Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Telling Stories, or Why I Am So Interested in "Jericho"

Okay, so here it is.
I am interested (as I hope you can see from reading my sermons) in how we communicate our faith through stories, both our own and story of how we are connected through the larger story of God's interaction with human people.
So, here's where Jericho comes in (yes, I've touched on this before. Tough. This blog is the place where I think on the computer.). I got caught up in a serial drama, the story of a small Kansas town in the wake of a nuclear attack. CBS did a pretty great job of creating people I was interested in, who's stories I wanted to see more of, who I empathized with. And then, after a really great cliffhanger at the end of the first season, it was cancelled.
This has happened to me before. It's why I prefer shows like House and CSI: all the drama is neatly tied up at the end of the show, and it's not too hard to pick up the few threads than wander from week to week. I had said (famous last words) that I wouldn't watch any more shows like Jericho because all the stuff I live (except the above, of course) get cancelled. But I got sucked into this one.
After we heard it had been cancelled, I started to hear about this incredible web effort to save the show. The Nuts campaign has been amazing. Fans have purchased more than 13 tons (yes tons) of peanuts to be delivered to CBS in protest. The number of websites and Google hits related to the show has skyrocketed in the last 2 weeks. And it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. I suspect they are nearing a tipping point, where the mainline media (already on the scent) will take up the story and force a response from CBS.
And why has this happened?
Because of a story. We found pieces of ourselves in Johnston and Gail, Eric and Jake, Heather and Emily and Dale and all the other characters, and they became a part of us. And CBS fed this with a great web presence, not just a self-promoting fan site but an intentional forum for the creation of a Jericho community. They succeeded, beyond their wildest dreams, or maybe their wildest nightmares, because now it's come back to bite them...or bury them in nuts.
So what I am really interested in, in the midst of all this, is what makes stories so compelling that they become a part of us. Why aren't Christians telling our faith story in such a way that we create the kind of community that spontaneously rallies around its members, even those we don't know personally? How can we tell and understand our faith stories and locate them in the larger context of God's relationship with creation so that it becomes, like the Save Jericho campaign, viral...spreading like wildfire, contagious and maybe even untreatable (more on that and Ben's theories on how the church inoculates us against faith later)? What can we learn from Jericho?
Donald Miller: "The chief role of a Christian is to be a better storyteller."

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