Narrative Interventions

By David Ramos

Yesterday as I celebrated Easter at my church a soloist sang a song with a lyric that said, “Jesus changed the story.” I was at once jettisoned to the idea of narrative psychology and narrative theology. I smiled as my mind began to conduct “loop the loops” and I thought of post-modernist ideas of narratives, social-constructionist ideas of identity, along with memories of my beloved Hispanic Pentecostal liturgical practices of sharing “El testimonio de uno” (sharing one’s testimony). As a youth, I remember listening to untold hours of people sharing their personal narratives amidst shouts and hallelujahs, underscoring how Jesus “changed their story.” There was a pivotal moment within the lives of these people, often described in graphic detail replete with characters, context, time-lines, plot-twists, supernatural villains, and conflict, but alas always with redemption and resolution. As a youth, I had a front row seat to this ever-unfolding drama, this bleeding edge of existential transformation! I witnessed up front and personally, drug addicts become pastors, prostitutes become evangelists, gangsters become deacons, and thieves become treasurers. There, under the shadow of the Gowanus Expressway in Brooklyn, New York, heaven seemed to crack open and God intervene!

There are obviously not only personal narratives but collective narratives that form the locus of identity for people and are in need of God’s intervention. Lamentably some collective narratives and/or collective theologies become marginalized or are considered anomalous to the dominant narrative. Michael Foucault speaks lucidly about the issue of power and the marginalization of various “knowledges.” According to Foucault there are times when “subjugated knowledges” need to conduct an “insurrection” in order to break through and be heard. What is needed both for individuals as well as for whole communities is the necessary act of re-authoring their own narratives. In light of the ever increasing blurring lines between entertainment and journalism, the homogenization of reported “knowledge” by networks, the commodification of the sacred, and the oppression of the individual voices in favor of group think, we are in dire need of seers, prophets, activists, compassionate pastors, and global teachers who can challenge the dominant narratives as well as create apertures for emerging narratives. We need a revival of regional, local and indigenous voices within the global spectrum of communication and community engagement; we need God to intervene within our individual, regional and national narratives!

As the future of nations hang in the balance between war and global financial meltdown, we need leaders of courage, integrity and strength who will intrepidly name the prognosis, make difficult choices and prescribe the necessary intervention(s). Perhaps we can avert disaster and we too can collectively sing shouts of praise for God intervening and changing our story from the shadows of history.

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