Calls for better storytelling are ubiquitous these days: better storytelling to sell more products, to connect people to people and people to causes, to win elections, etc. We’ve gone so far as to create a conference called and dedicated to, you guessed it, Story. So why all the fuss?
It’s because the best story usually wins.
The best stories captivate us. They simultaneously free our imaginations to roam and ground us in the realities of a character whose situations may mirror or contrast our own. But stories do more than entertain. Stories shape our moral imagination.
Speaking on the importance of good children’s literature, Meghan Cox Curdon, reviewer of children’s books for the Wall Street Journal recently said:
This is why good taste matters so much when it comes to books for children and young adults. Books tell children what to expect, what life is, what culture is, how we are expected to behave--what the spectrum is. Books don't just cater to tastes. They form tastes.
Excepting perhaps Duck Dynasty, you’d be hard pressed to find a popular storyline today that doesn’t present sexual disfunction and family breakdown as normative. That’s a real problem for the future of the marriage debate.
Our first task, as I see it, isn't about winning public policy fights. These are critically important mind you, but policy victories are usually the result of a hard won cultural consensus.* Rather, we need to think very clearly, and do the hard and deliberate work of recapturing the cultural imagination on marriage--demonstrating the beauty, mystery, and meaning of marriage. To do that will require storytellers, artists, and a whole host of folks who've yet to think about how their lives, art, and vocations might help point a watching world toward God and his purposes for marriage.
I’ve yet to meet someone doing marriage advocacy work who’d tell you that we’ve “arrived”--who claims that we are telling our story well. In fact, it’s likely just the opposite. We’re sitting on a treasure trove of social science data on the primacy of marriage for human flourishing; we’ve got the theological keys for interpreting why marriage is so beautiful (hard, but worthwhile); we’ve got natural law philosophers creating an airtight case for natural marriage. And yet our arguments for why marriage tend to fall flat. Like the dog spinning his paws on the linoleum, we just can’t seem to get traction.
So here’s to remedying that.
I’m excited to share with you that this month we’re going to be featuring a series of posts focused on marriage and the imagination. We’ll look at literature, film, graphic novels, and chat it up with story-buffs (is that a real thing?) about how we just might turn the ship around and recapture the cultural imagination on marriage.
I hope you’ll join us.
* The most obvious counterexample being when the democratic process is short-circuited by activist jurists. Our marriage policy debate in America over the last decade is replete with examples of judicial fiat embittering the healthy debate over marriage.Media: