Friday, 13 June 2008

Do Your Research

I just finished Reckless Sleep by Roger Levy.

Apart from a few scenes and expletives I skipped it wasn't a bad book. There were a couple of niggling questions unanswered and the end had a little bit of the Deux Ex Machina about it, but this was outweighed by the well wrought scenery and technology, and by the realistic reactions and portrayals of the characters. The end-of-world-by-environmental-destruction setting wasn't too overplayed and there was a reasonably convincing explanation.

But here's my big beef at one little point. This is not a big problem in the novel, but only a big problem for me from my perspective. The reason given for the earthquake and volcanic Armageddon is that a bunch of fundamentalist Christians planted nuclear bombs in the earth's crust and set of a bunch of chain reactions.

OK, here's the thing. There is no way Christian fundamentalists would do that kind of thing. I write as a Christian, of some 20 years experience in Christian circles and with some knowledge of the Bible, I can see no way this could happen.

I'm not going to try to convince you that fundamentalists are not the hateful bigots they are portrayed as. The very few who are hateful get too much publicity and the way they are censured by godly Christians is never publicised (eg Fred Phelps gets more criticism from Christians than from the secular) Also, it's very difficult for someone on the one side of a debate as emotional and entrenched as the Western culture wars to see consistency or credibility and on the other side. So that's not my point.

What I want to suggest is that the end of the world, Armageddon, the return of Christ, these things are all emphatically in God's hands in the Bible and consequently within the Christian faith. Belief in God is often given as the reason why some bunch of Christian wackos try to end the world. But it is that very belief in God that would make it impossible for them to consider such a thing. Do your research. Christians believe the end of the world is in God's hands. When they see the suffering and evil in this world they may want it to come soon, seeing it as the only solution to the groaning world. But they would never try to force God's hand.

If you were going to portray Japanese culture, or Zoroastrian ritual in a novel you would try to get it right. So why do people feel that when it comes to portraying Christians you don't have to do any research? You don't have to actually understand them? You can just scapegoat them?
Feel free to criticise Christians, lampoon our foibles, ridicule the pompous, discredit the bad arguments and expose the hypocrisy or immorality, but please, get it right.

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