I was interviewed by Kristine Johnson recently for Voices in the Wilderness / The Sparrow’s Call (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEKanUz8D3djpUknXyIEhrw). One of the questions she asked was how I think story relates to culture. Having grown up in England, many stories I heard as a child centered on the Second World War. Even in the 60s and 70s, cities were still adorned with demolished blocks and massive holes in the ground. So even now, whenever I see such a hole, my first thought is “bomb damage.” Not so here in America, of course; here, there’s more likely a new building going up. So what difference does my “story” make? I suspect it makes me more of a pessimist — a building site reminds me of the destruction human beings can cause, while my American neighbor delights in what great things we create.
In England, church and state were intertwined, so my children learned their Bible stories from the same teacher who read fairytales to them. Faith became part of childhood’s fairytale culture to them, and ten-year-olds would happily announce they’d grown too old for church. But, in the States, my friends bemoan their separation of church and state that bans Bible stories from elementary school — my “story,” my experience, supports the separation; my friends’ opposes it.
Part of why I write Bible stories is in answer to my son’s schoolfriend who asked, “How can you still believe in fairytales?” I add science, history, archeology, and anything else I can think of to my Bible tales, hoping to make them read like adventures of real people in a real historical world (with a real God), because that’s what I think they are. If you’re thinking of the story of Easter this Easter season, maybe you’d like to read it in non-traditional, non-fairytale, wholly Biblical and hopefully historical form in my book Jerusalem Journey.
Meanwhile, what about your stories? My English background is filled with tales of Saxons invading the Celts, Vikings invading the Saxons, Normans invading the Vikings and more. If only the stories of refugees and immigrants from tyranny around the world could be added to that mix — how might that stem the rising tide of intolerance? And here in the States, if stories of slaves and tales of the Long Walk of the Navajo could be added to the “stories” our children accept and own, could that change things too?
I think the stories we grow up just might define, create, or destroy the cultures we grow up in. So I’ll try to be an optimist and believe our youth have more (and more honest) stories and more hope.