Gravity

“And then I looked up at the sun and I could see
Oh the way that gravity turns for you and me
And then I looked up at the sky and saw the sun
And the way that gravity pulls on everyone
On everyone…”

Gravity, by Embrace

Gravity is a controlling factor in our lives. We move, we sit, we stand, all in relation to gravity. Yet many of us do not realize its effects or think about it on a daily basis. As I type, this laptop (hence the name) rests comfortably on my lap, it is not floating about in any other direction. I am writing and sitting in a chair at the same time, if the chair were to mysteriously break, I would instantly fall to the ground. Thus, gravity positions and gives direction. It pulls and it places. As much as we fail to think about it we also take it for granted. Babies test gravity, they hold out a spoon to the air and drop it, as if expecting a different outcome. We know it will drop, we don’t expect it to rise up or float about. 

Much of this reminds me of how culture effects our ability to interpret and to communicate. We take for granted our context, the reasons why we come up with the outcomes that we do. Some wonder why when we communicate the gospel for people in a postmodern context, why they don’t respond to propositional truths that “are inherent in the Bible” but instead question the very foundations that have funded modern Christianity. Some wonder why people want story over told truth. We scrap for ways to communicate the gospel that will fit the square peg. Yet, we fail to realize that what positions people, what gives them direction and a sense of security, is not some truth that must be cognitively conveyed and cognitively accepted. Instead, people are enmeshed in story, and story is truth. Stories (aka narratives) give truth to people. It gives them a deeper context, a deeper sense of belonging.

Many critics have failed to make the connection. They see narrative as unruly, chaotic, unfounded, and subjective. What gives postmoderns a sense of direction they believe is a “loss of truth”. To them, narrative is not gravity but a loss of gravity, a floating thing that gives no one placement or connection. Yet, for many this is the opposite, stories can offer a place where we can live faithfully and adhere to the past and see beyond to the future. Moreover, the Bible in its Old and New Testament forms is story. Not always a unified or composite story, it is multi-faceted and complex, seemingly contridictory and paradoxical. Yet it is moving in a direction, it is revealing more and more, telling a deeper story about humanity and God, love and grace, truth and mercy. Many who have interpreted or sysyematized this great story have become reductionists, simply extrapolating doctrines to build a religion, to give a new moral code, to signify and conceptualize truth in its shortest form. (Note: I do believe in doctrines, and I consider myself mostly orthodox with traditional Christianity, yet I fear that we have reduced the elemental form of story and the drama that I believe is “inherent” to the text). Narrative can be truth, it can articulate the deepest truths that are incoherant in propositional form. “God is love” is both a statement conveying truth but also a story that is told in the Bible. We cannot thrive without both. The Bible is gravity for the Christian. It is direction, placement, connection. The story pulls us, makes us fall to our presuppositions, it humbles us by guiding us, it protects us because it gives us a place to be, it does not let us to float aimlessly.

I believe we must recover story, to remember the truth of story and compare and contrast its truths to the narratives of other cultures. We (as Christians) will only be meaningful and coherant if we let our alternative reality speak to other cultures, other realities. We will not be offering them a leave of gravity, but instead a realization of gravity’s true pull, and thus it will help them realize their placement and connection to this world.

 

For more discussion and for better analysis and articulation, see:

Bloggers…

Paul Littleton

Dino

Writers…

Walter Brueggemann, N.T. Wright, Lesslie Newbigin, and Brian McLaren

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