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The issue of taking human life.


Jeff Potts
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OK, so I have a slight conundrum.

 

I just finished with Chapter 20 in my current WIP.  This book deals with the main character taking human life, in two specific instances.  In both instances, he is commanded to do so.

 

Both times, he is confronting someone that embodies evil.  Sorry about not providing too many details, but I don't like posting spoilers.

 

I'm pretty sure this will be a thread with a lot of debate.  It is a concept that I struggled with throughout this book - the concept of taking life in varying circumstances.  In both instances the protagonist is against doing the deed initially.  However, circumstances dictate otherwise.

 

What are your views on the subject?  Is the taking of a life by the hero justified?  Or, is the hero simply fodder for evil, hoping that God will set circumstances where he will never have to do the deed?

 

My view is, for lack of a better better word, pragmatic.  Evil exists as a force that some willingly accept, some well aware of the consequences of their actions.  Their motivations are often heedless of the value of life.  As in WWII, evil had to be confronted with violence in order to end something that was even worse - the ugly complexity of the world at work.  Hence the reason and the need for Salvation and Grace.  Because the world is what it is, and will never be anything else until the hearts of men change.

 

Is Life a gift that needs to be protected?  Or is it merely fodder for evil?

 

Edit: In writing this post, I think I may have found have found the soul and purpose of this book.  I put down an incident recalled as a first-hand account of one of the major characters that, on its face, created an incomprehensible act by an allegedly virtuous character of this book.  An event where both sides are finally illustrated to the reader, as well as the consequences thereof.  I didn't realize that until now, and it makes for a moral point that will give the reader something to ponder and debate long after the book is done.

 

It is an issue I will discuss and debate with my pastor.  However, I'd like to hear all of the points people of my "tribe" may have on the subject.

Edited by Jeff Potts
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1 hour ago, Jeff Potts said:

Evil exists as a force that some willingly accept, some well aware of the consequences of their actions.  Their motivations are often heedless of the value of life.  As in WWII, evil had to be confronted with violence in order to end something that was even worse - the ugly complexity of the world at work.  Hence the reason and the need for Salvation and Grace.  Because the world is what it is, and will never be anything else until the hearts of men change.

 

I guess that says it all.

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Guest Spaulding

Biblical reasons for killing someone:

- Sacrificing children to gods.

- Cursing your parents.

- Adultery.

- Incest.

- Marrying a woman and her mom.

- Beastility. (Animal is killed too.)

- If someone is a medium, a "spiritualist," and sorceress.

- The high priest's daughter if she becomes a prostitute.

- Sacrificing to another god.

- Manslaughter. (In a particular incidence.)

- Stealing and selling a man, or having such a man in your presence. (Makes me wonder how slavery was acceptable by "Bible-believing Christians.")

- Striking and killing your slave. (No death penalty if the slave lives for a day or longer afterward.)

- If you strike a pregnant woman, and cause the baby harm, however the baby is hurt, you are given the same punishment. (If the baby dies, you die. If the baby is born with a damaged eye, your eye is taken, etc.)

- If your ox gored someone before, and then kills someone again, you die. (Ox does too.)

 

And then there are soldiers. God has used so many to battle in the scriptures.

 

If anything, I think modern man has put too much leniency on man for doing things we simply accept as normal life. I think taking human life, even in fiction, is something not to take lightly. But it is something that serves more than one purpose when we include it. (Storyline and ethics.)

 

And even I had to weigh the choices when it came to a story about stuffed animals.

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1 hour ago, Jeff Potts said:

What are your views on the subject?  Is the taking of a life by the hero justified?

 

The answer is usually in the details.

 

1 hour ago, Jeff Potts said:

Sorry about not providing too many details, but I don't like posting spoilers.

 

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Okay, well, I can very much appreciate not posting spoilers, but at the same time I think it's too tough to make a call without details.  

 

 

 

 

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Taking a life should never be a considered thing to do or a premeditated action as then it is murder. However just like those who protect us in real life, regardless if the MC is ordered to do it, the question is do they have no other choice and it is a question of whether it is the death of the evil doer or the loss of innocent life, than usually the choice has already been made for that person.

 

But whether it's the choice of the character or because they have been ordered to do it, taking a life would still have a huge impact on the person and they would lose a part of themselves, some would say they lose part of their soul/humanity. Anyone who has taken a life could probably attest to this that such an act is something that you don't get over, you have to learn to live with it and you will never be the same afterwards. 

