On February 24, 2010

Alternative Stories

In the book, Super-Freakenomics, the authors begin with a curious story about what happened when cable television came to villages in India. Which doesn’t sound like it’d be that interesting. I mean nobody wants to read about what cable has done for my life.

But this is actually fascinating. Because cable television didn’t come to every village. Only some villages got the blessing we know of as ESPN, leaving others wondering just what team did Antawn Jamison go to? But what this situation did, is let economist know exactly what kind of impact introducing Television had on the rural, Indian culture. And the results might surprise you.

Indian women, as they noticed, faced inequity at every turn. The majority of Indian men surveyed said that beating a wife was sometimes justifiable, and what’s more surprising is that more women agreed to this than men. The women said that if they burnt dinner, or left house without letting the husband know where they were going, than they deserved to beaten.

But not after Cable television.

The study that Super-Freakenomics cited, showed that after some time with Cable T.V. economist’s found that women were much less likely to think that being beaten was acceptable, or that their 13 year old daughter should drop out of school. They found, in other words, that they were worth more.

Which leads to the question, “What shows were they watching?”

The book of Genesis, from chapter 12 on, is basically a massive narrative of the family of Abraham, and their unfolding story. Complete with scandal and honor, reproach and regard. It’s a story about humans being humans with all the good and ills, nothing is held back. But it is very focused. After all, it’s a story about a certain kind of family, the family of Abraham, that is being told.

Until chapter 36.

Because in chapter 36 something happens that Rabbi’s are still trying to understand thousands of years later.

Genesis goes into the genealogy of the Edomites. Who are not of the family of Abraham, in fact they are some of the Israelites worst enemies. Goliath was an Edomite, Herod was half Edomite. There’s no love lost between these two groups of people, so why in the world would Genesis tell their story?

They should get their own Bible, or at the most be just a footnote in this one. They don’t need their own chapter. But one theory that the Rabbi’s put forward is that Genesis tells their story to remind the family of Abraham, that their’s isn’t the only family that God loves. That in fact, God loves the very people they are the most reluctant to care for.

And God does this by telling, in the middle of their story an alternative one.

The truth is that we can get pretty myopic. We can develop tunnel vision pretty easily. We have this tilt to begin to think this whole thing is about us, and that the world revolves around an axis above our house. And God breaks into that monotony by showing us there are more stories than our own.

Which is what Economist’s discovered had happened in India with Cable Television.

There are not just a ton of merits to mass media on the family, but one of them is here. Women stopped allowing themselves to be treated like cattle if they discovered that women were worth something.  They watched Indian soap opera’s and saw women not being treated badly and began to refuse that to happen to themselves.

Which is what the Scriptures are trying to do constantly. There a real sense of counter-cultural in the Bible, but the problem is we have learned how to tame it. We’ve learned that if we emphasize certain passages and not talk about others than Scripture can just reinforce whatever status quo we like.

And that’s why we need to pay attention to what Scot McKnight calls the “blue parakeets” of the Bible. The passages that make us uncomfortable and uneasy, that stretch and challenge us. Because it’s highly unlikely that God doesn’t want to change our stories some. He’s consistently revising, rewriting and reshaping our stories, forcing his people to bump into narratives that they aren’t used to.

Because you’re story’s not the only out there.

Because God cares about more people than just you.

Even the Edomites.

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  • Derek

    It is amazing what God will do when you open your heart to the “passages that make us uncomfortable and uneasy, that stretch and challenge us.” God has been working on me and my wife for the past year to adopt an orphan from Ethiopia. He has finally responded YES so many times to our prayers asking for His confirmation that we are following His call. He has also been speaking to us through you and Rick’s sermons as well as your blog. You can check out my wife’s blog at http://www.cheathamchat.blogspot.com. Check out the post from last Monday “Changing our story…” Looks like this was two days before this post. One more confirmation!

    Thanks for allowing God to speak to us through you. He is So Good!

  • http://www.stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Derek, thanks so much for sharing that! What a great story!

    My favorite line was “We have decided to not keep the status quo that our family is. God has asked us to follow His call, and we are obeying.”

    That’s great, I’m glad to be a part of a community your family belongs to.

  • http://www.cnatrainingblog.com CNA Training

    Couldnt agree more with that, very attractive article