bunch of Men Who Died? The (A)theology of Buffy. Slayage 13 (October) : 17-23

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