Affecting Culture through Stories


How important are stories? Next to actual Bible study, I suggest they are the most powerful teaching tools available.

Way back when—more than fifteen years ago, I believe—I read a book by Gary Smalley (which, it turns out, was re-released last year) entitled The Language of Love. In that book, Smalley suggested a communication technique that would especially help women reach men, not with abstract information but at the heart level. The technique, in essence is, tell a story.

After reading that book, I began to see ways in which our culture was shaped by the stories we embraced. Changes in attitudes often follow the gradual changes in depicting a subject in the media. (The typical pattern is first to make a joke about the subject until joking about it is normative; then joking changes to acceptance—open discussion; acknowledgment, especially of the rights an individual has in connection to the subject—which morphs to an attitude of “everyone does it” or “they’re just like us.” This pattern is evident in things such as the attitudes toward pornography and homosexuality).

I was reminded of this by two unrelated sources today. One, a letter from a US-based ministry, quoted statistics published in the AARP magazine (that’s for seniors), including questions like, do you believe in God, in heaven, in hell. The startling thing for me was this line: There was a sizeable number of individuals who believed in a second time around. 23% believed in reincarnation (50 years ago the % would have been 1.)

Now for the second source. In a blog post including information from an interview about his soon-to-be-released non-fiction book, Rethinking Worldview Mark Bertrand said this: After all, the average Christian has been much more profoundly influenced by non-Christian art and entertainment than he has by non-Christian evangelism and apologetics.

That line made total sense as I thought about the 22% of our population who have converted to belief in reincarnation, without people standing on the street corners handing out tracts about it. Or holding reincarnation tent meetings.

Mind you, I am not against these kinds of evangelism in the hands of Christians. The point is, persuasion often comes in more subtle ways—through pop culture, through art, through literature.

I’ve ranted before about the “innocent” little Disney movie that so many Christians embraced, The Lion King, in which many New Age teachings were front and center. Shortly thereafter (at least here in SoCal), makeshift shrines began to appear on the street when someone died, followed with claims that “I know my deceased ____” is watching over me/helping me/looking down on me. I’ve heard such anti-biblical comments from people who claim to be Christians. And maybe are.

The point is, the culture, and story in particular, has had a greater influence on forming belief about death and the afterlife than has the Bible and preaching about the subject. Well, to be fair, maybe not a greater influence. After all, the reincarnation number is still not the majority.

Sadly, however, only 29% believed they would go to Heaven because of a belief in Jesus Christ, though 88% said they believed THEY would go to heaven. Clearly, our culture is an eclectic hodge-podge of false teaching with truth mixed in.

And how can we sort through the sludge to show the gospel? Next to Bible study and good expository Bible teaching in church, I tend to think stories can be the most effective tools.

Advertisements
Published in: on September 28, 2007 at 10:02 am  Comments (8)  
%d bloggers like this: