Christianity and the Problem of Human ViolenceChristianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 141. The Truth in Fiction
from Guide to Kingdom Living

True Christian living requires us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

Christianity and the Problem of Human Violence: Part 141. The Truth in Fiction

By Stephen R. Kaufman, M.D.

While many Christians are skeptical of the historical accuracy of certain biblical stories, I think one reason that Christianity flourished in the first centuries A.D. and now has about 2 billion members is that the Bible has revealed profound insights into human relationships. Great stories reveal important truths, whether or not they are factually accurate in all its details. Consequently, it is not surprising that René Girard developed mimetic theory while exploring fictional literature. Briefly, Girard found that "classic" novels, which have withstood the test of time, have depicted desires as mimetic. In other words, according to these novels, desires arise as people observe what other people seem to want. Further, these novels often identify competition for the same objects of desire as the source of rivalries that breed resentments and hostilities. One thing that makes certain novels perennial classics is that they describe human conflict in terms that strike readers as true.

In a culture replete with novels, most go largely unnoticed. Those that enjoy brief popularity typically present human conflict in simple, accessible, and emotionally appealing terms, such as stark good versus stark evil. Whereas we find in real life that generally decent people sometimes do disreputable things, and sometimes nasty people display acts of kindness and generosity, many popular novels have one-dimensional characters.

"Romance novels" exemplify popular novels in that they portray their subject - love - in a similarly simplistically manner. Typically, romance novels feature attractive people who fall in love, but they must overcome sinister forces in order for their love to flourish. The reader's sympathies are typically undivided. However, such novels fail to provide much insight into the actual challenges of most human relationships. People tend to quickly forget such novels, which have little relevance to the readers' lives and the lives of people around them. In contrast, while many people find that classic novels require more thought and are sometimes more troubling, these novels depict truths that continue to resonate with readers for many generations. In classic novels, conflicts often relate to acquisitive mimetic desires shared by sympathetic characters, who have flaws, and distasteful characters, who have redeeming features. The characters, while fictional, are believable, because what they say and do accord with readers' experiences and relationships.

In contrast to fiction, nonfiction stories aim to relate factual material objectively. However, nonfiction writers must choose, from a wide range of possibly relevant facts, which facts are accurate and relevant to their stories. While nonfiction writers may try to be objective, their beliefs and values invariably color how they report events. Our modern culture wants objective facts, but all accounts (whether purporting to be fiction or nonfiction) are stories that include subjective elements and reflect the biases of the writers. To the degree that "nonfiction" storytellers manipulate their material and (either consciously or unconsciously) promote a certain point-of-view, nonfiction is less true than fiction, because fiction makes no pretense of direct correspondence with real people or events. Consequently, explicitly fictional stories can be less inclined to mislead.

Go on to: Part 142. Relationships in Literature and Covental Relationships
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