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"Simply" being ordered to kill someone is not, for me, a valid reason to do it. Battles in war may or may not be. The Germans in concentration camps were ordered to kill several million people. Even now, we hold them responsible. I don't remember the details, but a year or so ago a 90-year-old man was deported from the U.S. back to Germany for having been a involved at a concentration camp. I don't think he was a guard, but he worked there as a German, not as a prisoner.

 

Of course, the circumstances matter.

Edited by carolinamtne
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1 hour ago, Accord64 said:

Okay, well, I can very much appreciate not posting spoilers, but at the same time I think it's too tough to make a call without details.  

 

The main character is tasked to deliver an item to a faraway destination.  The people stalking him want that item for their own.  If they catch him they will rob him and--most likely--kill him.  Or worse.

 

Edit: The people stalking the MC?  Really not nice guys.

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9 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

The main character is tasked to deliver an item to a faraway destination.  The people stalking him want that item for their own.  If they catch him they will rob him and--most likely--kill him.  Or worse.

 

Self-defense becomes a justified possibility in this scenario. Although if the hero has a way to elude his stalkers, then killing them becomes an unnecessary and morally problematic choice. I'd also throw in that eluding is a strategically sounder choice, as killing tends to draw far too much attention. It should always be a last resort option.   

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8 hours ago, Amosathar said:

But whether it's the choice of the character or because they have been ordered to do it, taking a life would still have a huge impact on the person and they would lose a part of themselves, some would say they lose part of their soul/humanity. Anyone who has taken a life could probably attest to this that such an act is something that you don't get over, you have to learn to live with it and you will never be the same afterwards. 

 

This is the direction I'm going in the chapters to come.  Chapters 18, 19, and 20 deal with the book's climax (the "boss battle").  However, getting there has required the MC to witness a lot of death and unpleasant things.  By the time the book ends, he's sitting on the fringe of PTSD, which is understandable especially given his upbringing.

 

And Chapter 20 plays into the backstory of another character that I've envisioned for some time now.  However, the main events of Chapter 20 are carried with my MC for many, many years to follow.

 

Part of where I was originally going - and I'm still going down that path - was the MC being a sheltered boy being thrust out into a hard, cold world.  The events of his adventure change him in more ways than one.

 

The next chapter - Chapter 21 - is really a lot of exposition as the MC is on his own, so to speak.  This gives me time to send "Show Don't Tell," to its room, and allow me an empty floor to "tell" until I'm blue in the face.

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Guest Spaulding

@Jeff Potts

From an unchristian background, Suzanne Collins did a lot of the same kind of thing in The Hunger Games. (Much of it was her thinking out what happened as she, (and her husband), struggled with PTSD, got married, and had kids.) Reaching inside of Katniss was the only way I could remain sympathetic. Not having that access in the movies makes her out to be someone else entirely. I'm not saying hunger-games-it, given there were other choices for her; however, it does show getting into the why somewhere along the way does help.

 

I'm not sure this will help, but maybe you can do it in your story to avoid a whole chapter of tell-don't-show. (And I'm not saying don't do it, because sometimes that is the best way to do it.) I wanted to do an entire prologue before my story, but made a deal with myself. If I couldn't get the back story slipped into the story enough by the time I was done, I'd do a prologue. Can you make the opposite deal with yourself? Show what you want to tell in Chapter 21 before that point, little-by-little, and then whatever you couldn't add, launch it in Chapter 21?

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15 hours ago, Nick Cole said:

I was once asked if I would kill someone who was attempting to murder my spouse or child.  

 

My answer was simple:  Yes, and I would then accept whatever consequences God and men deemed necessary. 

I lived a life-and-death scenario. My hubby knows I cannot. Even to save him. It really isn't in me to kill. On the other hand, it is in me to maim enough to have attacker stuck in the hospital for three months or longer. And, in my case, singing soprano as a guy. 

 

But I wouldn't want God judging such a decision by His standards. He has hefty standards that we've all failed. What we have going for us is Jesus took our sentence.

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27 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

I'm not sure this will help, but maybe you can do it in your story to avoid a whole chapter of tell-don't-show. (And I'm not saying don't do it, because sometimes that is the best way to do it.) I wanted to do an entire prologue before my story, but made a deal with myself. If I couldn't get the back story slipped into the story enough by the time I was done, I'd do a prologue. Can you make the opposite deal with yourself? Show what you want to tell in Chapter 21 before that point, little-by-little, and then whatever you couldn't add, launch it in Chapter 21?

