Agatha Christie was one of the most successful novelists ever, but we don’t generally think of her books as offering any identifiable Christian content. True, her two most famous detective characters, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, were solidly Christian. Poirot was a Roman Catholic, and Miss Marple always read her devotionals before getting out of bed in the morning. To most Christie fans, that’s about the long and the short of it, as far as Christian content goes.
Neither Poirot nor Marple appears in They Came to Baghdad–a spy thriller, not a detective story, published in 1951. Underlying this book is a surprisingly firm Christian foundation: not what anybody expects from a cloak and dagger job.
The plot concerns a secret superpower summit to be held in Baghdad, and the effort by British intelligence to foil a plan to turn the conference into a catastrophe–maybe even a new world war. And the success or failure of the intelligence campaign winds up depending on Victoria Jones, an unemployed typist with a gift for coming up with amazingly convincing and creative lies at short notice.
The bad guys are identified only as a shadowy organization, global in its scope and resources, neither communist nor capitalist, committed to manipulating the free world and the communist bloc into a mutually fatal showdown.
Here’s how Victoria’s mentor explains it to her.
“What they want is, I fear, the betterment of the world! The delusion that by force you can impose the Millenium on the human race is one of the most dangerous delusions in existence. Those who are out only to line their own pockets can do little harm–mere greed defeats its own ends. But the belief in a superstratum of human beings–in Supermen to rule the rest of the decadent world–that, Victoria, is the most evil of all beliefs. For when you say, ‘I am not as other men’–you have lost the two most valuable qualities we have ever tried to attain: humility and brotherhood.”
Coming out with that in 1951–wow!
Later on, Victoria reflects: “You get mad, perhaps, if you try and act the part of God. They always say humility is a Christian virtue–now I see why. Humility is what keeps you sane and a human being..”
Or, as the Bible puts it, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
Our original temptation, provided by the Devil, was “ye shall be as gods, knowing [deciding for themselves] good and evil” (Genesis 3:5).
Have we ever been given a more accurate description of the humanist mind-set?
Hey, everybody–try this book. There’s a lot more to Agatha Christie than you thought.