Stephen King Takes a Stand to Help Keep Neighbors Warm

November 10, 2011

Sometimes, creators in the horror genre come under fire from Christians. Stephen King is no exception. Over the years, he’s been the target of some believers’ wrath; one website, for example, lumps his tales of terror together with evolution and “cable hellivision” as “works of the devil.”

For his part, King identifies himself as a former Methodist. “He no longer attends church,” states his official website’s FAQ, “but he does believe in God and reads the Bible.” On the occasion of his epic novel The Stand‘s thirtieth anniversary in 2008, King told Salon, “I’m interested in the concepts [of Christianity]. I’m particularly interested in the idea that in the New Testament, you’re suggesting a moral code that’s actually enlightened. Basically what Christ preached: get along with your neighbor and give everything away and follow me.”

Maybe King’s interest in Jesus’ “enlightened moral code” has something to do with his efforts to help keep his neighbors warm this winter. Responding to a more than $30 million cut in the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program for Maine, The Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation is working with the three Bangor area radio stations King owns to raise up to $140,000. The money will buy low-income residents’ heating oil. King says, “We’ll match up to $70,000 of the amount raised [from listener donations]. This economy is terrible and Tabitha and I both worry so much about Bangor because it truly is a working-class town and we are always looking for ways to help, and right now this is a great need.” According to the Bangor Daily News, “Though he and his wife spend much of the winter at their home in Florida, King said their devotion to Bangor never wavers. ‘We still come back… We don’t forget how cold it is in Maine in the winter.”

Obviously, I don’t know how orthodox or “un” King’s theological convictions are. But I do know that Scripture, when talking about neighbors in need, tends to privilege what we do over what we think. “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food,” asks the apostle James (according to some tradtions, Jesus’ own brother), “and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that?” (James 2.15-16). And Jesus himself, in his parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25.31-46), tells us that the blessed who will inherit the Kingdom will be those who, in caring for “the least of these,” cared for him: feeding those who are hungry, clothing those who are naked–and, I think we can safely add by extension, warming those who are cold.

Christian or not, Stephen King is using his resources of money and influence this winter to help provide much-needed aid to many of Maine’s elderly, disabled, and poor. A writer who’s made his fortune by giving people the chills is doing something to give them warmth.

You can follow the link to the Bangor Daily News to help the cause, from Maine or anywhere else. Or, find a way to help keep your own neighbors warm, in the spirit of Stephen King’s generosity–and in the name of Jesus Christ.

Scripture quotations from the New Revised Standard Version. Photograph by Seth Wenig, Associated Press; found at the Bangor Daily News,

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