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By Alex Aili
We find ourselves in a sequence of events that don’t seem to matter. A stubborn desire to find meaning doesn’t seem to leave, though, and so we’re left gasping for cleaner air on a submarine that isn’t going to the surface anytime soon. Being uncomfortable with our own chaos, we seek order wherever we can find it, and the most promising candidate is within the realm of Story.
We have rewards cards for movie theaters, Netflix queues, Hulu watch-lists, TiVo, and the Redbox App on our phones to satisfy the thirst for stories. We also have Kindles, Nooks, iPad and bookshelves (if they’re old school), full of stories. We can’t escape stories because our lives, even though messy and disintegrated, cannot really be understood any other way.
The stories that keep propping themselves up on our screens and pages are never original, either. They all have a hero, a villain and some sort of conflict, regardless of the genre. Someone goes on an adventure; someone new comes to town. The ordinary is blown into the extraordinary; the mundane becomes epic. Sacrifices are required. Triumph or tragedy, every story beckons us to confront the mess with the hero because we cannot help connecting with them as they struggle (if the aesthetic is done well, that is; we all know those stories with bland heroes and plots). Perhaps it’s this craving for purposeful struggle that brings us back to these unoriginal narratives–a reason to fight?
To hear someone’s story is to see into their lives; the same is true with characters on the screen or page. So that’s why, when we’re uncomfortable to talk to others about our messes, we find solace in stories because the people in them give us a cloudy mirror with which to see into our own lives. Cloudy is how we like it. We see enough to satisfy our need for purpose, but not enough to expose our frailty.
Too many Christians think stories will save people, so they make God’s Not Dead with a sequel to boot. Stories were never meant to change someone’s worldviews outright, but to exhibit one particular worldview–the one of the storyteller(s)–in an attempt to express it in an engaging way. Christians may want to use film and literature as a medium for Gospel promulgation (Matt. 28:19-20), but there’s only so much that these mediums can do to the deep convictions of audiences…
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