Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jesus and the Seventh Story

Brian McLaren, in an address at Eastern Mennonite University several years ago, spoke of seven major narrativies that shape people’s thinking and behaviors.

First there is the Domination Story, promoting an “us over them” mindset, one inevitably followed by the Revolution Story, one that is about seeking the violent overthrow of an oppressive empire--as in “us versus them.” 

Then comes the Purification Story, in which in order to gain or maintain power we seek to blame, shame and exclude a perceived dangerous minority, “us versus those.” This in turn gives rise to the Victimization Story, “us in spite of them,” in which an oppressed minority's identity is maintained through memories of past injustices.

There is also the Isolation Story, he says, “us away from them,” one in which communities define themselves by their withdrawing from what is seen as a corrupt and doomed majority.

Then, of course, there is the ever familiar Accumulation Story, in which we perceive happiness and security resulting from gaining ever more possessions in a competitive, greed-based economy, "us with more than them."

People tend to wrap their life and their faith around these all too familiar narratives, says McLaren, and then to co-opt Jesus, Allah or Jehovah as justification for their claim to empire and domination, for example, or to make God all about revolution, or about purification (pointing the finger at undesirables), or to describe God primarily as identifying with victims, or as an isolationist, and even to make God the champion of accumulation and all about blessing the wealthy.

In contrast to all of these, he concludes, is the Reconciliation Story, "us and them as one," one in which a loving and just Creator calls all people to live and work together to turn the world into a shalom of peace.

It is that seventh story I want to celebrate and pass on to my children and everyone else I can get to listen.
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