‘Castle Rock’ Delivers a Stephen King Version of Christianity, by Travis Roberts

There’s something almost Christian about Stephen King’s omnibus—not in the specific content, but in the thematic flow of his work. Throughout King’s books and short stories, the reader is presented with an existential, monstrous threat to what was once a peaceful place. A look beneath the surface reveals systemic corruption and depravity, and a lonely hero takes on an incredible burden in order to eke out a victory. Despite these faint gospel echoes, King tends to stay far away from the faith that exemplifies them. Castle Rock, Hulu’s newest original series and latest King adaptation, gives us a look at how Christianity manifests through a Stephen King lens.

In Castle Rock, creators Sam Shaw and Dustin Thomason take the setting of 13 Stephen King stories and build a narrative that lives somewhere between fan-fiction and mold-breaker. Everything’s given a slight twist. The outsider hero (Andre Holland as Henry Deaver) is a black lawyer, not a white author. The telepath (Melanie Lynsky as Molly Strand) is a neurotic real estate agent, not a precocious child. The mysterious monster (Bill Skarsgaard as “The Kid”) isn’t hunting down the hero; instead, he’s the main character’s client. And although we’re living in familiar territory, for the first time in Castle Rock’s history, we see the inside of a church.

Christianity isn’t common in King’s works, and any religious iconography tends toward the superficial. There are a few important exceptions: 2014’s Revival, 1975’s Salem’s Lot and The Dark Tower all have elements of faith present. In Castle Rock, however, Christianity takes a more prominent place in the narrative. The main character is the adopted son of a now-dead preacher, one who appears in this show to deliver a nightmarish sermon from 1 Corinthians 15 (“Behold, I tell you a mystery!”). Castle Rock‘s story is driven by a heinous spiritually motivated crime, too, and through all of these dim reflections of faith, there’s a common theme: Whatever the residents of Castle Rock worship is quite a bit darker than what usually comes to mind when people think “God.”

There aren’t any huge surprises in how Castle Rock tackles faith. The name of Christ isn’t spoken in the series (or at least in the first four episodes), as is usual for TV and film. The “good” Christians we see have a spic-and-span veneer, and the bad guys adopt the faith with a zealousness reminiscent of Salem. So far, Christianity doesn’t feel like a living and active force in any character’s life. Rather, it comes across as a convenient vehicle to cart around the creepy and unnatural. But that doesn’t mean there’s no takeaway for Christians here.

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Source: Relevant Magazine

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