Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Telling Tales About God

Last weekend I had a great conversation with a stranger who, when I mentioned my blog, immediately started talking about narratives: arranging the world into stories with plots, climaxes, and resolutions.

Narratives, metaphors, and models are huge to me. When I say "re-imagine religion" what I mean is adopt a different religious model, a new narrative interpretation of our stories about God.
Religious language is necessarily metaphorical, and any attempt at literalism is nothing short of idolatry. There is a distance between human words and the human experience of God. Therefore, our scriptures are an incomplete and imperfect manifestation of God’s presence in history. When we choose to explain a spiritual experience, the explanation relies on imagery and metaphor because of the gulf between the possible literal meaning of words and the hugeness of our spiritual experience. 

Take Genesis for example. It would be impossible for 3nd century BCE nomads to literally explain the origins of the universe, so they told stories. Storytelling (narrative fiction) is at the heart of the Genesis account of creation. It was designed as a story for telling long before it was written into static words on a page. It was built to be flexible enough to suit a variety of instructional goals in a variety of settings. It is nonsense to treat the words recorded on a page (after numerous translations) as literal and unchangeable in the 21st century. 

Religious literalism congeals the narrative of God into a theory of God at the cost of religious innovation and creative potential. The cure is to recognize the narrativity of our religious stories. 
yes, we all have a right to tell stories

A model is simply a story that is told with a point. When I write of the history of the evolution of humankind into stronger and stronger communities, and I incorporate the internet into that as our climactic moment, I am spinning facts into a narrative. Then I'm merging that narrative with pre-existing narratives from Christianity into a model to promote community and loving interaction. We have a right to tell stories because that's what we've always done. 

In Our Millennium, Genesis is within reach. For the first time in the history of the earth, we have the knowledge and the language to literally explain the origin of the universe without metaphor or fictional narrative. I barely have the language to express how important that is, how this is the most exciting time that has ever existed for humanity, how we are entering into a wholly new era of human history. However, we continue to take factual data and spin it into metaphors - that is a human way to absorb and interpret data. And we continue to find value in religious stories, even though we can show them to be without any factual content. 

I am excited to turn our breathtaking new data into stories. 

No comments:

Post a Comment