The Treachery of Narratives

I have just guest posted over on Mere Orthodoxy. Taking a recent Vanity Fair story on the unravelling of the narratives of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos and the failure of various prominent feminist icons as my starting point, I discuss the dangerous power that attractive narratives  can hold over us and the damage that they can cause to our witness when not approached critically:

Without a corresponding and self-denying critical and investigatory commitment, our natural appetite for and attraction to icons and narratives can prove one of the deepest threats to the credibility of the witness of our churches and to the well-being of those within them. Rather than experiencing schadenfreude or a sense of moral superiority as we examine the wreckage of compelling narratives like Elizabeth Holmes’ that hoodwinked other communities, now is the time to recognize and to learn to resist the same instincts in ourselves.

Narratives have a natural hold upon us and much has been written upon the need to celebrate and make the most of ‘narrative’ as Christians. Indeed, much recent theological reflection takes the form of first person narrative. However, while narrative can be powerful and worthwhile and there are things worth celebrating in our narrative instinct, that same instinct can be one of the most powerful snares in the lives of our communities. If we are going to have a healthy narrative instinct, it must necessarily be accompanied by a counteractive force, an anti-narrative impulse that unsettles and disrupts the narratives that, left unchecked, can so easily control and blind us to unwelcome truths.

Read the whole piece here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, In the News, Politics, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Treachery of Narratives

  1. quinnjones2 says:

    Excellent, Alastair, and so timely.
    ‘We are safest in places where prominent figures are not immune to close scrutiny.’ Absolutely.

  2. Andrew says:

    “Those warnings will often come from people we instinctively dislike.”

    To push this further, the warnings will often be taken as proof that our dislike is justified. And if the warnings prove true, we will avoid examining why a dislikable person would offer accurate warnings.

    (That said, there’s an opposite failing to be wary of: the person who issues warnings about anything and everything, and when one of them comes true says “I told you so” and we laud them for their insight).

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