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103. When Christians Clash in Public, Can Great Stories Help Us Fight for Peace?

Great stories might help us best discern Christian debates, training our hearts so we can focus on engaging ideas, not attacking individuals.
Fantastical Truth on Mar 15, 2022 · 1 comment

Christians have deep differences about ideas and people. Yes, it’s true! For nearly 2,000 years of Church history, we’ve argued about salvation, end times, baptism, and beyond—including fantastical stories. If Christians didn’t argue about stuff, you wouldn’t be listening now. But now over social media, it feels like Christians are battling even more fiercely about politics, Christian leaders, Church failings, and how we engage with good and bad ideas in our culture. We’ve touched on these issues ourselves, but this time, let’s explore how great stories might help us best discern these debates, and even fight for peace.

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1. The Church is Christ’s bride, yet they have always argued ideas.

  • To review, the Church is amazing, but its people have always fought.
  • In contrast, some people assume the early Church was simply perfect.
  • Nope: apostles debated tactics, Saul’s conversion, meat sacrificed to idols.
  • Even separate Christian “denominations” appeared early, if not by name.
  • 1 Corinthians reveals “super-apostle” issues. Galatians reveals legalistic leaders.
  • We live in God’s real world, where Christians fight. That’s just inevitable.
  • Therefore, Christians denominations are okay, and we may need to debate.

2. Many Christian social-media fights aren’t about ideas, but people.

  • To explore what we mean, we need to dare getting more specific.
  • We’re very sympathetic to folks with legit horrid church trauma.
  • At the same time, this trauma can be turned into a moral currency to spend.
  • That’s what Stephen means by saying, “The Church Back Home syndrome.”
  • People often use “ideas,” “history,” or “politics” as language for personal issues.
  • For example, the Russian attack on Ukraine may invite imaginative projection.
  • Or with border policy, people imagine themselves outside or inside “the wall.”
  • In either case, it’s not really about issues of war or borders, but about people.
  • It feels intellectually dishonest or unnecessary to deny these imaginations.
  • We are not pure-logicians, brains in tanks. We are people, often with real pains.

3. To respect people, and heal from personal pain, we need art and fiction.

  • Stephen has argued that many Christians make politics a new “pop culture.”
  • This habit may suppress the truth of our God-given imaginations.
  • For folks with real church trauma, we don’t have fictional outlets to explore it.
  • Folks who’ve seen only conflict (not trauma) are drawn to loud explanations for it.
  • Either group must stop using politics, ideas, debates as evasive language.
  • We need to stop projecting our personal villains atop real people’s faces.
  • C. S. Lewis referred to such personal slurs as Bulverism, complete with origin story.
  • Stories can help us “cool” by revealing wonders that put our debates in perspective.
  • Lewis, again, shared the example of people coming up for refreshment on a ship’s deck.
  • We realize many such stories have benefited us in the past, even testing “deconstruction.”
  • Examples include Adventures in Odyssey and Frank Peretti’s novel The Visitation.
  • Admittedly, right now we see few fantastical stories about these overt themes.
  • Yet for many readers, even simple stories about loneliness/anger may help.
  • However, this help would require confessing the sin of evading this pain with “debates.”
  • Great fantasy reminds us that fighting isn’t always bad, but sinful anger is.
  • Great sci-fi also helps us test ideas in the simulacrum of imagination.
  • And great horror tales remind us that sin/abuse is evil and will be punished.

Com station

Tim replied to Josiah DeGraaf’s article about The Seventh Sun:

I’d be curious as to how this conversation intersects with the cultural appropriation debate. Many of the Goodreads reviews for The Seventh Sun are very negative regarding Forbes’s handling of Mesoamerican culture and characters, in great part because she’s a white author and her own culture/beliefs are evident in the story (which many argue disrespects the culture that inspired her work). Yet at the same time, as your article just mentioned, Forbes may make some Christians uncomfortable (in a good way) causing them to relate to and sympathize with people who believe something that is clearly false and destructive (which is a much stronger foundation for evangelism than mockery of cartoonish unbelievers).

Next on Fantastical Truth

What if you were a pending-Christian named Christian, living in a city doomed for destruction called The City of Destruction, and you found a scroll that told you about your burden of sin, so that you grew a burden of sin, then set out on a quest for Christ’s redemption and to fight hypocrites, legalists, atheists, giants, and monsters in the most famous allegory-laden land in all Christian fantastical literature? Yes, Pilgrim’s Progress counts as fantasy, inheriting a long and glorious tradition of Christians making up fantastic allegories for spiritual reality. Now author Zachary Bartels has adapted John Bunyan’s tale for dramatic podcast format, and he’ll pass through the Wicket-gate to explore some Bunyan, Puritanical symbolism, and how we can re-appreciate allegory.

Fantastical Truth
Fantastical Truth

Lorehaven explores fantastical stories for God's glory: fantasy, sci-fi, and beyond.

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    In the Fantastical Truth podcast from Lorehaven, hosts E. Stephen Burnett and Zackary Russell explore fantastical stories for God's glory and apply their wonders to the real world Jesus calls us to serve.
    1. notleia says:

      “Real” church trauma. Oof, that conditional is offering a lot of tasty passive-aggression.

      Also, oof, Pilgrim’s Progress. I have reservations about that work, because while it is Important, it is also clunky and tiresome, and we’re missing 80% of the context because most of us don’t have a ready knowledge of 1600s society, politics, and denominational warfare (like, literally warfare). Even with the anvilicious symbolism, a modern reader is only gonna get a passing acquaintance with the authorial intent. I should look through my old anthologies and see how many footnotes are clustered in there.

    What say you?