By Brian Lowther
Imagine an island about the size of Cuba, with a population of about 3 million people, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean in the early 1950’s. It is a lush, green, tropical paradise with fertile farmland and many natural resources. It is a fairly modernized nation, with a very wise and just president who is universally adored by the people.
On the island, justice is swift and therefore there is a very low crime rate, very little corruption, and the murder rate is astoundingly zero. By all accounts, it is one of the best and safest places to live in the entire world.
One day, the president leaves on a fourteen-day diplomatic journey to negotiate trade agreements with some countries in Europe. The day after he leaves, in the early hours of the morning, a fire breaks out at the communications towers on the highest mountain of the island. All of the communications equipment is damaged or destroyed. Cutting off the island from the outside.
On the second day in the early hours of the morning a bomb hits a house in one of the villages and everyone inside is killed. Rescue workers, police officers and villagers gather round the scene to search through the wreckage. As they sift through debris, they find evidence that the bomb was sent from the president. On every piece of bomb shrapnel, they find the official presidential insignia. Every islander knows that only the president has access to this emblem, so the only explanation is that the president sent the bomb. By nightfall the island leaders determine that the people who lived in the house were spies. On the island, justice is swift and espionage is considered treason punishable by immediate death. This explains why the president bombed this home. All the islanders go to sleep that night with a sense of shock, but also comfort in the fact that crime does not go unpunished on their idyllic little island.
On the third day, in the early hours of the morning another bomb hits the island, and the next day, and again the next day, and each and every day for the next 10 days.
The official explanation changes from “These people deserved this,” to “Though we don’t know what reasons the president may have for this bombing, his record shows that he always works for the best interest of our island nation and its people. Because the communications towers have been destroyed, there is no way to contact him so it is likely that we will not know for sure until he returns. But we know that he is good, wise and just leader, and thus he must have a good reason.”
As the bombings get more arbitrary and kill so many seemingly innocent people, the islanders begin to question the motives of the president. Each day the leaders attempt to explain away his reasons, but eventually they too begin to question.
Some of the islanders become so angry about the bombings and so full of sorrow for their friends and family members that have been killed, that they turn on the president. These rebels decide that when the president returns, they will immediately arrest him and put him on trial.
For reasons unknown to the islanders, the president’s return is delayed. As the hours tick by—awaiting the president’s return—a skirmish breaks out between the rebels and the loyalists.
It isn’t long before the entire nation becomes embroiled in a civil war. As the fighting and chaos reaches a feverish pitch those that have boats flee the island as hastily as they can, running for their lives.
They race out into the open sea and when they have traveled just beyond the edge of island’s visibility, they come upon a huge enemy armada of battle ships.
In that moment of stark clarity they all realize that it wasn’t the president who was bombing their island. It was the enemy armada. Somehow this enemy force stole the presidential insignia and used it to engineer a brilliant sneak attack.
As John Eldredge points out his book Epic, "Most people live as though the story has no villain. And that makes life very confusing."