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Grace Roman

Conflict - Christian Style

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I just read an article which explained that conflict comes more easily when you "avoid black-and-white morality". But when we do that, we get Fifty Shades of Gray (is that why the author used that title? I haven't seen it nor will I) and other garbage. We're Christians here; how do we offer good conflict (perhaps the conflict is that characters argue over morality, but in our stories, good has to triumph over evil) to a world that is addicted to soap operas and subconsciously turn their lives into one and still make it interesting to them? I'm not thinking money here, Brothers and Sisters; myself dream is to make my stories "hooks" as I fish for people, as Jesus said.

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I think the article is just flat out wrong. Conflict, especially great conflict, is a great deal easier to create when the characters have well-defined moralities. It's just easier to write articles decrying black and white morality because that credo is "the rage of the age."

 

The range of conflict increases with moral clarity as a focus as well. For example, the implementation of realized morality complicates people's lives and causes conflict. Why else did the Apostle Paul have to take the Apostle Peter to task regarding his acting as though he were separate from the Gentiles in the Book of Acts after Peter had earlier received a heavenly vision showing the unity of all peoples and the freedom in Christ.

 

Or, regarding conflict, consider the contention that arose and led to the stoning of Stephen. Imagine, in a gray world, if Stephen had said when confronted, "Yeah, well, I didn't mean it. I was just saying the thing about the risen Christ is just one point of view among many others. Diversity of opinion rules." I think he might have gotten off with a wrist slap.

 

People being murdered, thrown in prison, family turning against family, the dead being raised- think about the conflict between death and life, the coming of Armageddon and the war between good and evil, the personification of evil in the antichrist and the return of the Lord in full glory and power, and, well, you get the picture.

 

It's just that it takes courage, commitment and unrelenting belief to create conflict in Christian fiction. Most writers want "gray" because it's less demanding, I think. Imagine the powerful fiction the world could be exposed to if there were more courageous Christian writers.

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WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES is the greatest film I've seen this year and succeeds explicitly because it shows what happens when you ignore black and white morality.

 

"In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind. As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet."

 

RISE shows what happens when humans don't show empathy to 'dumb' animals, DAWN shows what happens when Caesar doesn't have enough empathy to see just how ravaged Koba was in human labs and that he will not cooperate with Caesar in seeking peace with humans and drags apes and humans into conflict, and WAR shows how Caesar must wrestle with his own rage and bloodthirsty desire for revenge and the ramifications that has. This is a masterful trilogy of near-future SF and works because we can feel good vs. evil being played out right in front of our eyes with the suggestion that we are one virus breakout away from the end of days. (Of course, I believe the coming apocalypse will be a result of sin and Man's defiance of God and not a lab accident, but that's another story.)

 

I believe conflict actually comes more easily when you have different worldviews banging against each other. This is a prime opportunity to show what happens when we rationalize right and wrong and act without integrity or cognizance of the ethical order God instituted. And the beautiful thing is you never have to preach it, just show it.

 

In WAR, a mute human girl is found by the apes. Caesar says they can't take the girl where they're going. Maurice, tells Caesar she'll die in the cold of winter by herself if they don't take her along. Caesar doesn't like it - he has revenge on his mind - but Maurice is one of his oldest, closest friends going back to when they were both imprisoned at an ape facility before Caesar broke them out. The next shot shows them riding away from the house and the girl riding behind Maurice. This movie doesn't talk about morality, it simply shows intelligent beings making moral choices and the consequences which result. The girl who at first seems completely helpless later has a key role in the unfolding story and the unspoken lesson is you never know how a person will bloom and flower if you treat them with mercy and grace and kindness.

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My master says, tragedy is not about tears and fears. Tragedy - is when both sides are right. And here goes a real conflict.

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John 15:17-21

"17 These things I command you, that ye love one another.

18 If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.

19 If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.

20 Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.

21 But all these things will they do unto you for my name's sake, because they know not him that sent me."

 

 

That's conflict.

 

 

Galatians 5:16-17

"16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would."

 

 

That's internal conflict.

 

And your actions as a Christian can convict a person of sin because it goes against the idea of the lusts of the flesh. So your Christian actions can cause an internal conflict in another person. When that person fights against you, they're fighting in an internal conflict also, unless they've rejected the Word of God that you're showing through your actions and therefore they're rejecting you.

 

Romans 6:21-23

"21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

 

 

If you show the effects of living in righteousness vs. walking in sin, if you show the effect that a sin has on a person, you can show why sin is not good.

 

Showing a person who walks in righteousness is offering them a better way. That's the point.

 

You want to educate them.

 

 

Hosea 4:1-7

"1 Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land.

2 By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood.

3 Therefore shall the land mourn, and every one that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away.

4 Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another: for thy people are as they that strive with the priest.

5 Therefore shalt thou fall in the day, and the prophet also shall fall with thee in the night, and I will destroy thy mother.

6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

7 As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame."

 

 

Hosea 6:6

"6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings."

 

 

Matthew 9:11-13

"11 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?

12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

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"I don't want to write just a plain (insert genre here) story"

As I understand it, (please correct me if I err) a genre story follows a formula so that everyone is comfortable, expectations are met, escape is achieved. Literary stories have twists and unexpected departures that make people think, unsettle presumptions and stir stuffed down emotions.

Grace, from the little I have read of your story you are writing outside the formula. Your characters seem to fight against themselves more than against others. They seem to fight for each other, and this shows Christ in rich glory. Surely He fought Himself at Gethsemane for our sakes. Surely He fights for us with everything He is.

The best way to get over a loathing for black and white morality is to pour some bright red blood on it.

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