Monday, July 21, 2014

Whereupon I Give Away the Whole Store

The difficulty of depicting angels as properly angelic and God as an all-encompassing force for good in fiction is that we do not live in a culture of moral absolutes.  Likewise, we cannot rely on an ultimate moral arbiter if we cannot or will not define evil.

Kristen Lamb's point about the value of Dungeons & Dragons alignments in characterization is well-put, but it falls apart at the macro level, especially in dealing with the apocalypse.  It can be argued that the end of the world is always an individual situation, as each character will react to it in an individual manner according to his ethics and situation.  But when you deal with the larger issue of a God that ends the world, aided by His angels, character alignments don't hold up for Him, and even Lawful Good characters can protest the injustice of it.  Even if it's being done for the best of reasons, according to God.

This is the central concept behind my Armageddon trilogy: the relevance of Biblical ethics in today's ultra-modern society.  Nowhere in it do I preach, nor is it my intent to advocate for a particular moral stance within the text.  Rather, it's an attempt to bring prevailing Western belief systems into immediate conflict.  Mankind in the face of Armageddon is the ultimate existential crisis.  So how does one resolve it?  Is it possible?

During a rare moment of respite near the end of The Blessed Man and the Witch, one character says, "We must be guided by our own ethics, not what we think God wants us to do. We must get comfortable with the idea that we can disagree with Him and still keep our integrity."  To many of us, this is an absolute impossibility.  It can't be done.  For others, it's a necessity: the God of the Bible is the ultimate source of evil, oppression, and ignorance.  Both points of view cannot be correct.  But can they both be ethical?

For Hell's point of view, there's this: “I know what I am, but you lie to yourself every day. You’d burn the world clean of everyone who doesn’t kowtow to your…God, and call it goodness.  That’s if you win.  You wanted Armageddon. You started this war, but we’re going to fight harder. And when we win, the world gets to go on. That’s not so bad, is it?”  In a nutshell, Hell claims to be fighting for its own survival.  Despite the unspeakable ugliness of Hell's tactics, isn't that reasonable?  Don't they have a right to resist God's plan to end the world, if the alternative is an eternity of torture in the Lake of Fire, or oblivion?

Between Heaven fighting to create the Day of God (or, in the series, the New Kingdom, the merging of Heaven and Earth into one eternal paradise) and Hell fighting to maintain the status quo (or so it claims), there are those who don't want the New Kingdom, but properly refuse to ally themselves with Hell.  As one character puts it at the end of The Blessed Man and the Witch, when everything's at stake, "We offer a better way: freedom. Freedom to strive, to progress, to no longer be subject to the whim of an angry God or a monster that feeds on torment."  Put that way, how can you disagree?

You can, though.  You definitely can.  Especially if you've embraced the God of the Bible as an all-encompassing force for good.  After all, if there's a choice between the salvation of your eternal soul and the death of your temporary physical body, why would you choose anything but God's side?  Especially when you'll be given a new body of spirit made flesh at the beginning of the New Kingdom, when Heaven has crushed the forces of Hell and turned the Pit into the Lake of Fire.  If Heaven wins.

There are more questions asked than answered, obviously.  And there's no way to make every character happy (no way to make every reader happy, either).  Sometimes it's the struggle that matters: working these things out for yourself.  If my sympathies lie anywhere, it's there.

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