by Andrea Parkhill
August 7, 2018
6 min read
Have you ever wondered why humans tell stories?
We do it as often as we speak. We tell stories as jokes, stories as warnings, stories to convince or convict. If you have a Facebook newsfeed, I’d bet it’s full of them – the most tempting trash hidden behind bait, begging you to guess WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. And a great many of us can’t help clicking. We have to know. Was the hero a hero? The villain a villain? Is there good in this world or are the bad guys going to win?
I may be being a bit reductive and overdramatic, but since this is the internet and you are reading a blog, I think you’ll forgive me. Also, reduction has its place — ask any cook. When we boil our entire world down to heroes and villains, a pattern emerges. We see, etched in daily life, the same stories we’ve been telling for millennia. Tales of tragic loss, of stubborn endurance, of unexpected kindness. We see growth and change and hope and charity, and we remember those things in ourselves. We see pain and despair and injustice, and our souls cry out for relief. We see reflections of our follies in stories of people like us, and we find unexpected sympathy for those we thought of as other until we heard their stories.
And so we keep telling stories. Allegories, Mythologies, Drama, Comedy, History, all have their place in how we learn to be human.
And God — God has the best stories of all. High drama, unexpected twists, unlikely rescues, scripture has it all. The stories of scripture individually reveal the wickedness in the hearts of villains, the courage in the souls of heroes, and the love of a long-suffering God. If that’s not enough, all those little stories stitch together into one huge drama wherein God literally saves the day and restores goodness and rightness and justice. It’s the kind of story we scoot forward to the edge of our seats to hear. We listen, enthralled about his mission to save and restore the world, first through an odd, small tribe of people, then a single strange man who died, then through his messy, confused church. Our own church, St. Peter’s Fireside, takes its’ name from two very specific stories in which we find great truth and comfort. Our lives in and outside of our church community are marked and shaped by stories.If this is sounding far-fetched or unfamiliar, there’s this project I love going on to tell the stories of scripture in animated clips. Check it out!
We look through a screen or on the page of a book and whether the story is true or fantastical, we see things to admire and aspire to.
That’s what stories do in the life of humans. We’re made for them. We learn from them. We grow in wisdom and hope by hearing about the struggles and trials of people like us. We grow in empathy and compassion by watching the drive and despair of those that are not like us. We look through a screen or on the page of a book and whether the story is true or fantastical, we see things to admire and aspire to. We watch a character betray themselves or others, and we understand betrayal.
Perhaps we shouldn’t just watch, passive. Perhaps we should talk about these things. We should talk about the stories we’re watching because while not everything is edifying, but a great many things are, and the more we talk about those stories the more we can listen to and understand each other’s stories. With that in mind, we’re going to talk about stories, specifically, movies on the blog this month.
Does a church in Vancouver need to take a whole month to talk about movies? Isn’t everyone exhausted by the never-ending parade of caped heroes and flawed anti-heroes? Wouldn’t we do better to turn our eyes to this needy, broken world than try to escape it? Isn’t Hollywood pushing the agenda of pluralism and postmodernism and every other kind of ism, and oughtn’t we resist?
And yet… aren’t you still going to the movies, still watching Netflix? aren’t your friends, your coworkers, your family?
I certainly am, and so are the people in my life. So are many, many of the people in this city. Because these stories are such a pervasive part of our life and our thoughts, we’re going to look at them a little closer. What is this world, this hollywood-ised world saying about goodness and badness? What is it saying about heroes and villains, courage and cowardice? What is it saying about love and strife, about life itself? What can we cheer on and cheer for? What should trouble us and cause us to speak thoughtfully with those around us? What might we want to reject outright, both ideas and visuals? When is too much watching and not enough doing?
So this month on this blog, we’re going to shift our focus a little, from looking at the stories God has told us, to looking at where we see him and the truths he’s revealed in the stories we tell each other. Summer is when the movie studios release their big-budget and high action films, as many as they think they can. Sometimes, the themes and prototypes are painfully obvious, but not always. Some movies resonate strongly while others fall flat emotionally and flop commercially. Many of us will see one or more movies this summer, and end up in conversations about them with each other, our friends and family, and our co-workers. So we’re going to take a closer look at a few. Our writers have selected movies that speak to them and want to tell you what they saw.
So please, read along with us. Engage the stories you encounter. Read a book, see a movie, have a conversation about them. And hey, if you need someone to talk your ear off about movies, you can always come find me.