It Makes a Good Story

A god or leader who rules with an iron fist must always live in fear. Someone is always lurking in the shadows ready to take him or her down at the slightest opportunity. That kind of god or antihero–ruthless, vindictive, and self-serving–is represented in most popular stories and philosophies, both ancient and modern.

The notion of that kind of god–and the reality of that kind of human–has been a rich source of entertainment for millennia. Entertainment requires conflict and the idea that good must fight hard against evil and barely overcome by chance or by that final exertion of impossible human effort or skill. It must involve a fight to “break free” or “follow your heart” or “live outside the lines.” A good story requires that kind of god or limiting force to fight against. Vast and intricate monuments and buildings are erected to represent or appease the god who requires blind obedience and mindless sacrifice.

These stories play out on small stages everywhere, in churches and movie theaters alike. It makes a good and profitable story. We want good to win, but only by a narrow margin, and we want to be the heroes.

But what if the real story is playing out on a much larger stage? What if there is a real God who never has ruled and never will rule with an iron fist, yet takes full responsibility nonetheless–with broader and more benevolent purpose? What if the real story involves a different sort of conflict where the margin of victory isn’t narrow at all and conflict itself is to be done away with entirely? What if he exists without fear of process or outcome? How could we find that kind of story entertaining?

Could it be that we do not embrace the larger narrative because we are in love with our smaller ones and their inherent elements of conflict and insurmountable human spirit? Is it possible that peace never really was our goal because, if we’re honest, we really don’t think it makes a good story?

Perhaps the larger narrative makes an even better story. Perhaps it is the only true story. Perhaps the real tragedy is the fact that we live our lives on a vast stage, yet miss the performance altogether.

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