Your starting point matters. What you believe when you begin to look at a situation affects how you are going to act in that situation. Beliefs make a difference. Not just in the hereafter, though that’s certainly true, but now. Every day when you get up and look in the mirror and say, ‘Who shall I be today?’ you answer it from a starting point, from your own worldview. You have a position. So does the random person you see riding the metro to work, or that guy who sits in the cubical behind you. They may never have analyzed what their worldview is, but they have one. And it affects what they do.
Spy stories are awesome. I love the gadgets, the smarts involved, the element of adventure, the sense of a hero taking on a host of bad guys and outwitting them all. Detective stories are fun, don’t get me wrong. I like unraveling mysteries and trying to guess what sort of plot the protagonist has fallen into. But a spy story? A spy story has all the best of a mystery with a good smattering of witty lines and gadgets too. And I really like adventure stories, I have never been one for the romance style of books (though I do like a fair amount of Austen and Gaskell style reads, naturally). Growing up I always went for Robert Louis Stevenson, Howard Pyle, and other things that smacked of adventure before any of the books more, perhaps, appropriate to a little girl. But a spy story? Golly, that has mystery, witty lines, gadgets, cleverness, and a huge heaping of adventure thrown in.
But I quickly ran into a problem. Spy stories usually stink. They are often filled with wanton violence, language that doesn’t bear remembering, flirtatious women, and men who are (ahem) I shall say ‘ungentlemanly.’ But one of the main difficulties with spy novels is their lack of a correct starting place. The heroes are usually just that, heroes who do what needs done… but while they might save the world… what do they save it for? A funny thing happened to me when I was browsing around in spy stories, finding the few fairly clean ones that I could enjoy. I noticed the wrong worldviews. Sure, I had noticed a statement here and there in the Agatha Christie’s that were wrong, or in the “Little Women” books, or even Jane Austin. But not like this. It jumps off the page and slaps you in the face in a spy novel. What the hero believes is seen in the books. The way he reacts to his nemesis when he finally has him in his sites, his response to the girl, the reason he accepts the mission in the first place, his thoughts as he walks away from a flaming fireball that he just happened to manage to set off in the last two seconds before the world was set to blow up… It’s like a magnifying glass pointed at his worldview.
Now while I really like spy novels, I love studying worldviews. I am intensely proud and thankful of how perfectly Christianity gels with logic, and reality, and common sense, and imagination, and science, and beauty, and everything that can possibly be thrown at it. I get a kick out of studying other philosophies and worldviews, though it usually ends in my sputtering at the page telling it how wrong it is and wishing it would become Christian like it’s supposed to be. And I ended up spluttering at the pages of my spy novels just the same way.
When everything is at stake, and the hero is at the end of his rope, and that last extra push is needed to save the world… what is it that does the pushing?
It should be the hope of the gospel. It should be Jesus’ example of giving His all for the world. It should be the light of Christianity shining like the sun until the darkness doesn’t seem so dark after all. And there’s another question that needs to be asked on the opposite end of the book.
Why does the world need saving in the first place?
What is it that has gone wrong? Why is that cackling bad guy trying to blow up England? There’s always a reason behind it. And guess what, before that bad guy got around to trying to blow up a continent, he believed. He started from somewhere. Sometimes it’s fanatic Islam, sometimes it’s fanatic environmentalism, sometimes it’s fascism, but whatever it is it started with an idea. At the very center and core of every spy novel is a plot; and behind and above and underneath and powering that plot is an idea. Worldviews are the plot of every spy story you ever come across.
This is the reason it slaps you in the face. This is why I sat spluttering at the end of each story. Every spy plot is a worldview. And how the hero reacts to it matters. I think this is probably the sort of subconscious reason that I have always loved a good spy novel. Along with the entertainment value, there is a point to the story. There’s a reason the world needs saving, and a reason someone steps out with courage to save it.
But even though the heroes save the world…what do they save it for? I mentioned this earlier, but it bears repeating, because it’s why I am writing this, and why I began to write the Parabaloni books. Sometimes at the end of a spy novel, I was left wondering which was worse, the bad guy or the hero. It shouldn’t be that way. If a hero is going to step out and risk his life, in reality there’s usually more of a reason behind it than just because he was ordered to by a superior, or because he is getting paid to do it. Think about those instances towards the climax of a spy story; everything’s collapsing, the hero stands alone, the only thing keeping disaster from striking. And then something happens. Maybe he’s caught, maybe he’s even shot. Now pause; a man has to have a reason to get up again when he’s been shot down. There has to be a source of the courage, a source of the hope, a source for the value he places on the lives he is trying to save. A hero is called a hero because they do something right. Right and wrong matter. Right and wrong are different. Right and wrong have definitions, and they have sources. And a man willing to sell his life for the right is living off the Christian code. They may not believe it. They may not even realize it. But that is what’s happening.
I wanted to write something where the hero knew it. A spy novel is the perfect place for showing off the Christian faith in all its glaring beauty and truth and common sense; and doing it to a group of people who are completely unsuspecting.
Allow me to pause for a maniacal chuckle.
A spy novel is an inroad into someone’s mind, someone who picked it up just to be entertained, and has no idea what they are getting into. Perfect place for brainwashing, right? I know! Awesomeness! This is a chance to get ideas out there, the right ideas. It is the chance to show off my worldview, the only right one in the myriad of fluctuating philosophies floating through the world. It is a chance to give someone who might never pick up a worldview book a glimpse of another world. It is a chance to give a tantalizing look at the wild world of ideas, and show that it matters what you think.
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:12
We wrestle against ideas. And a good spy doesn’t just wrestle the ideas, he has to hurl his own ideas against the bad ones, using his worldview armor to tackle them to the ground and throttle them till they die and leave the world alone. This is a what a spy story is when stripped of the impressive prose, the exotic scenes, the witty dialogues, heroic characters, the muddled plot that makes you salivate to know what it’s all about, the edge-of-your-seat excitement. It’s all about ideas, really. And ideas matter. And there is one single right idea out there. And that is why I wrote the Parabaloni.