People love stories. Radio shows and podcasts that feature original storytelling remain popular year after year. The industries of television and movies have tremendously evolved over decades. We don’t ever seem to get bored of them. Well, maybe. But not enough to tune out completely. We just change the channel or surf a little deeper into the Netflix catalog foraging for a good story to entertain us. Did you ever wonder why people love stories? I used to think a good sermon was a theological exposition that distilled doctrinal truth from the less important story form in which the Bible passage was originally packaged. But then I noticed that people remembered the sermon illustrations—the stories—best. I found this even true of me. Story is a way to make sense and remember truth. It just might be the best way. That just seems to be the way God made us.
In his book, The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Long for and Echo the Truth (SWT), Mike Cosper contends that all our TV and movie watching is not just a waste of time. And it doesn’t have to be an escape from real life. If we contemplate the themes and underlying assumptions of what we’re watching, we may discover that many of those well-written, well-acted, and well-produced shows that draw us in are giving us glimpses of foundational truths woven into the fabric of creation. Even Honey Boo Boo has something to offer! (At least that’s what Cosper says.)
SWT is simply a great book, and quite fun to read. There is something for everyone here—I dare say even for the cultural elitist who shuns the popular storytelling of the boob tube and the silver screen. Cosper begins by explaining why we tell stories. He makes the case that, from a Christian perspective, because we are created in the image of God, we can’t help but see life as a story because God is weaving a Grand Narrative in history of Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Re-creation. Since we live in his world, it is only natural for us to see our lives as reflecting (in whole or part) certain aspects of history’s big story. We long to see how the individual stories of our lives fit into the larger narrative. For this reason the stories we tell are pregnant with meaning as they compare, contrast, and image the big story.