Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

What Happens to a Narrative Dried Up like a Raisin in the Sun?

December 05th, 2013 by Adam G.

 

bread and water - sacrament Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds forth out of the mouth of the father.

There is a mystical meaning in that saying. Christ is the Word, but the Father speaks other words, and those words too are made flesh. But the plain meaning of this saying of the Lord’s cannot be overlooked. Bread feeds the body, but the words of God feed the soul. We need meaning and purpose like we need food. In modern times we say there is a god-shaped soul in the human heart or we say that when you cease to believe in God, you don’t believe in nothing; you believe in anything. It is the same idea.

Most of that meaning and purpose comes from stories. These stories explain our lives and provide models for us. The scriptures are full of stories. They are not a gospel principles manual or a creed or a catechism. Nephi tried to be like Moses and lead his people to the promised land. Now we try to be like Nephi. The temple endowment is a story. Baptism is a story in which we die and come to life again to live like Christ, and then try to pattern ourselves on Him. The sealing is a story in which we mimic in this world below the family arrangement that is the basic reality of the universe.

The 1960s are a story. There are a couple of competing versions, but the basic story is the story of the civil rights movement. An oppressed people and their young, courageous allies faced up to brutality and indifference and through their own heroism and refusal to be silent engaged the conscience of nation and won civic equality. It is a heroic narrative. It is even, as far as these things can ever be, mostly factual.

It is a good story when its means that black Americans belong and black America should be treated with respect. It is a bad story when it is made into a model that must be re-enacted.

In order to maintain a self-image of heroic radicalism – and in order to justify funding, influence and status – great leaps of imagination or paranoia may be required. Hence the goal posts of persecution tend to move and new and rarer forms of exploitation and injustice have to be discovered, many of which are curiously invisible to the untutored eye. Thus, the rebel academic tends towards extremism, intolerance and absurdity, not because the mainstream of society is becoming more racist, prejudiced, patriarchal or oppressive – but precisely because it isn’t. As mainstream society becomes less fixated by race, gender, sexuality, etc., so peddlers of grievance and victimhood must search out – or invent – something to oppose. Overstatement and escalation are all but inevitable.

The liberation narrative first moves on to lesser targets, like liberating women from skeezy bosses or marriage rights for the small percentage of the small percentage of the population that is homosexual that wants to marry, to the ludicrous, like the protest pants movement, to active deceit, slander, and fraud.

Don Quijote didn’t charge the windmills because he was mad.

Don Quijote charges the windmill

He charged them because his narrative required giants, so giants there must be.

Mormons have our own persecution narrative. It is less malign, because it is balanced out with a number of other narratives and is disciplined by the master narrative of imitating Christ. But it still needs to be watched. All of our narratives need to be watched. Forcing facts to fit a cherished narrative may be the most dangerous form of ark-steadying in the modern world. Wait on the Lord. It is his word, not your imitation of it, that giveth life.

Comments (5)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , , , , , ,
December 05th, 2013 13:03:35
5 comments

Vader
December 5, 2013

Indeed. I am no friend of those who opposed the Church on Proposition 8, but I worry that the white powder anonymously mailed to the Salt Lake Temple was mailed by an active, “faithful” Mormon.


Agellius
December 5, 2013

“Forcing facts to fit a cherished narrative may be the most dangerous form of ark-steadying in the modern world.”

What a great sentence.


Bruce Charlton
December 5, 2013

” There are a couple of competing versions, but the basic story is the story of the civil rights movement. ”

According to Shelby Steele and Thomas Sowell – whose accounts have the ring of truth to my ear – the standard ‘basic story’ of the civil right era is almost upside down.


Man SL
December 5, 2013

Where can I read their accounts?


Bruce Charlton
December 6, 2013

@Man SL – I think it was White Guilt by Shelby Steele – a very thorough account; but I think this is Steele’s one big theme, and seems to be present in all his writings.

I have read such a lot of Sowell that I can’t really remember where I read this specific thing – presumably one of his books about race and affirmative action – but, in general, I would strongly recommend his autobiography A Personal Odyssey which is full of all kinds of fascinating observations from before and after the ‘civil rights’ era.

Leave a Reply