The Plot thickens when stirred!

by Geoff Hall on April 6, 2010

How can a writer working from a christian spirituality justify scenes of violence, or dissipation through sex, alcohol or drugs?  How can an overt sensuality and intimacy be justified in a novel or film?
Whilst we have an obvious truck with gratuitous violence or exploitative sex, I would counter this kind of negative scrutiny by asking people this question.  “What do you do when you read the Scriptures and come across overt violence and sensuality, hopelessness and despair?”
When you read this holy book to your children how do you cope with Cain and Abel (murder), David & Bathsheba (adultery), Noah and the Flood (genocide), Song of Solomon (sensuality), the Psalmic invocation to dash the Babylonish ‘little ones’ against the stones (revenge), or a story of the prophet Hosea marrying a prostitute (infidelity)?
“Oh”, we may retort, “we just read the newer testament; words of love and miracles!”  To which the answer on my lips or the end of my pen is “How do you come to terms with the violence and immorality in the parables of Jesus?  How do you cope with the slaughter of innocent young children at the birth of Jesus by a despot, or the violence and torture of Easter, as flesh is ripped from Jesus’ back, or as the nails pierce his flesh; how do you cope with the death of Ananias and Saphira, or a king eaten from within by worms, or two disciples beaten and run-out of every town in Asia Minor, or of a great Scarlet Babylonish Whore strutting about the place and seducing every heart and imagination to conform to political and social policies in acts of tyranny and oppression?”
Much of what passes today for christian storytelling is nothing but the projection of a personalised morality, which dilutes aesthetic and narrative potency and reduces the ‘morality’ of the story to a subjective world, the world of our conscience and the limits of what it can cope with.  Having gained this moral high-ground we then create God in our own image, the ultimate Creation reversal.  We gaze into our mirror and see God.  We inform others that our morality is God’s morality and vice-versa!  A self-confirming truth of superior morality!
The redemption story has a universal appeal, because it encompasses the human story in all its joy and tragedy.  Without the human thread, redemption is merely a Divine ideal, an optimistic philosophy of life, an out-of-body experience for the ‘saved soul’.
Cosmic Redemption has universal appeal, because it deals with all aspects of life, it meets people where they are and not where we think they should be.  Conservatism is a form of slavery, from which we must be freed; it must not be confused with a proof of redemption.  The mind renewed cannot rationalise the violence in the pages of this holy Script of life, but it does understand the scope of redemption’s story and how it can transform the whole of life.  This doesn’t occur through acts of denial, by editing this Script.  It comes about through embracing our humanity and identity in all its glory, vain or otherwise.
How do I justify scenes of violence, and personal dissipation in my stories?  I ‘justify’ them by looking back to the script of Life and anticipate that I’ll tell similar stories.  The point of those stories wasn’t the violence, robbery or personal decadence and dissipation, but the transformation and redemption it anticipates.  You cannot talk of hope without contextualising it with despair, of justice without a focus on injustice.  If we censor the Script, we unravel the redemptive thread and begin to wonder what we need saving from! A story without anticipation is a dull report on acceptable behaviour and there is no plot to thicken!
If the medium is the message, then the medium is love!

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