When Stories Compete

From yesterday’s post:

Explicit beliefs come after our pre-rational worldview and that worldview is encoded in stories we tell, the practices we engage in, and the symbols we use to remind ourselves of how we see the world.

We frequently disagree on our beliefs about things: ethics and morality, what things mean, etc. And when we do, our discourse often revolves around the beliefs themselves. We argue, we try to make points, and we quite often fail to persuade our opponents of the truth of our claim or the falsity of theirs (and vice versa — we are rarely persuaded to think differently).

What we fail to realize, however, is that this is not because our opponents are foolish, or irrational, or otherwise incapable of grasping the truth which we so clearly see. It is instead because we are often operating with competing stories about how the world works. And not just the particular stories about what happened or why it happened. It’s often down to the very root of our beliefs — the big Story and the little stories that form us.

Let’s take, for example, the matter of human sexuality. Within the church, there are lots of questions and arguments swirling around whether those who identify as LGBTQ+ ought to be affirmed in the full expression of their sexuality. But these arguments and conversation often miss the mark, because the very lenses through which we see the world are formed out of competing narratives.

Do we believe the story of God that the biblical narrative has given us? Do we reject all of that narrative in favor of another story? Do we only accept some of it? If so, which parts do we accept?

Until we can answer those questions and understand where those who differ from us stand, asking and answering these questions will likely only result in frustration. Without some fundamental, baseline agreement on what human beings are and what human beings are made for, ethical questions (like affirming/non-affirming LGBTQ+ identities and expression) will be difficult — if not impossible.

Leave a Reply