Narrative – Part 4 How We Got Here

The governor of Indiana stridently defends a law that has an almost identical federal counterpart, which was signed by Bill Clinton. The aim of the law is to insure that religious liberties are not compromised. Within twenty four hours…a mere twenty four hours… a sophisticated, well- funded, well connected and well executed campaign changes the narrative to Indiana hates gay people. The governor within twenty four hours is issuing a statement to respond to the new narrative.

Just like Hands up Don’t shoot, or I am Travon endangered police officers and ginned up racial tensions, this narrative creation in Indiana started a firestorm that came down on the governor and anyone else who would dare to change the narrative.  The NCAA weighs in immediately and hints that the Final Four may not take place in Indianapolis… Yes it is just so much political theater…but note the bully tactics… and how quickly this well-oiled machine is ready to launch. Governors from other states including Oregon (where I live) threaten boycotts….The mayor of Portland issues a threat that no city employee will do business with Indiana.

Al Sharpton (sans bullhorn) declares that. This is like Jim Crow and vows to get his activist army involved.  All of this over a law just like the one that Bill Clinton was lauded for signing during his administration!

In my book, Fatal Drift, Is the Church Losing its Anchor? I have a chapter I titled Compass Calls and Counter-Information.

The EC-130 Compass Call system employs counter-information and electronic attack capabilities in support I U.S. and Coalition tactical air, surface, and special operations forces. The EC-130H was used extensively in the Gulf War and 021202-O-9999G-004Operation Iraqi Freedom, disrupting Iraqi communications at both strategic and tactical levels.

Offensive counter-information campaign….hmmmm?

In even speaking of this in an era of a liberal dominated press corps, I am aware that I am setting myself up for ridicule as ‘one of those guys’ a conspiracy theory nut who goes home every night and dons an aluminum foil hat. I offer the following for your consideration.

What used to be journalistic integrity has given way to a ruthless pragmatism. News anchors are primarily media celebrities with their own ‘brands.’ Their unbiased reporting of the news sounds suspiciously similar. Rush Limbaugh plays sound clips which he call montages…in which it becomes painfully clear that the media outlets are cranking out talking points…narrative s that are agreed upon regardless of the facts. The most alarming part of the sad Brian Williams debacle at NBC is not just that he knowingly told lies on his broadcast to enhance his stature…BUT THAT THE EXECUTIVES HAD TO KNOW THAT HE WAS LYING AND LET HIM GET AWAY WITH IT SO LONG AS HE WAS PUTTING FORTH THE NARRATIVE!

In researching the whole topic of narrative creation and perpetuation and dissemination, I had to go back to the earliest mention of the notion of Narrative.

In the post-structuralist analysis the reader replaces the author as the primary subject of inquiry. This displacement is often referred to as the destabilizing or decentering of the author, though its greatest effect is in the text itself. Without a central fixation on the author, post structuralists examine other sources for meaning (e.g. readers, cultural norms, other literature etc.) These alternate sources are never authoritative and provide no consistency. (Emphasis mine)

I remember the day I first heard the term Post-Modernism.  A pastor colleague had handed out a book for us to read so that we would be better suited to engage the culture and thereby become relevant. Over the next few years, new book after new book, blog after blog…Emergent Church leader titles all had the same main talking points:

  • The church is irrelevant because we are clinging to old stories that no longer appeal to post-moderns.
  • The answer is to come up with new story or narrative and drop the ‘offensive’ passages.
  • Then and only then would we shed the archaic notion that there existed anything remotely akin to propositional truth.

It came to a head for me at a gathering of that same group of pastors. We were in the kitchen of our host, the same pastor who gave me the first book on Post Modernism. He was talking to some younger pastors who were paying attention as he offered his “progressive’ views. Someone brought up a series that had been put together By James Dobson of Focus on The Family fame. It was series of videos titled The Truth Project. My pastor friend said “How stupid is that? (Referring to Dr. Dobson’s series) As if there was just one… (Truth)” This started me on an in-depth look at Post Modernism and its roots…

One of the jeanfrancoislyotardprincipal thinkers who shaped post-modernism and its ultimate influence on the development of Narrative Theology is Jean-Francois Lyotard. A French philosopher, socialist and literary theorist, he is well known for his articulation of post-modernism after the late 1970s and the analysis if postmodernity on the human condition.

Some emergent churches who embrace the notion of post-modernism and the need for narrative adjustments named their churches Mars Hill…I suppose this was meant somehow as an homage to Paul in Acts 17 who found himself at Mars Hill and debated with and confronted the Athenians… who did nothing but discuss and embrace any idea that was new or provocative. I find this detail about Francois Lyotard fascinating,

Lyotard was an avowed socialist whose involvement with the first wildcat strike in France almost brought down the government. I find it fascinating that a card-carrying socialist who was key figure in the aforementioned uprising studied Stoicism and Epicureanism—the same two schools of thought that Paul confronted at Mars Hill. Paul was not saying, “This is the way to evangelize….by embracing all sort of conflicting ideas.” John Warwick Montgomery once quipped, “A universe in which Roman Catholicism and Unitarianism could both be universally true…would be a madhouse.”

No, Narrative Theology owes some of its philosophical underpinnings to a man having some (albeit remote) ties to ancient philosophies that Paul showed to be fallacious…

If only r41Y75JcE2RL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-v3-big,TopRight,0,-55_SX278_SY278_PIkin4,BottomRight,1,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_eporters would report…instead of repeat. Reporters should have told us, for instance, that both Barack Obama, and Hilary Clinton are on record as having embraced the words of Saul Alinsky…His Rules for Radicals was read and cited in Hilary’s Thesis… and in the instance of Obama… included in his syllabus and taught as part of larger narrative that is now being implemented before our eyes. This was all there for any enterprising reporter to research. Instead no one was vetted.

Next time I will show you how the post-modernists used Narrative to challenge Scripture. I close by asking, as I have already asked in this series of blog posts on Narrative…Are we really so naïve as to think that this sort of intentional dissembling, dismantling and re-imagining the gospel just ‘happened’? Or is there something more at stake here?

Dr. J.

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2 comments on “Narrative – Part 4 How We Got Here
  1. Crystal says:

    I always enjoy hearing your thoughts. I seriously wish I had been born in a different time. I fear for my children.

    • Jim Jenkins says:

      There is an ancient Chinese curse which translates “And may he live in ‘interesting times…” I can relate with the feeling you describe. It’s like I don’t fit with the world as it is, and I have spent much time praying for Nina and Lucie and what they will face in their lifetimes. I am comforted when I think about the verse that says “Jesus Christ, the same…yesterday, today…and forever” and “I am the Lord Thy God I change not….therefore you are not consumed..” This series on the whole Narrative Creation topic is striking a nerve. I have had a number of folks contact me with similar sentiments to the ones you expressed. At the very least we must be confident in God’s Word. Good to hear from you.

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