The following article, "The Story We Tell Ourselves," written by Brian Mclaren appeared in last month's issue of Sojourners/Call To Renewal Magazine. It struck a chord with me by reminding that the lives we live, the choices we make, the realities we accept, the action we take, or the indifference we cultivate, are all framed by our perspective of the world, the story in which we find ourselves. As Christians, what are our perspectives shaped by? Do we rely on God's story of the kind of kingdom He yearns to be established here on earth? Are our perspectives tainted by the world's stories of political ideologies, nationalism, power, fear, violence, greed, practicality, despair, distrust, etc.?
The Equity Dysfunction. Our framing story does not lead us to work for the common good. Instead, it legitimizes the growing gap between rich and poor in a variety of ways. For example, the story may imply that God has blessed and favored the rich and powerful, or that the poor and vulnerable are lazy and irresponsible and therefore are getting what they deserve. All the while the bellies of the poor and vulnerable ache from hunger, and their children die of treatable diseases. Every social grouping—national, religious, ethnic, tribal, political, social, or educational—is drawn into a vortex of rich/poor conflict. Each group becomes a competing us/them faction that seeks advantage for “us,” not a common good for all.
The Security Dysfunction. Our framing story does not lead these competing factions to reconcile peacefully. Instead we find, nested in the larger framing story shared by both rich and poor, a huge bank of patriotic and religious stories that celebrate how “redemptive violence” has helped good people (“us”) to defeat evil people (“them”) throughout history. Thus when push comes to shove, good people and evil people alike trust violence as the way to peace, and our framing story squelches the search for creative, peaceful alternatives. When more and more nations (or religious or ethnic militias) arm themselves with more and more lethal weapons—not to mention when some groups acquire biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons—everyone feels less secure, and every regional conflict contains the seeds of terrifying escalation, resulting in an increasingly anxious global society. Gradually, the world becomes locked in a vicious cycle of tension between an anxious global empire of the rich and an angry global terrorist revolution of the poor.
ALL ATTEMPTS TO resolve these systemic crises—the prosperity crisis of the planet, the equity crisis of poverty, and the security crisis of peacemaking—fail because they fail to address the fourth crisis, the spirituality crisis of purpose. Tragically, the framing stories that program and drive our societal machinery toward suicide are too frequently aided and abetted by our world’s religions and the various stories they tell. Instead of inspiring us with a framing story of hope (true good news), our religions more often camouflage existing destructive narratives in various religious disguises. They preach a far-reaching covert curriculum of fear and violence; they teach a coherent and comprehensive global “orthodoxy” of greed, self-interest, religious/ethnic/ cultural supremacy, and struggle for domination and conquest.