Violence

Posts: 17

Joined: Thu Oct 17, 2013 4:05 pm

Sex: Male

Are you a published author?: No

Age: 09 Sep 1996

Post Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:46 pm

Violence

The bible distinctly states that we should abstain from impure things and focus on that which is God honoring. I am in the midst of writing a sci-fi epic set in a somewhat apocalyptic modern day America, and I have realized that if I want my story to be real, it must have violence. There is no other option. If that violence is not to be manufactured, or fake sounding, it must be depictive.

As a Christ-follower, how should I approach violence? How can violence exist in my stories without causing another to stumble? Scripture is appreciated.
I want to be there when Love and Thought and Material collide...
I want to see the fireworks, I want to hear the music...
To drink the warm cider and hug someone I don't know...
I want to be there when the sun rises and never goes back down...
User avatar

Posts: 9589

Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:42 pm

Sex: Male

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 0- 0-1986

Post Sat Nov 09, 2013 5:25 am

Re: Violence

I’ve been thinking about this subject lately, and here are my thoughts so far. The Bible says that Christians should not love violence (Psalm 11:5). It is not inherently wrong, however, to talk about violence and describe violence occurring. The Bible talks about violence and describes violence occurring many times, but it does so carefully, setting a good example.

On the occasions that the Bible mentions some particularly brutal violence, it does not graphically describe it:

“Ehud reached with his left hand, took the sword from his right thigh, and thrust it into [the wicked king’s] belly. And the hilt also went in after the blade, and the fat closed over the blade, for he did not pull the sword out of his belly; and the dung came out” (Judges 3:21-22).

“Amasa did not observe the sword that was in Joab's hand. So Joab struck him with it in the stomach and spilled his entrails to the ground without striking a second blow, and he died” (2 Samuel 20:10).

Sometimes, the Bible deals with particularly disturbing violence in a subtle but powerful way, as this story in 2 Kings 6:24-31 shows:

“Ben-hadad king of Syria mustered his entire army and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria, as they besieged it, until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and the fourth part of a kab of dove's dung for five shekels of silver.

“Now as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, ‘Help, my lord, O king!’

“And he said, ‘If the Lord will not help you, how shall I help you? From the threshing floor, or from the winepress?’ And the king asked her, ‘What is your trouble?’

“She answered, ‘This woman said to me, “Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.” So we boiled my son and ate him. And on the next day I said to her, “Give your son, that we may eat him.” But she has hidden her son.’

When the king heard the words of the woman, he tore his clothes—now he was passing by on the wall—and the people looked, and behold, he had sackcloth beneath on his body.” -- 2 Kings 6:24-31

God could have had the writer describe the women cooking and eating the child, but He did not. Instead, He had the writer illustrate the horror through an effectively written scene that got the point across without needing to be graphic.

The examples I’ve given show two valid, Biblical ways to handle brutal and disturbing violence:

1. Short, realistic details that don’t wallow in gore.

2. Illustrating the horror of the violence indirectly.

There are probably many other things that can be learned from the Bible about how to portray violence, but the two I mentioned have been helpful to me when considering how to handle more intense kinds of violence when writing.
Eomer: "How shall a man judge what to do in such times?"
Aragorn: "As he has ever judged. Good and ill have not changed."
~ The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

....::::My Blog::::....
User avatar

Posts: 5935

Joined: Sat Jun 19, 2010 3:37 am

Location: Kentucky

Sex: Female

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 0- 0-1990

Post Sat Dec 14, 2013 6:40 pm

Re: Violence

What Jonathan said. He took the words right out of my mouth. :)
Floyd was frozen where he stood. He struggled to breathe, but the air smelled of blood and death and guilt. He tried to formulate a name, to ask, but language was meaningless, and words would not come. He tried to scream but the sound got stuck in his heart, shattered into a million pieces, and scattered to the wind.

In a world without superheroes, who will stand against the forces of evil?

Posts: 111

Joined: Sun Apr 28, 2013 11:06 pm

Sex: Male

Are you a published author?: No

Post Fri Jan 10, 2014 4:14 am

Re: Violence

I think the most important thing is depicting violence as a wrong, albeit necessary, way of life. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Violence should not be condoned for protagonists, and it should not be profitable (when all is said and done) for the antagonists.

That's my two bits.
A hobbyist scriptwriter from NY.
User avatar

Posts: 3643

Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:59 am

Location: Cork, Ireland

Sex: Female

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 11 Apr 1996

Post Thu Apr 03, 2014 3:00 pm

Re: Violence

What about the fact that everything in the Bible is glossed over? That's just the way the narrative goes. How is that supposed to give us a guideline for how to deal with violence in particular? * cocks head *
User avatar

Posts: 9589

Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:42 pm

Sex: Male

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 0- 0-1986

Post Fri Apr 04, 2014 3:25 am

Re: Violence

What makes you think everything in the Bible is glossed over? :)
Eomer: "How shall a man judge what to do in such times?"
Aragorn: "As he has ever judged. Good and ill have not changed."
~ The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

....::::My Blog::::....
User avatar

Posts: 3643

Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:59 am

Location: Cork, Ireland

Sex: Female

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 11 Apr 1996

Post Fri Apr 04, 2014 9:16 am

Re: Violence

I meant that it never really gives graphic descriptions. :) It's a historical narrative. In MacDonald's story 'The Wise Woman', he starts out with a pages long paragraph describing the rain. I'd call that graphic. * grins * On the other hand, the Bible never mentions rain, except when it has historical significance, like that time when Elijah told it not to rain for years.

