You’re a misfit. You don’t belong. That’s what it means to be “divergent” in the dystopian world created by Veronica Roth, a world where you must choose one of five personality traits as your “faction,” your identity. That one choice determines your place in life and in society. Only it doesn’t work when you are divergent. Being divergent means you are more than the system allows. You can’t be controlled. You are a threat … and must be eliminated.
That is the dilemma facing Tris, the heroine of the “Divergent” trilogy. But as in most dystopian stories, the majority who “go along to get along” are also in danger … most just don’t know it. Tris must break away from the system, not only for her own protection, but for the sake of the majority who are clueless about the realities of the system and its dehumanizing, destructive effects.
Dystopian novelists have long been the prophetic voices of their times… and maybe there’s a true story to be found in the common thread that runs through most dystopian tales.
Dystopias are created when the human race comes so close to utterly destroying itself that a government or dictator arises to save people from themselves. What results is a “cure” as bad as, or worse than, the problems plaguing humanity. The question becomes: who will save the people from their “savior”? The answer: those who risk rebelling against against the system that was created to control them. But even the heroes and heroines find that “the system” is not their only nemesis. Their all-too-human weaknesses and flaws can become their own worst enemy.
Long before novelists, Jewish prophets and kings like Moses, Isaiah and Solomon were writing about the dystopian facts of life in various books of the Bible – starting with Genesis and the story of the original “divergents.” Adam and Eve were perfectly integrated and well balanced human beings. That balance included a right relationship with God, who created them with plenty of freedom, including the choice either to enjoy or reject him as ruler of the universe. By choosing the latter, the human race diverged from God, and in a sense, from our own humanity. We became alienated from God, one another and even from ourselves.
The Bible shows how we have struggled to become whole, only to drift farther from God and our own potential as human beings. It’s like King Solomon said, not once, but twice: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:2, 16:25).
The Bible also explains God’s plan to rescue us. . . not as a controlling dystopian despot, but as the One with the power to truly cure what plagues us. . . .and to build up what we have torn down.
The Jewish prophets predicted a Messiah who would rescue humanity. His human nature would be all that we were intended to be, a free individual in perfect relationship with God. He would reconcile us to our creator by giving his own innocent life to pay the penalty of our sin (divergence from God). (See Isaiah 53:4-8) We are Jews who believe that Messiah is Yeshua (Jesus).
Ironically, in order to fulfill his role, the Messiah also had to be divergent – not from God, but from the world system that perpetuates the factions and power plays that the human race has created as a byproduct of declaring “independence” from God.
Jesus was divergent in the best sense; he was not ruled by one dominant character trait, but his courage, compassion, selflessness, truthfulness and wisdom were perfectly integrated … along with every other virtue. He was also perfectly integrated in his relationship with God – which gave him power beyond what the system allowed, and made him a threat. Jesus could not be controlled by Romans, religious leaders, or anyone else who wanted to use him for their own agenda. He could not even be controlled by death; he rose from the grave – proof that he had fulfilled God’s plan.
So, are you divergent? The Bible says we have all diverged from God: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way.” The good news is, God invites us to be divergent in a way that leads us back to him. We don’t have to be defined by any one trait, faction, desire or dictator. We don’t have to be defined by our sin. We can belong to the One who created us to be so much more than the system allows. Through Jesus, we can be whole.