Engaging with the Stories Around Us

BY CAT CAIRD

Our culture loves stories. You can tell this by how much money is invested in bringing stories to us via the cinema, TV, books and increasingly, video games. We thrive on a good story that draws us in, whether that’s a hero saving the world, finding true love or a slave finding freedom. Stories not only transport us to a different world but they can teach us and shape us.

As Terry Pratchett writes in his book Witches Abroad, “People think that stories are shaped by people. In fact, it’s the other way around.” As Christians surrounded by stories that are significantly shaping the culture around us, you have to ask; “how should I respond?” In my experience, we often approach this either of two ways:

1.  We avoid the stories being told, never watching any secular films or reading any secular books, keeping ourselves in a tight Christian bubble. 2.  We are like a sponge soaking up everything that culture throws at us without question. If what Terry Pratchett says is true, that we are all shaped by the stories we hear and see, then these two approaches are perhaps not all that helpful if we want to speak of a better story found in the Gospel.

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It’s reminiscent of Paul in Athens in Acts 17, where he stands in the city and he looks around him. He perceives what the idols were in that culture, listening to the stories around him and then spent time engaging and reasoning with the people in the synagogue and in the market place. He wasn’t shy to quote from their literature and then speak truth about God.

I believe we can do the same. We can look around at our culture and the stories that are being told and we can see where the idols are and then begin to untangle false hope by sharing the Gospel. We can equally spend time investigating where there is truth and goodness in those stories and celebrate it, showing people the true hero and saviour they desire.

How do we best do this? I think it must start with us asking questions about the stories being told. This is a key part of apologetics and engaging with the culture around us. Ted Turnau in his book Popologetics gives five key questions you could ask when you next watch a film or read a book or even play a video game:

1.  What’s the story?

2.  What type of world are you in?

3.  What is good and true and beautiful about it?

4.  What’s false and ugly and perverse about it?

5.  How does the Gospel apply here?

The world yearns for something better and it has seeped into the ink of the pages we read and the pixels on the screen we watch. As we ask these questions, we begin to see those echoes of the Gospel in our world and we start to see more opportunities to share a better story.

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Cat Caird writes for her blog Sunshine Lenses about finding the bible in popular culture.

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