Fantasy Friday – More Thoughts On Violence

Day two of the recent CSFF Blog Tour, I dived into a discussion of violence in Christian fantasy. I made the case for the appropriateness of violence against evil, and therefore the appropriateness of violence in fantasy, since these are stories of good versus evil.

The problem is, those who are evil can be redeemed. Can’t they? Can’t we? I mean, if we truly believe that Mankind’s nature is wicked, not good, yet here the Christian stands, reconciled to God, not by what we do, but by what He did, shouldn’t our evil characters also have the chance to be redeemed?

Yes. Or no. Maybe both.

I know, I know, that’s not helpful. But here’s what I’m thinking. God offers forgiveness through His Son and some accept His mercy by repenting and believing on His name. Can Christian fantasy depict such a response to evil? Forgiveness and mercy instead of violence?

But that’s not the whole picture because not every person bows the knee to God when presented with the claims of Christ on his life. That person who rejects Jesus will one day face judgment. Violent judgment. To whitewash this outcome seems to me to play into the hands of false teachers who strip God of His role as the righteous Judge who will Himself cast rebels into a place of darkness and of gnashing teeth, of torment and burning fire.

Then there is Satan himself and his forces of evil — who apparently are locked into their rebellion. I don’t know how this works, but God has already spoken judgment against them. They just haven’t experienced it yet. These are the ones Ephesians 6:12 tells us we are fighting:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

I tend to think we Christians don’t get that, at least in Western culture. We tend to fight people who have sinful life styles and our government for passing laws that allow it. But in so doing, are we actually fighting the spiritual forces of wickedness?

Our armor is composed of truth, righteousness, the gospel, and salvation. Our shield is faith, and our weapons are the Word of God and prayer.

And then we do battle.

In fantasy, how is this battle depicted? Might it not be through the extended metaphor of physical battle?

Consequently, I see a definite place for violence in Christian fantasy. It might serve as a judgment on evil people or as a battle against the supernatural forces of evil. But there is one more use of violence I think might be appropriate.

Evil employs violence without cause. A mugger pistol-whips a victim after stealing her purse. A demon-possessed boy throws himself into the fire.

Sometimes a writer may show evil by showing violence. In that instance it should be heinous, revolting, unjust. Those are not pretty scenes, but they might be necessary.

Or are they? What do you think?

4 Comments

  1. Hi Becky

    While I agree with your thoughts in principle, I have been concerned for a long time that the default position in a lot of Christian fantasy is extreme violence. Sometimes it seems to me that the violence is a compensation for the lack of sexual interaction between the characters. (I don’t say purity of the characters because I don’t think they can claim purity when they have not been tempted.)

    So I think it’s a complex issue, not merely of light and dark, but also of the kind of light and dark that is present in fantasy.

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  2. You know I’m no fantasy fan, Becky, but some of the basic philosophies cross over into other genres. Violence and evil go hand in hand. True that some evil manifests itself in multiple other ways without violence, but it seems most fantasy has severe confrontations of good and evil, and those infer or demand violence. I think the age factor of readers should be considered in depicting the kinds of violence, but in adult fantasy the liberty that CBA thrillers take should be admissible, and they can get pretty graphic.

    As an afterthought, I’d say Satan and his demonic forces have experienced partial judgment (in being thrown out of heaven) just not final judgment.

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  3. Anne, thanks for your comment. I’m going to have to think about this a little more.

    I do find it interesting that this post didn’t generate a lot of comment. I wonder what we’d get if I wrote a post entitled Sex in Christian Fantasy.

    Becky

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  4. Nicole, I agree that there is a lot of cross over. However, I don’t think other genres can portray actual spiritual warfare the way speculative fiction does. Gandolf fighting the Balrog, Harry Potter fighting Voldemort, these are metaphors and as such seem to require “violence.”

    Yes, there are also the other instances of violence — an evil human perpetrating violence, whether in a speculative story or a thriller or suspense is acting out the evil of his heart. His violent actions show his character.

    Then there is the “judgment” aspect, and this is the one that troubles me most. We are not any man’s judge. God is. Consequently, the defeat of the “bad guy” should be different in Christian fiction than non-Christian, shouldn’t it? How do we keep our suspense stories from becoming revenge tales? Must we write our space opera in such a way that people don’t die?

    I tend to think this issue doesn’t trouble most Christian authors, and I find that curious.

    Becky

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