The Great Story and My Stories
Today is Sunday, April 8, 2012. It is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox. And so: Easter.
Easter celebrates the great reversal, the giving of joy for ashes, the transformation of defeat into victory. Easter marks the most important event in the history of the world. In the resurrection of Jesus, God triumphs over those who wished to make the world in their own image. He let us kill him, and he won anyway.
Enough. I am not going to preach. Don't misunderstand; there's nothing wrong with preaching the gospel, and I'm happy to do so when appropriate. But this blog aims to explore the intersection between philosophy and stories, so sermons don't quite fit.
Nevertheless, for Christians the resurrection of Christ is the centerpiece of the greatest story. It seems to me inescapable for Christians that we try to locate our stories in the great story. There are two senses to this remark. Mark McLeod-Harrison and I wrote about the first in our book, Being at Home in the World, though what we said there is hardly original.
The events of a human life might be regarded as a chaotic collection of independent moments. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre pointed out, we make sense of our lives by connecting one event to another, by telling stories. What connects the young girl to the young mother and the wrinkled grandmother she later became? Her story. How do we account for her career choices, her failures and her successes? We fit them into a story. Inevitably, we tie one person's story to those of the people around her--including those who came before and after her. For the Christian, Christ's story is the background and goal of all our individual stories.
There is a second sense of "locating our stories in the great story." Human beings live stories but they also invent them. Some of us go to great lengths to devise tales of many kinds: short and long, hopeful or despairing, beautiful and/or terrible.
The Christian author faces the question: how do my stories fit into the great story? No one answer is correct. Some Christians have written wonderful tales full of explicit theology or allegory. The Pilgrim's Progress has stood the test of time. Others, trying to do the same, have produced sermonizing glop.
I aim for a different path. I want to write good stories, tales that carry light without preaching. I don't avoid religion, and some characters (e.g. Eleanor Roosevelt Urquhart) are explicitly Christians. But I want my tale to please the reader as a story, not as a sermon.