Assassination in Writing
Death comes in many forms when one is writing a book. Weather, sickness, battle, or personal revenge. In many books, warfare of some kind or another progresses through the story. As writers, sometimes we need to decipher what is acceptable for our characters to do; or at least what they can do in good conscious (Of course, this doesn’t mean they always will behave right, because having a character fail morally and then having to face the results of his failings is a great story-line.)
Now I am not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. The Bible says do not kill, but it does allow for war. Killing in battle or self-defense is acceptable; murder is not. Pacifism, when one should fight, if one should fight…it’s quite a large topic that I might address sometime else if people show interest. Right now I’m focusing on a narrower topic. Given that fighting and killing is a part of general warfare, how should a Christian (and, by extension your characters) deal with assassination?
In battle, men line up in shield walls, shoot from defended trenches, or swoop above the enemy in planes. The enemy knows they are there…sometimes. There are also ambushes, surprise attacks, night attacks, and dawn attacks were damage is done and then the attackers fade into the night. A killed guard. Sniper shots inside enemy encampment. It is all part of warfare and part of the danger of being in the army.
Assassination moves a little closer to home. This is no random shot fired or a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This is purposeful. Watching a target, waiting for him, looking through a scope at a real person instead of a nameless soldier. It is pulling the trigger, throwing a knife, or striking up close from an ambushment with a dagger.
So, is assassination in wartime an acceptable course of action?
The answer, I believe, is yes. With some restrictions.
Now don’t get me wrong, just because killing is a part of war doesn’t mean it is desirable. It will be a necessary part of surviving, but war doesn’t mean all rules go and one can kill or assassinate anyone on the opposite side.
I do not believe, even in war, that killing or assassinating the defenseless and civilians is ever right. When it comes to an armed enemy, however, it is another matter. Soldiers die on the field, from sickness, and in surprise attacks or in ambushes. Generals, officers, and leaders may, for practical reasons, stay away from the main conflict, but they are still actively engaged in warfare. As a soldier, they are fighting with the knowledge that they could die. And if it is not possible to kill a target from the battlefield, then I see no problem with a secret attack which gets the job done.
It may not seem the most honorable course of action, but since when is killing honorable? What must be done, must be done. In a pitched battle, in an ambush, or in a surgical strike behind the lines, if a leader of an army needs to be taken out, then there is no moral problem for your characters accomplishing the task.
And an item of note here – this does not mean your characters are ‘playing God’ and deciding who lives and who dies. A soldier in another book, when confronted with the question about how he could kill, especially when he knew those dying probably weren’t Christians, put it very well. I don’t remember the exact quote but it was to the tenor of ‘God is in control, and if He wants someone to be saved, then He will save that person regardless of what I do. But as a soldier for my country, I will do my duty to the best of my ability…even if that means killing’.
When it comes to writing, I do not have a moral problem with a character planning an assassination on the leader or general of an opposing side. Now, just because it might not be a matter of conscience, it does not mean it won’t affect and haunt your character in personal and emotional ways…which is, of course, what you want for them. Your characters shouldn’t plan an assassination for no reason, but if there is a reason then have no hesitation throwing the turmoil and contention of planning and performing (either in success or failure) at them and seeing what happens.
Note: I do not claim to know everything about the various topics I’ll be discussing in these Christian Conviction articles. What I write is what I believe after reading the Bible and holding conversations with friends and parents, but that does not mean I’m not interested in Bible evidence for another point of view. If the topics interest you, I encourage you to study them on your own as well. Friendly discussion in the comments is encouraged if you have points you’d like to bring up, but this is not the place for a full-scale debate. : )