Thursday, October 20, 2005

Renegotiating Narratives

I have been thinking the last couple weeks about the seemingly dominant American narrative which I have affectionately dubbed the "Suburban Narrative." It has been something I have been thinking about for quite some time, but it has become somewhat crystallized for me the last couple weeks after leaving Oceanside and finishing this book.

I am right now in Dallas, a corporate center of America. Doug got me thinking about how Dallas and Orange County aren't really that different. Both are high disposable-income areas, they both support huge suburban communities and share similar stories of white flight and money. A perfect place to begin!

Okay, so the average person in America seems to think of success or fulfillment as an upward progression, a path of accumulation and comfort. This is, in fact, what drives the economy and work force of America in many ways I think. And this is 'normal'.

It seems that many people cannot even find their way out of this narrative, should they want to. Perhaps it's because many people don't see themselves in a story. Perhaps it's because there are so few other alternate narratives out there. Perhaps it's because most alternative narratives at some point sold out to the dominant narrative and were absorbed into it.

I'm not sure.

But what I'm fairly certain of is that Jesus offered a different narrative. It was a narrative of downward progression, of simplicity and service and poverty, of releasing the material to grasp at the relational, of discomfort that allowed for the purest form of contentment.

Perhaps this is a bit too big picture for some people. Perhaps some people still can't see Jesus beyond what their childhood pastor told them he was. Perhaps some people think the Suburban Narrative and this Self-Emptying Narrative can work hand in hand.

But I'm not so sure...

Will you help me in forging (or perhaps recovering) this Alternate Narrative?

3 comments: said...

You know, my college roommate and I used to laugh at the irony presented by Dallas and its sidekick Plano- or as we knew it "Sin City"...biblcizing yet money worshipping...and that definitely narrated the behavior of the majority of Baylorites.

It kind of also reminds me of a lot of my med school friends... they tell me a fairly large percentage of kids start off on the voyage to becoming a doctor with a lot of philanthropic ideas of doing medicine in Uganda, Honduras or even just in free-clinics in the states but fatigue along the way re-routes their plans into the Planos that are America.... because they start to think, "I've worked hard... I deserve some element of comfort."

but part of being kingdom minded is realising the work has just begun... there is just no room for surrendering to lesser things. as vince lombardi said, "fatigue makes cowards of us all."

Andrew said...

You make a great point here. I've been reading through Richard Foster's book, "The Freedom of Simplicity", and he makes a similar charge. We've just lost sight of sacrifice and have totally muddled the idea of what we really "need". Need for us now includes entertainment and stuff as opposed to meaningful relationships and community. I sit back in the area in which we live (Bradenton/Sarasota, FL) and just shake my head at the rise of megachurches that seemed intrinsically tied to the suburban shift. The thing that I find ironic is this: With all of these huge churches and affluence in the area, why is it that our community seems the same?

I wonder what Jesus would say...

Brian Aaby said...

Just finished Colossians Remixed myself... good post. People ARE trapped in this narrative and Scripture is being read through those dumbed down goggles.