the story needs to change - from FAIRY-TALE to EPIC
Recently I told a story at my home church where I introduced the concept of "the fairy-tale controversy".
The genre of fairy-tale can be described as:
"a short narrative often used for children - often beginning with the phrase “Once upon a time …” - the story is often set in a far-away kingdom or forest, where human characters interact with magical or mystical beings. The good side ultimately triumphs over evil, and the promise of a happily ever after ending is realised.”
In the story, it was argued that the way in which the good news message of Jesus is communicated often resembles the story-line of a fairy-tale - where:
“The familiar canvas of the FAIRY TALE leads us through the battle between GOOD & EVIL and leads us to a life of HAPPILY EVER AFTER.”
Sure, the use of the term "fairy-tale" is a little controversial, but the point is that the canvas of the story we're telling has been smaller than what our culture seems to require.
When we've been condensing compelling stories to pamphlets, comic strips, and perhaps the odd feature film, our culture is exploring the wonder of deeper character development and morally complex plot lines found in film franchises and extended TV series.
It's a bewildering contradiction to observe a generation who have no trouble in binge-watching entire seasons on Netflix, when they are accused of lacking the ability to span their attention beyond 3 minutes.
Could it be that in the midst of our fleeting SnapChat stories, deep down we long for a larger canvas?
Which brings us to the 'modern epic':
"A long narrative poem written in elevated style, in which heroes of great historical or legendary importance perform valorous deeds. The setting is vast in scope, covering great nations, the world, or the universe, and the action is important to the history of a nation or people."
An epic shows us that we long to immerse ourselves (perhaps even escape) into the lives of the characters over an extended period of time and journey with them to shift the culture of a community, city or nation - as if we are writing history with them - where:
"The broader canvas of the MODERN EPIC leads us through the landscape of MORAL COMPLEXITY and leads us to the experience of TRANSCENDENCE."
If we moved from the canvas of 'fairy-tale' to that of 'modern epic' when it comes to the story of God ... what would that look like?
It is the mark of a good fairy-story, of the higher or more complete kind, that however wild its events, however fantastic or terrible the adventures, it can give to child or man that hears it, when the “turn” comes, a catch of the breath, a beat and lifting of the heart, near to (or indeed accompanied by) tears, as keen as that given by any form of literary art, and having a peculiar quality ... In such stories when the sudden “turn” comes we get a piercing glimpse of joy, and heart's desire, that for a moment passes outside the frame, rends indeed the very web of story, and lets a gleam come through.
I would venture to say that approaching the Christian Story from this direction, it has long been my feeling (a joyous feeling) that God redeemed the corrupt makingcreatures, men, in a way fitting to this aspect, as to others, of their strange nature. The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces all the essence of fairy-stories. They contain many marvels—peculiarly artistic, beautiful, and moving: ‘mythical’ in their perfect, self-contained significance; and among the marvels is the greatest and most complete conceivable eucatastrophe. But this story has entered History and the primary world; the desire and aspiration of sub-creation has been raised to the fulfillment of Creation. The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man’s history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation. This story begins and ends in joy. It has pre-eminently the ‘inner consistency of reality’. There is no tale ever told that men would rather find was true, and none which so many sceptical men have accepted as true on its own merits. For the Art of it has the supremely convincing tone of Primary Art, that is, of Creation. To reject it leads either to sadness or to wrath.”