I like to read up on the craft of writing and got some obvious advice recently that the book’s villain cannot be the mustache twirling antagonist of yore. Yes, noted. This is unrealistic unless you’re crafting a screenplay for Jerry Bruckheimer.
The reason villains need to be real people in fiction is because villains are real people in life. If you have ever personally known someone in jail, or have spoken to someone who has a family member or friend in jail, you learn about the crime and then you learn about the person who committed it. And when they speak of that person, they talk about what happened to them that lead to that unfortunate fate. The villain becomes a victim. That’s not to say they are relieved of responsibility, but their value is no longer defined by their bad decisions.
One of my husband’s best friends from grade school, Tim, is a convicted pedophile. He will be eligible for parole in 30 years. He is guilty of heinous crimes. He was abused as a child by a family member. My mother-in-law, a family friend who spent time watching Tim said, “I feel strangely responsible. I spent so much time with him. I wish he’d have felt like he could talk to us.”
Some people feel bitter when criminals in jail “find Jesus.” It’s too convenient, too easy, and too self-serving if the parole board regards it as “progress.” Unconditional grace and forgiveness, no matter what, without any caveats, robs society of its eye for an eye. We want them to pay and suffer for their wrongdoing. It’s too good, letting murderers and pedophiles cash in on a higher power’s grace and forgiveness.
I believe we need not worry. Most are suffering and convert because they genuinely recognize one of Christianity’s best tenets – forgiveness for all and the gift of intrinsic value.
After a person’s potential to contribute to society (good or bad) is removed, what is their life’s value? Scripture redeems their value by telling them it is intrinsic and not just defined via humanistic works. It reinforces what those of us who know a criminal already realize. They are still human and their lives are defined by more then just their wrongdoing.
For my atheist readers, I ask: Does a person have intrinsic value beyond their contribution to society? If so, how is it defined and determined?