But it didn't describe that with graphic detail either. It said 'And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land.' That's about as much direct description of the drought as was ever given. That's the way it all runs. Summary, detail only when historically important, broad strokes of description at times when any description is given ('The wild beasts of the desert shall also meet with the wild beasts of the island, and the satyr shall cry to his fellow; the screech owl also shall rest there, and find for herself a place of rest.' 'And he will be a wild man; his hand [will be] against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.').

Oddly enough, the very instances of violence are times when the narrative tends to give more graphic descriptions than at other times (though like I said, none of it is very graphic). When Jacob discovered that he'd married Rachel and not Leah, it doesn't give any detail about his reaction, other than the conversation he had with Laban about it that day. However, when the Benjamites did violence to the Levite's concubine, it did give a bit of detail about his reaction to finding her dead outside the door, and what it looked like. And when Joab killed Amasa, it went into relative detail about that too, describing how he prepared to trick him, what he said, how he acted, how he took hold of him, the exact place in his torso he stabbed him in, and the fact that he was disemboweled and that Joab didn't have to strike again. And when Ehud stabbed the king, it could have just said 'He stabbed the king, and the king died', but instead it told you which side he had his knife on, included that detail about the dirt coming out and Ehud being unable to pull the knife back out, and told you what the servants thought afterwards. Not all incidents are recorded in as much detail. Mostly just miracles, violence, and battles, as far as my memory serves me.

Oh, and there was that song about lovemaking that was described in a bit more detail too.... ;)

Actually, even the poetry didn't graphically describe things, most of the time, at least not what most people talk about as graphic description. Most of the times it came the closest was when it was talking about how miserable the writer was. And Psalm 22 is quite vivid as well, talking about the crucifixion and torture of Jesus. Job talked a lot about death and despair, and that was quite vivid.

Still, I wouldn't call it graphic description, at least not in context of what people object to when talking about violence and such, because of the lack of present details. It gives you a bigger picture, using poetry and metaphor to make it vivid, but a relatively broad picture nonetheless. There isn't the feeling of 'in the moment' that most novels (especially modern ones) have.

And another thought: the sort of description that most people object to in the description of violent scenes is the very detail that was included in Ehud's assassination. People, typically speaking, don't mind knowing the expression on people's faces so much, or the color of their hair, or the temperature of the room, or even the way blood darkens clothing. It's the disembowelment and concrete details like the guy being so fat you can't pull the knife back out that freaks them out (I remember in the torture thread when E posted a scene, and the thing that most everyone said was freaking them wasn't the blood or pain, it was a detail she'd mentioned about when someone cut someone's cheek, and how the blade scraped against his teeth).

I'm not really trying to make a point with all this about the proportionate detail the Bible gives about violence... I'm not even sure what to think of it myself. :/

But the point I am trying to make is that the whole Bible leaves out graphic details to the same degree (or more) as its violent scenes, so, regardless of my views on how violence should be described in our books, I am not certain how we are supposed to take our cue from the style of the Bible.
User avatar

Posts: 9589

Joined: Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:42 pm

Sex: Male

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 0- 0-1986

Post Sat Apr 05, 2014 10:13 pm

Re: Violence

I enjoyed reading your detailed answer, Juliet!

2 Timothy 3:16-17 says that the Bible equips us for "every good work," which includes writing. I think in this case it equips us by showing the proper spirit to have when approaching violence, and the proper spirit transcends writing style. We can seek to understand the spirit behind violent scenes in the Bible by studying the scenes and the Biblical worldview in general, then seek for our writing have the same spirit, no matter what style we write in.

Two scenes written in a modern style can, for example, have the same level of violent detail, and yet the effect upon readers can be dramatically different due to the spirit behind the scene, which guides the specific way that the details are conveyed. I am far from fully understanding the spirit the Bible wishes us to have when writing such scenes, but I am convinced that only the study of Scripture will help us see such scenes in the same way that God sees them, in order to accurately apply that to whatever style we are writing in. :)
Eomer: "How shall a man judge what to do in such times?"
Aragorn: "As he has ever judged. Good and ill have not changed."
~ The Two Towers by J. R. R. Tolkien

....::::My Blog::::....
User avatar

Posts: 3643

Joined: Tue Oct 13, 2009 8:59 am

Location: Cork, Ireland

Sex: Female

Are you a published author?: Yes

Age: 11 Apr 1996

Post Thu Apr 17, 2014 10:17 am

Re: Violence

Mmhm. :) I would agree with you that a study of the Bible's teachings can provide guidance on writing violence, I just don't really agree that its style can. At least, I haven't seen any way it can yet.

You said you're far from fully understanding – like me – :P – but do you have any insights aside from what you brought up about the way the bible writes about violence itself? I'd like to hear them. I'm trying to figure this subject out right now.

Often people say 'If it's not necessary to the story, leave it out', but I haven't figured out any way of deciding whether any thing at all is 'necessary' to the story, much less violence. And I'm not sure I like the rationalization about things like violence and swearing and romance-y stuff that some people use – how 'you can write a good story without these things, plenty of people have done it, so just write without them and you're safe anyway'. Because I'm not really worried about all the stories without these things. I know they exist. I know they're good. I love them. But I'm worried about all the stories that weren't written because they had those things in them.

In every other case, realism and vividity are seen as a way to make the story, its theme, and its values – its truth – travel deeper and more powerfully into the mind of a reader. How does violence work into all this?

Return to Theology

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

cron
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by STSoftware.
All original content posted on this forum by its members is copyrighted © by the date of its posting at the latest, unless otherwise noted as public domain or creative commons.