 

Generally when I say I'm locking "Show-Don't-Tell" in a room, it means a chapter with very little dialogue.

 

Plus, if they've made it this far into the book, one chapter of exposition isn't going to have them slamming down the book and proclaiming that they'll never read any of my other works again.

 

On the other hand...   😄

 

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On 11/29/2021 at 2:47 PM, HK1 said:

Is the taking of a life by the hero justified?

My concern is that we as a society are desensitizing our children and ourselves to the consequences of killing. Playing games, reading books, watching movies in which violence, justified or not, is glorified or is the goal of the game or the MC, even when the player, the reader, the watcher knows that it is not real life, makes it acceptable. "Good" guys can do that.

 

 

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23 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

My concern is that we as a society are desensitizing our children and ourselves to the consequences of killing. Playing games, reading books, watching movies in which violence, justified or not, is glorified or is the goal of the game or the MC, even when the player, the reader, the watcher knows that it is not real life, makes it acceptable. "Good" guys can do that.

 

 

 

My stuff is for ages 13 and above.

 

That being said, the story revolves around a 16-year old kid who had led a pretty sheltered life.  He is sent on a dangerous mission (though it didn't start that way), and is protected by a handful of hardened mercenaries.  Likewise, the antagonist(s) involved do not value life to the extent that the MC and his wizard guardian (as in "parent / guardian") do.

 

In fact, the book weaves in sayings from the wizard, one of which speaks of the sanctity of life.  Actually, I think there are a couple of them in there.

 

And, in the end - meaning the chapters I have yet to write - it deals with the fallout from taking life, and what the hardships of conflict does to people.

 

I completely understand what you're saying, because it's true.  But the inevitable question raised is: how do you make a point without actually illustrating it?

 

And let's be honest here - the Bible isn't exactly squeaky clean.  David slays Goliath.  Saul falls on his sword.  Jesus is crucified.  Peter cuts off someone's ear.  The fate of Bishop Antipas.  Cain and Abel.  Not to mention what happened to John the Baptist.

 

After some reflection on this, it makes what I've written sound kinda tame...

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A pastor once told me the church is not a sanitized sanctuary in which perfect people are isolated from a sinful world.  Rather, the church is a hospital emergency room in which the wounded and dying are attended to by those who are themselves injured and hurting.

 

Certainly we can isolate ourselves from the world, fearing that it might desensitize us to sin, but then a far more dangerous malady will strike us ... we will loose our ability to be healers in a sinful world.  

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This is an interesting discussion. I can share my approaches to navigate away from having someone kill another in my action/adventure/comedy stories. It took some worldbuilding to pull it off.  

 

In my medieval setting story, the main hero fights with a wooden staff. There is fighting but no one dies. The villains are either captured and imprisoned. A witch and evil demons are banished to a realm via a portal.

 

In my story set in the future, bullet projectile weapons are forbidden. Law enforcement agents use stun guns and webbing grenades, villains use weapons like needle pistols, a living brain uses mental, brain blasts. There is hand-to-hand combat but no one gets bloody or dies, just knocked unconscious. The bad guys are arrested or escape. 

 

Your story has a wizard guardian, so I assume magic exists. Magic can be used to end the bad guy’s reign of terror, perhaps transforming them into loyal canines. Or use a banish spell to send them to another dimension filled with annoying birds who constantly chirp and won’t let a person sleep. This would be extra awful if you revealed earlier in the story the bad guy suffers from ornithophobia (fear of birds). 

 

I have an idea for a dystopian story where there will be vampire hunters. I'm trying to think of a creative way/less violent way to get rid of them versus burning them with holy water, crucifixes or sunlight.

 

I’d love to hear how other action/adventures Christian writers tackle this subject.

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2 hours ago, Nick Cole said:

Certainly we can isolate ourselves from the world, fearing that it might desensitize us to sin, b

I agree 100% with this. My concern is not that we isolate ourselves but rather that we do not add to the desensitizing process. Are there other ways to respond to the bad guys which do not involve killing them, as J.P. suggested?

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Neither Tolkien or Lewis shied away from people dying in their books. Death is real, it is the end we all face. How the author deals with those deaths is the real issue. Is it something that they think is normal, or do they take the Christian thought process that even the death of an enemy is something to be lamented.

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