Faith should not require literal readings of religious texts. Artists the world over, and empaths across the ages, have employed figurative devices such as analogy, extended metaphor, and (yes, I am going there) parables to communicate affecting insights and spiritual truths. Why, then, is it considered heretical among many in the Christian community to apply interpretive analysis to explicate meaning from religious texts?
As a human who has undergone acute trauma, I’ve experienced profound healing by articulating my experience into the written word. At the same time, I wish to transform my particular struggles into a narrative that can be felt and understood on a universal scale. I find the most effective way to do this is through symbolic language. For this reason, I am writing a literary novel, as opposed to a personal memoir. If my goal is to confer catharsis onto my readers, then I believe it is fitting to symbolize trauma and restoration through fiction. In this manner, I can, hopefully, incite the transcendent experience of identification, which can only come through the reader’s interpretive dialogue with the work I am producing.
Thus, I chose The Great War (WWI)—The Battle of Verdun, specifically—to symbolize the truth of my experience as a victim of prolonged exposure to teen sexual assault. Finality is the principle that relates my personal experience of trauma to the universal experience of total war. For the soldier mounting a trench, entering No Man’s Land, the end is death. For the victimized virgin, the end is corruption–contamination. The experience of war destroys the body; the experience of rape destroys the spirit. The truth within fiction presses the audience to reflect on the relationship between war and sexual violence. The events of the story are not real, but the nature of fiction as imaginary does not prohibit truth’s manifestation.
The founder of the Christian faith–you know, Jesus–spoke in parables with intention. Through this figurative device, Jesus articulated spiritual insight, which could not otherwise be accessed by his audience. Why, then, is it such a stretch to consider the metaphorical reading of his entire life account? Why, then, must an analytically interpretive reading of The Bible connote heresy?