Have you ever noticed that humans have an innate need for story? That may seem kind of a strange question. You may not have thought of it before, but I sometimes wonder why I have an intense need for story. It seems like a strange kind of a need to, well, need. But I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one. Look at the abundance of movie sites and theatres. And who are the popular heroes of our day? The ones who star in our celluloid stories. (Then we end up consumed with the real-life stories of these people.) This is not a recent phenomena proving the corruption of our times. Good story-tellers have always been revered.
There is something buried in our natures that responds to a story. It’s stronger for some of us than for others, but I think it’s there for all of us. Why? Is it mere escapism? Are our lives so bad that we only feel better by hearing a story about someone else who had it worse, and then hearing how it all came right in the end? I think it’s deeper than that, even. I think this thirst for story is written into our natures because Story is the true nature of things. A romance story, even. Happy ending included.
Let’s analyze a little: What is it about a story that makes it a story? Let’s start there. First, a story must have characters. It must have personalities acting and reacting and interacting. Then, a story has movement. It has forward movement. It has a beginning. Then it has a conflict, it has a climax, it has a resolution, and it must have an ending. If a story doesn’t have a proper ending, we don’t see purpose, and purpose is the essential element in story. We feel a need to see things tie together and go as they ought. We like a little surprise, too, but a satisfactory ending is a must. Even if it’s not a happy ending, it must have an ending where we can see the point behind the story.
All those elements are what make up plot or drama.
For some reason, I got thinking about this subject while lying awake with insomnia one night. I started comparing the little bit of knowledge I have about different world religions and analyzing them in regards to this matter of story. I came to the conclusion that, of all the religions I’m at all familiar with, none of them other than Judaism or Christianity has the forward movement required to be Story (and Judaism-minus-Christianity must always be admitted to be the first installment of a “to be continued…” sequel. There is an unfinishedness to the Old Testament. It ends in breathless, cliffhanger expectation).
Hinduism has a circular movement: the hamster on the wheel of karma and reincarnation. Buddhism has a backward movement of renunciation. The ideal state in Buddhism is the extinguishing of desire rather than its fulfillment (in contrast to Christianity which teaches that desires are meant to be fulfilled and whose whole business is pointing the way to the only real source of their fulfillment). In Buddhism, the snuffing of the candle is nirvana. It’s a backward movement towards cessation. Islam is stationary on its five pillars. With fatalism, everything is set in stone. Only in the Bible do we see the forward movement of story, of plot, of drama — not a forever movement because there is a “happily ever after,” a crossing of the finish line. The goal of a story is its finish.
Amongst religions, only in Christianity do we see a protagonist and a villain, a beginning, a conflict, a climax, a resolution, and an ending — with some surprising twists along the way. And only here do we see the purpose which we all look for our whole lives.
What drives this story is its Main Character. Christianity is unique among the religions of the world, and that’s because its Founder is unique.
Sure, the whole thing about the Dying God-Man may be a great story. It may be great drama. But what’s even better is that we find our need for story being met by what looks very much like a true story. It’s my belief that only in Christianity can we find the ultimate drama wedded to ultimate truth. Only here can we have both our need for story and our need for truth met at once.