Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TV and Parables of our Time

A recent program from Speaking of Faith caught my attention with the title "TV and Parables of our Time." Excerpts from the description of this program are as follows:

"We explore television as a center of storytelling in U.S. culture — and listen in on intriguing, important themes of our time being played out in a new generation of shows like Lost, The Wire, House, and Battlestar Galactica that now have eternal life online. Our guest, Diane Winston, appreciates good television, studies it, and brings many of its creators into her religion and media classes at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California."

Under the subheading of "Reenchanting the World Through New Styles of Storytelling," we find this:

"Yet, happily, as much as this conversation confirms my sense of the gravitas of the new shows — on medical ethics; "the other"; the human encounter with its own technology; religious fundamentalism; and the human condition — it also helps me relax and enjoy them. Diane Winston reminds me that there is an innate value and pleasure in the very act of storytelling, a pleasure we need as human beings and have lost in much of Western culture. The power of stories to engage, provoke, disturb, and delight — to "reenchant the world," as Winston puts it — are precisely what make them so resonant in the realms of human relationship, politics, war, and peace. Television series do this differently than other media and institutions. But they may play an essential role alongside newspapers and religion if the story of our time is to evolve and yield new possibilities."

In my view three aspects of this program are worth reflecting on by evangelicals. First, we need to recognize the significance of storytelling in communication and in the inspiration of the human imagination. We need to create space for this alongside our tendencies toward propositional communication forms. Second, television and the stories it relays are significant aspects of people's lives beyond the mere entertainment value. Indeed, it presents narratives through which individuals situate their own lives and navigate the world around them. Third, more imaginative and fantastic forms of programming are significant in their facilitation of a re-enchantment process that moves us beyond secularization. We should be asking ourselves how such considerations should inform our expression and living of the Christian narrative.

This radio program can be listened to here.

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