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Brand New Year, Same Old Plot


While Georges Polti presents an argument for as many as thirty-six predictable plots in literature,[i] I tend to agree with Foster-Harris’ trinitarian understanding of a single plot that is characterized by one of three “types” of development.[ii]  The first two are self-explanatory: “Type A, happy ending” and “Type B, sad ending.” “Type C” is more complex, with the “ending” occurring at the beginning of the narrative, and the explanation provided as the narrative develops. Nonetheless, whatever “type” is chosen for development, the plot is usually predictable—or at least explainable.

Initially articulated by Gustav Freytag, the basic mechanics of the modern “single plot” involves five essential components: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and denouement.[iii] Although the technical jargon for literary analysis was birthed in the academies of Europe, the single plot concept is ubiquitous among cultures. Literature students around the globe would all agree that Aristotle was simply stating the obvious when he opined that every plot must have a beginning, middle and end.

Life Imitating Art

It is no secret that the “stuff” from which good literature is created comes from life. This is the very reason why literature and its videographic emanations are often described as examples of “art imitating life.” A well-written story line has the ability to draw a person into a plot so subliminally that it evokes powerful human emotions to such a degree where it is possible to forget the imaginative nature of the emotive stimulus. Indeed, it is this very power of the narrative, that led to Oscar Wilde’s profound observation that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”

Penned at the end of the nineteenth century, Wilde’s secular musings have prophetic significance for those of us who have crossed the threshold into 2014. The powerful media are promoting a script that millions have memorized and are acting out in their daily lives. So effective is the agent who both scribed and sold the script, that he has been able to convince studios to surrender their exclusive rights to the content. It is not only professional Hollywood actors who are bellowing these lines, but spellbound “journalistic” talking heads and flashy televangelists at Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and TBN are all reading from his script.

In case you’re wondering, the wily literary agent of whom I speak is none other than the ancient deceiver who once bore the name, Lucifer. In the Plot of all plots, he is the archetypical antagonist whose sole purpose is to plant seeds of disloyalty in the hearts and minds of God’s beloved. He gently seduces them with the type of “half truth” that beguiled our primogenitors. He cunningly convinces them to embrace his egotistical desire to sit in the seat of Divinity. He pulls them into a world of moral relativism where eternal Divine principles are substituted by politically “correct” abominations.

Clarification and Confession

Before I get specific about Satan’s strategies, allow me to clarify a couple of things so that my statements will be understood in context. I am a sinner with real struggles who depends on God’s grace to get me through every day. I would be a liar if I claimed that I have never allowed hedonistic art to influence some of my decisions. I would be a liar if I declared that I am always obedient to His grace.

Secondly, I have several close friends who hold some of the very views that I attribute to Satanic influence. Some of these friends are actively involved in the practical work of the gospel and I dare not conclude that their current theological positions automatically disqualify them from eternal life. Notwithstanding, since I am firm in my belief that some of these issues are ultimately salvific, I would be shirking my prophetic responsibility if I kept silent. With this in mind, please allow me to continue.

Predictable Predictions

As I analyze Satan’s success, I am continuously baffled by the growing number of people who voluntarily join his ranks. From my vantage point, his methods are so predictable that I fail to see how many are unable to see through him. I really don’t need any supernatural skills to predict his script for 2014. Let me briefly preview five main bullet points for you.

·         Firstly, expect to see a more militant attempt to “moralize” homosexual behavior. A superb tactician, Satan has beguiled the media into allowing only radical extremists and repressive governments to represent those who disagree with the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual and Transgender lifestyle. Rarely do you hear a love-filled, biblically-informed explanation from a level-headed voice of reason. On the other hand, the airwaves are saturated with politicians and activist “journalists” who unanimously denounce the relevance of the biblical instruction regarding same sex behavior.

·         Secondly, carefully observe the widening of the gulf between the rich and the poor. Before our very eyes, we are witnessing the truth of the biblical maxim that correlates the love of money with unimaginable evil. For the honest observer, it is no secret that “democracy” is just a word in American politics. Ours is a plutocracy where individuals with wealth place people in office to pass laws that further fatten their already bursting coffers. Like programmed robots, the same politicians that oppose tax increases for the wealthiest Americans are just as incensed with attempts to raise the minimum wage for the poorest.

·         Thirdly, be on the watch for war-mongering rhetoric from the lips of the neo-imperialists. With its doctrine of “exceptionalism,” America is unabashed about its dominant role in global society. With its thousands of military bases, countless outsourcing satellites and unsecured fiat currency, this nation has introduced an unprecedented imperial model. However, in order for the model to be fully implemented, “aberrations” like Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia and China must be either conquered or contained. With the current congressional efforts to ramp up the heat on Iran during a supposed period of peaceful negotiations, it is obvious where a significant number of our lawmakers are leaning.

·         Fourthly, listen out for intensified ridiculing of those of us who reject the doctrine of evolution. Most recently, MSNBC hosts have ramped up their attacks on “creationists” whom they dismissively exile to the pejoratively termed “Flat Earth Society.” Unfortunately, the humanistic agenda of those who dismiss the biblical account of origins is greatly aided by the fact that some highly profiled professed “creationists” also espouse ultra right-wing views that contradict the Biblical mandate for social justice.

·         Finally, brace yourself for the continued diminishing of the public face of Christianity. The Trinity Broadcasting Network has provided a platform for the commercialization of Christianity. In the name of Jesus, tens of millions have been conned into supporting the lavish lifestyles of fast talking shysters with their lottery theology. Now, with the reality show, “Real Preachers of Los Angeles,” the cause of Christ has suffered further damage as egocentric perpetrators have revealed their real identity as “men of gold.”


From the perspective of the Great Controversy between good and evil, we are living in a fusion of the third and fourth phases of Freytag’s “single plot” where the antagonists are drunk with their assurance of victory.

·         Less than two decades after the “Defense of Marriage Act,” it is very possible that we could see the passing of a “Redefinition of Marriage Act.”

·         Only in its first decade, the “Citizens United” decision will continue to divide the citizens of this nation as the poor sink into greater depths of impoverishment while the rich increase their year end bonuses.

·         Just weeks after the commencement of talks aimed at eventually repairing the relationship between the United States and Iran, childish members of Congress want to halt progress by regressing to provocative infantile tactics.

·         Almost a century after the Scopes-Monkey trial, the evolution lobby has wrestled the fundamentalist mantle from intolerant biblicists, and have successfully outlawed the teaching of the biblical account of creation in public schools.

·         And two millennia after Christ himself became the ultimate model of servant-leadership, those representing his “assembly” are intoxicated by kingly power.

For the casual observer, it appears as if the antagonist will be the eventual victor as multitudes follow him towards the fiery lake—mesmerized by a similar spell that led the fabled mice to follow the piper.

But wait! We know how this story ends. We know that the antagonist does not have the last word. We know that the woman’s seed will crush his head and replace his evil empire with one in which the Righteous Throne can never be overthrown. We also know that although there is a single plot, we have the power to choose the “type” of plot that ends our story.

As you reflect on these words for 2014, never forget that “a tree is known by its fruit.”


Keith Augustus Burton directs the Center for Adventist-Muslim Relations at Oakwood University.

[i] Georges Polti, The Thirty-six Dramatic Situations (Book Jungle, 2006).

[ii] Foster-Harris, The Basic Patterns of Plot (University of Oklahoma Press, 1959).

[iii] Gustav Freytag, Freytag’s Technique of Drama: An Exposition of Dramatic Composition and Art (Forgotten Books, 2012).

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