Saturday, 15 January 2011

Influence of Framing Stories

At Workshop session in May 2010, Stuart Murray talked of the importance of the framing story when interpreting Jesus' actions and words. His examples revolved around the context of Jesus' life and ministry and the changes caused by the church becoming the state religion.

In "Squirrel Inc.", Stephen Denning (2004) talks of a challenge in the framing story in the context of saving a business. However that framing story is really about the nature of the business not the overall business philosophy.

As I look at and hear the British government talking of how to restore the economy, I realise just how influential the framing story is. The government can see no alternative to massive spending cuts and throwing the most vulnerable into positions of difficulty. The economic dependency on money and a balanced financial set of books dominates the thinking.

This context has led me to think more about framing stories and how to encourage change in the framing story. This requires understanding the possible framing stories.

Stuart Murray portrayed a framing story of empire that saw the church become the state religion. As a consequence, it accepted force as a means of conversion to the faith and conformity as an indication of commitment. But Stuart also talked of how Jesus' ministry could be seen as revolutionary and challenging the authority of Rome and the established religious authorities.

Looking at our economic framing story, it primarily revolves around growth in a context where resources exceed what is needed. From a Christian perspective, this leads to the prosperity gospel. From a business perspective, the focus is on profit. The difficulty comes when growth does not occur. The framing story fails but people go on believing that it is the way to achieve things. If growth isn't there, then the business of government must cut costs in order to balance the books and ensure profitability. Those discarded are those regarded as having limited skills. These are the people who can least afford to be without an income. The framing story fails to deliver the desired prosperity but the framing story isn't challenged.

For the environmentalist, the proclaimed framing story is one of sustainability but although they argue for balanced use of resources and ensuring an ongoing productivity, they have not discarded the notion of profit that depends on a framing story of growth.

What I contend is that the framing stories based on the authority of the state (absolute power), growth, and sustainability are all flawed. They don't bring the desired benefits to the people or more accurately to all of the creation. We need a different framing story.

I am seeing this different framing story as that of Shalom. That is being at peace with one another and creation, bringing fullness and completeness to all, developing the full potential of all of creation, and overriding ruling or co-operating together by love.

I am not sure that I fully comprehend the impact but I see it as more encompassing and more importantly doing away with the notion of profit and growth in a financial sense. Shalom's overriding principle is the welfare of the other be it a person, animal, or nature. Exploitation for personal gain is discarded. It is for the gain or enhancement of all that we should be focused on.


Mission & Compassion - Expressing love and truth. (2010). Workshop - because faith is a journey. Course Notes. Anvil Trust.

Denning, S. (2004). Squirrel Inc.: A fable of leadership through storytelling. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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