The Power of Stories for a 'Post-Truth' Generation

Katherine Brown 4 weeks ago
Blog 3 mins
Found in: Church, Culture

Do you want to reach the next generation? Tell your story.

It’s not uncommon to hear a cultural commentator, theologian, political figure or friend state that we live in a ‘post-truth’ culture. I see this playing out around me; people seem to prioritise stories and emotions over objective facts. My peers and those younger than me are concerned with making sure that they are ‘being true to themselves’ and ‘living their truth'.

Before pointing a judgmental finger at them, I must confess I'm much more stirred by a story than I am by statistics and plain facts. Maybe that is the influence of marketing and cultural messaging, but I don’t think the power of storytelling is a new fad – writer Ursula Le Guin aptly puts it:  

‘There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.’1

This generation might be ‘post-truth’ and in many ways different to the generations that have gone before, but one thing that every generation, culture, and individual has in common is that we are, will, and have always been a storytelling people. The culture around us tells a compelling narrative and beckons a whole generation to go on a journey of self-discovery and self-fulfilment. Culture tells a story that is emotive, creative and persuasive. As Christians, we know that this story and the path it directs people to doesn’t lead to life and life in all its fullness, in fact it leads to death.

But there is good news.

We follow the one who is the master storyteller. Jesus told stories of farmers and fig trees, treasure and banquets, lost sheep and coins. There are so many moments where Jesus could just make a statement about God, but instead chooses to take the time to tell a really good story. With each story Jesus invites his listeners in, to make sense of their lives through that story and to dream of their future story. Jesus's stories are packed with culturally relatable examples and yet surprise the listener in how they describe who God is, and what following him is like.

When we fail to talk about sexuality as churches, we are allowing culture to disciple our young people with a half story.

In the context of human sexuality, this emerging generation is swimming in stories, trying to figure out who they are, how to live and love, dreaming of what their future will be like. The culture around offers a half-story, that promises to give them the things they want, but it’s an empty promise that can never fulfil. When we fail to talk about sexuality as churches, we are allowing culture to disciple our young people with this half story. It might make our lives more comfortable momentarily, avoiding conflict and awkward conversations, but we are at risk of losing a generation, a generation longing and looking for something more, for answers to their deepest longings, trying to figure out how to live.

The beauty of the God-story is that it’s not generic; when our stories collide with it, everything is exposed. God gets into the nitty gritty of every part of our lives. God does tell a better story for human sexuality, it’s surprising and radical, it requires all of us, no matter what our story and experience is, to lay down every part of our lives in submission to Christ.

Reaching this generation will require vulnerability, sharing what it looks like in our lives to follow Jesus in the area of sexuality and relationships, explaining how encountering the God-story has impacted our lives. This isn’t just for those who experience same-sex attraction, although those stories are needed and important, but for all of us. We all need to share how knowing Jesus has shaped the way we relate to desire and sexuality. If we go first, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, the younger generation is given permission to work out their stories within our church walls. By sharing our stories, we communicate to a generation that they too can share their story, that they’re not alone, and that the God-story can hold their story. The timeless God-story is ultimately the only story that leads to the fullness of life. It’s deeper, richer and more beautiful than any other story, and most importantly it is true.

  1. Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction (Ultramarine Publishing, 1980), p.31.