A Biblical look at Angel - The Old Man vs the New
For those who don't know, Angel is a character from Joss Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series from the mid-nineties who, due to his popularity, was given his own five season series cleverly entitled Angel. Angel, born human in 1727 in Ireland as Liam, was sired by the vampire Darla and became Angelus. For over 100 years, Angelus worked his way across Europe, eventually becoming one of the biggest mass-murderers in the world until 1898 when a gypsy's curse returned his soul. After that, Angelus renamed himself Angel and driven by his soul he turned from a life of pure evil and death to one of "helping the helpless" where he would try to preserve life at all costs.
Disclaimer: Before people go all off on this article and freak out, I want to make a few things clear...
- Scripture is very clear that vampirism is wrong (Leviticus 17:10-14) and I in no way am going to condone or support vampires, vampirism, and/or that Christians and vampires (or just demons for that matter) are the same.
- The comparisons here are made simply based on my experiences watching the character of Angel on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, nothing more or less.
- I am in no way saying that either show mentioned above is good in a spiritual sense or even that I condone the actions that take place on the show (besides killing demons I don't condone much of the character's actions actually), but after watching the characters of Angel and Angelus for a while I have come to see him in a different light than I did before through the lens of Scripture (oddly enough), hence this article.
- The essential reason I'm writing this article is to give fans of these shows, believers or not, the chance to understand the regenerative nature of the Christian life from a perspective that makes sense to them.
"We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin." - Romans 6:6 (ESV)From what the Book of Romans tells us, we can assume that once we become born-again believers, we are in fact a whole new creation, a whole new person! As we can know from various passages of Scripture throughout the New Testament, Christians are supposed to continually be conformed to the image of Christ, to be "little Christs" as the actual word itself means.
So how does this relate to the character of Angel?
Well, it does in a few ways actually,...
As you read up above, Angel was once Angelus, a vampire/demon without a soul whose soul-purpose (ha ha...) was to "rape, pillage, and plunder". This is symbolic for us as Christians because before-Christ (B.C.), we actually were enemies of God (Romans 5:10)! But with a soul, Angel's life changed forever, just like ours is changed as believers! Here's how:
- "Helping the Helpless" - Angel's tagline for his solo-series, Angel, was "helping the helpless". As time went on, Angel looked out for the little guy. He didn't let evil demons, or evil men, determine what happened to others! In fact, he willingly went out and saved lives on a daily (or in his case, nightly) basis. As Angel continued on, he helped save the world many times, even saving Fred from a Hell-dimension (an allegory for him saving someone from Hell?). As we see by the fruits of the Spirit in Scripture (Galatians 5:22-23), we are to exhibit love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Throughout Buffy and Angel, the vampire with the soul often shows us these traits in his life. His love for his friends and family (and Buffy), peace when he is alone, kindness and goodness by saving people daily, faithfulness by (over-all) staying true to his mission and convictions, and self-control by often resisting the urge to turn back into his former self, usually through drinking blood.
- "Saving Souls" - Angel not only saves people physically though, he usually is out to save the souls of people as well, in terms of making them into "good people". Now, for Christians, we are working to lead people to Christ who will LITERALLY save their soul, but for Angel, he saves their souls in terms of redemption, much like his story. In the first season of his solo-outing, Angel works hard to show anti-Buffy, the Slayer named Faith, that her soul, no matter all the atrocities she's committed, he continues to love her and fight for her soul. He eventually helps Faith turn her life around and she goes off to save the world! But not just faith, there are others too, like Doyle, Gunn, Wesley to an extent, Connor, and even Darla who he fights for, not because he has to, but because that is who he is. I sometimes wonder why I don't have the same persistence and conviction about sharing the Gospel that Angel did with bringing people to redemption.
- "The Powers that Be" - In the Buffyverse, there are two different entities that represent good and evil. The Old Ones are the rulers of the Hell-dimensions, they are the original demons & are evil. However, on the Heaven-dimension side of things, we have the Powers that Be. Now, obviously these Powers aren't God, but in the Buffyverse they're the closest we've got. Angel is commissioned by the Powers to fight the evil, demonic forces threatening Earth, and they often give him help in the form of messengers (Cordelia). In Scripture, before Jesus ascends back into Heaven, He commissions His disciples, and in turn all Christians, to "go and make disciples among all nations" (Matthew 28:16-20). This is obviously different than Angel's mission from the Powers, but I think it's easy to see the connection between the two when looking at it from the perspective of the Powers commissioning Angel to go and help save souls like the Lord tells us to do as well.
- "Angelus" - We all have our dark side. The "Old Man", the sin nature, that creeps out from time to time to wreck havoc on our lives and our mission for God. For Angel, that "sin nature" is Angelus. When Angel loses his soul (which has happened twice in the Buffyverse officially, though unofficially a few more), he becomes the demon he was before he was "redeemed". He goes back to murder, kidnapping, siring, blood drinking, and many other things, usually including arson. Angel knows that Angelus is always lurking beneath his psyche, waiting to get free, and when he does he usually breaks whatever Angel has built. In the lives of Christians, how many times to we see this too? A loss of self-control means that a pastor could end up having extra-marital relations, or when we find ourselves in an "impossible" situation and lie, thinking it'll help but it only destroys any trust left in the situation. We see this all the time, whether in our own lives or others.
"Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in the knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all." - Colossians 3:9-11 (ESV)Now I want everyone to remember that vampirism is wrong, and the drinking of blood is a sin like any other sin. But Angel being a vampire aside, I think for fans of Buffy or Angel, or really any TV series or film, it's important to look at the characters and situation of the show(s) in the context of a biblical worldview to see how we apply whatever we're watching to our Christian life. Obviously there are times where that's hard and even impossible, but I believe that we should all be striving for the goal that is Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12).