Monday, 27 December 2010

Framing stories

McLaren (2007) describes the framing story for the Roman empire (p 83-86) and the views of Jesus that he feels exist. The views of Jesus either see his 'good news' as an offer for a better future in the next life (sin and salvation through Jesus) or as a challenge to the framing stories of his day (the bringing of God's kingdom to this world). The second views, McLaren calls the 'emerging view.'

However, it is his narrative of the empires framing story that drives this reflection. It is a framing story that promises peace and security except for ... . I would argue has the framing story changed? We may not have the old style slaves but people are still being enslaved so the wealthy can enjoy the comforts of a peaceable life.

McLaren does make an attempt to show how this empire framing story has been played out again and again (pp 88) but he doesn't seem to make the connection with the culture of a capitalist economy. Colonisation saw western countries build empires controlled from the home country. The new source of power or promise of security is through economic conformity to a system of credit and debt. Financial prosperity offers the new opportunity for peace and security but the freedoms are removed through enslaving forces of debt and the drive for greater prosperity.

I still have a long way to go in my reading and maybe, McLaren addresses these issues in the 'equity' system. However, it is clear that our western culture and its related financial mechanisms are little more that another form of the empire framing story. It promises peace and security but not to all. It encourages a new level of conformity through enslaving to an economic system, and it continues to use force to put down those around its borders who might want to see things through a different economic picture.

The sad part of this framing story is that the Christian church has been and still is part of building that empire. There are those around its borders who think differently but they are still to a large extent regarded as heretics by the most vocal and visible Christian denominations. The church in its many forms has taken on the framing story of capitalist economics and seems unable to break free.


McLaren, B. D. (2007). Everything must change: when the world's biggest problems and Jesus' good news collide. Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Framing Stories

What are the consequences of the framing stories in which Christians interpret the gospel message and what are the consequences of using those framing stories?

One of the framing stories could be that of building an empire or Christendom. Here there is a desire to be in a position of power and authority so that the Christian morals and standards become those of the empire. The consequence is adherence to belief and moral codes by force and not by a conscious free will decision.

Empire building has other consequences such as the acceptance of force to subdue opposition to the empire. This may even be to force into submission to the faith.

The empire building framing story still continues even though Christianity isn't seen any longer as the state religion. There are those who seek to be in the corridors of power simply to ensure that the laws of the land enforce what they see as being Christian morals.

A second framing story is that of the prosperity gospel. In this framing story financial success is seen as a symbol of strong faith. As wealth increases, so do the defences to protect that wealth. Security fences and alarm systems replace open interaction with neighbours. The preachers parade the trappings of wealth surrounded by their body guards while less successful members of their congregations suffer in poverty while trying to maintain the practices of prosperity preached from the pulpit. Inequality runs riot and questionable financial practices become the norm since wealth is God's blessing for faith.

A third framing story is that of putting others first. Maybe this isn't a good wording but the focus of this framing story is building an equitable and sustainable society. Not all advances in technology are seen as good. They are evaluated based on their ability to maintain balance and equality. Love becomes the primary focus and self gain is put aside.

The final framing story is that of poverty and separation. In this story, the believer separates from the world to avoid contamination by it. They live a subsistence life style free of the trappings of the surrounding culture. But, the separation means that they do not participate in society or have any influence in it. Instead, they have an enforced separation that ensures that their faith remains free of all contamination.

I would like to think that I lean toward the third framing story but I am aware that my faith has been influenced by some of the others.

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