Monday, February 23, 2009

Exploring Framing Stories(Part 1): What Are They?

As a photographer, one thing that you consider when taking a picture is what's called framing.  Framing Is deciding how to take the picture that best tells the story that you want to tell.  The picture here is one that I snapped while kayaking down the Colorado River on the Nevada boarder.  I decided that I wanted to capture the landscape and water, but I also wanted to frame the picture so that it told the story that we were kayaking in the middle of the beauty.  I also wanted it to tell the story that I was not alone, so I snuggled my kayak up next to my wife's (as close as we could get) to try and show the beauty and intimacy of our trip.  In other words, the story that I wanted to tell in the framing was that my wife and I were sharing in this beautiful experience in nature.  I know that myself and my wife are outside of the frame, but that is on purpose.  Framing stories don't always give away the full details at first glance.  

My Bible Study Group has been reading Brian McLaren's Everything Must Change on Sunday Nights and discussing it.  I have gotten far more out of the book this second time of reading because of 1) paying more attention to the details, and 2) because of the wonderfully insightful comments that have come from members of our group.  

One thing we talked about last night was the idea of the Framing Story: The story that informs how we understand and interpret life, culture, and religion.  Just like the picture analogy, the way that our story is framed and focused determines how we act and react to the world.  McLaren uses an example of 2 different religious/Christian framing stories.  

Conventional Framing Story: This says that basically we are all a sinful product of the choice of our Adam and Eve ancestors, and that we are all doomed to eternal punishment in hell because of this "original sin" and our "sinful nature".  Therefore, Jesus came to save our souls from hell and give our undeserving selves a chance to go to heaven because he took the place for us on the cross and through his resurrection and defeat of death.  However, this "grace", although offered to all, is only given to those who fall into the "selected category" (this is both the Calvinist view of predestination, and the view that only those who become a part of the selected religion, "Christianity").  "This is the Good News

In this framing story, the purpose of Christ was to "solve the problem of original sin, meaning that he helps qualified individuals not be sent to hell for their sin or imperfection.  In a sense, Jesus saves people...from the righteous wrath of God, which sinful human beings deserve because they have not perfectly fulfilled God's just expectations, expressed in God's moral laws.... Those who receive [offered grace] enjoy a personal relationship with God and seeks to serve and obey God, which produces a happier life on Earth and more rewards in Heaven".  (EMC pg. 78-79)

Emerging Framing Story: God created the world as good, but human beings have rebelled against God--both as individuals and groups-- and filled the world with evil and injustice.  God wants to heal humanity and the world from its sickness.  Left alone, humanity would spiral downward in this sickness and evil.  

Jesus came to address the question, "What must be done about the mess we're in?"  This question refers to the general state of the world as well as the specific context of "his contemporaries" living under domination of the Roman empire and the need for liberation.  

"Jesus' response to this says, 'I have been sent by God with this good news--that God loves humanity, even in its lostness,...God graciously invites any and all to turn from his or her current path and follow a new way.  ...You will be transformed, and you will participate in the transformation of the world, which is possible, beginning right now.' This is the good news. Jesus came to be the saviour of the world, meaning he came to save the earth and all it contains from its ongoing destruction because of [humanity]."(EMC pg. 78-80).

As part of his transforming community, we can experience liberation and participate in the liberation of others.  We can be partners in God's "global transformation and liberation," as well as deliverers of hope and justice.  

So here we are with 2 Christian Framing Stories.  It's kind-of like the picture.  I have other pictures taken where I zoomed in on the landscape.  The story that those frames tell is that I saw a canyon with  river.  But when I zoomed out and reframed the picture into its original context, we find that there is far more to the story than a pretty landscape.  We see a narrative form that involves a more accurate perspective: that we were actually floating on that pretty river between the canyon walls, which is a completely different experience altogether!

This is the same with looking at these different framing stories.  Many people are forsaking religion and church because they are working out of a different framing story than the conventional one put forward by our religion.  One that perhaps has zoomed in way too tightly in it's focus so that we've only been focusing on a portion of the picture.  Framing Stories are important, and I want to focus more on that in a second post.  

For right now, what do you think about "framing stories"?  What are other framing stories that you see or have experienced?  What does it mean when we are working with multiple framing stories under the same religion?   Where does this mean we go from here?

I know this is 101 for many people, but I am finding more and more people that need to hear this because they haven't heard it before.  I'll speak more about that in my second post.  

Your thoughts!

(Photo by Justin Bowman)

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