Story is intrinsic to our existence. Indeed, story is our existence. Life is an attempt to understand the narrative or narratives that makes sense of who we are or what we are about. It is not necessarily easy, however, to understand our narratives truthfully. We human beings are masters of twisting and turning the story in order to deceive ourselves in reference to what our narratives mean. We like determining the meaning of our story; and we will invent cover stories if need be in order to be the arbiters of our narrative.
For me, one of the most discouraging things about politics is the obvious attempt by politicians to twist the political narrative to their advantage. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties are currently experiencing deep divides within their respective Party (which I think is a good thing). But in order to control the narrative, representatives from each Party utter virtually the same talking points that insist the other side is narrow-mindedly monolithic while their own divisions are not really such; they simply demonstrate the diversity within their ranks that the other side refuses to allow. Tea Party supporters are planning to go after Republicans who have not touted the pure party line, while the MoveOn.org crowd target heretical centrist Democrats who have stepped outside the fold of liberal political orthodoxy. Both Parties point to the intolerance of the other side while ignoring the obvious dogmatism of their own. Both sides are reminiscent of the words of Jesus who condemned people for focusing on the splinters of others while they remained oblivious to the two-by-four protruding from their face. There are countless other examples, such as the current Administration refusing to take the blame for anything, spinning the presidential narrative by indicting the previous Administration every chance it gets; and the Republican Party in response spins the political story by diminishing the continual impact of actions by the previous Administration on current problems.
The main focus in telling the political narrative is accomplishing one's goal while retaining or gaining power. When this happens, it is no longer critical that one tell the narrative truthfully. A truthful narrative is important only insofar that it serves one's political ends. When the truth does not accomplish one's goals, it can simply be discarded, or at the very least, twisted into a hybrid of something deceptive.
For Christians, this is unacceptable. We have a moral obligation to tell our narrative truthfully. This is not necessarily easy. All of us struggle with the same failings and shortcomings as those in political office. But let us make no mistake that the most important thing in making sense of our story is not justifying our existence as it is, but understanding what it means to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The goal of narrative interpretation is to tell the truth of who we are and what we are about. For Christians, the gospel story does not affirm us as we are, but it calls us to more than we are. That can only happen when we are willing to acknowledge the truth, no matter how painful it might be.
While I do believe it is possible for Christians to serve Christ in political office, I wonder how long they would be in office if they insisted on telling the political narrative truthfully because of their commitment to the Lordship of Christ in all areas of life, including politics. The fact that there are Christians who have made a career out of politics makes me wonder what kind of narrative they have decided to embrace.
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Cross-Posted at RedBlueChristian
Allan, I am most disturbed by the willingness of large numbers of American to hear and participate in the dishonest debate that passes for politics.
We have been sucked in haven't we?
It's not just politics where this is a problem either. "Spin" is a problem in journalism, public relations and advertising. The idea that it's OK to tell a partial truth in order to achieve one's own goals seems to be increasingly acceptable in society. Rush Limbaugh and his imitators on the left as well as the right have also reduced argumentation to the state that many people now seem to think that "You are a ******" is a legitimate debating technique.
Absolutely correct. It's is one thing to honestly misinterpret a narrative. We all do that. It is quite another to do so intentionally with the purpose of achieving one's ends.
It seems that self-deception is one of the main reasons we have a hard time telling our story truthfully. We are so self-deceived that we wouldn't know how to tell the truth even if we wanted to. The only way to break the power of self-deception is to tell the story of Jesus in a loving community with others who will hold us accountable.
Jonathan, how true. Of course, as you say that, I feel the need to respond that you are right, but it sure makes a difference what is meant by "love." Modern sentimental notions of love are not only unhelpful, they distort the nature of the gospel; but I am not saying anything you do not already know.
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