In the movies, dreams are usually used to represent either heaven or hell. They can be idyllic visions of a better life or terrifying experiences that have characters waking in a cold sweat.
It’s pretty clear where “A Nightmare on Elm Street” falls, and not only because we’ve become sickeningly familiar with the horror series over the past 26 years. The central premise of the franchise – best exploited by the surreal, 1984 original film – was that a killer named Freddy Krueger haunted teens in their nightmares. If he managed to murder them while they were dreaming, they would die in real life.
The new remake is dreadful – witless, graphic and unnecessarily interested in plot points involving pedophilia – but it did get me thinking about the role dreams play in contemporary Christian faith.
Dreams don’t seem to mean as much as they used to for Christians. They were a far more common element of religious life in the Bible. Whether prophets or apostles, followers of God often received communications from Him while they were sleeping. Indeed, our most treasured passages – Daniel, the virgin birth, Revelation – involve dreams and visions.
We don’t really talk about that sort of spirituality anymore. Dreaming, in a lot of ways, has become more private, something we experience alone and keep to ourselves. If anything, it’s even more mysterious than it was in Daniel’s day: A recent National Geographic story revealed that scientists still don’t really know why we even sleep, much less dream.
I guess it’s this ambiguity that allows a fable such as Freddy Krueger to linger in our collective consciousness. If we know so little about the function and power of dreams, could something like “A Nightmare on Elm Street” possibly happen?
Christians obviously wouldn’t buy into that, but I still wonder: When it comes to dreams, what do followers of Christ believe?