December 2011 – My Uncle Al was a postman for the U.S. Postal Service for 30 years. In 1973 he was kidnapped as he was walking his route. The perpetrators were two hit men for the Buonaccorso crime family who had mistaken my uncle for another mail carrier – one who had been cooperating with the FBI in a sting operation that threatened the mob family. They had Uncle Al tied up in an old warehouse and set loose two half-starved Doberman Pinschers on him because he kept telling them he didn’t know anything.
Want to know what happened next? That’s because a good story has the power to capture interest and draw a person into a narrative. If the story is well told and professionally done, people will stay interested until the very end.
None of the above really happened. That’s right – I made it up. Including the headline. It’s called fiction. But it really wouldn’t have mattered, would it? If it had been a real sequence of events, I’m assuming most people reading this column would still have wanted to know the outcome.
Hollywood has understood the power of story for more than 100 years. Motion pictures make millions and millions of dollars from people who love to see and hear a good yarn.
Books preceded Hollywood, of course, and a well told tale enthralled the ancient Greeks, too. Even video games have gotten into the act. The wildly popular science fiction series Halo combines state-of-the-art graphics with a storyline that keeps gamers coming back for more.
When it comes to the power of stories, however, God beat them all to it. The story of God creating the heavens and the earth is not just information God wanted us to have. It answers a deep longing in all of us – a desire to know where we’ve come from and why we’re here.
In other words, we want to know our own story, and God understood that we would be thirsty for the details of that tale. I believe this is why the Old Testament is filled with stories. All of it could have simply been summarized to let us know the bare facts. The telling of these stories, however, compels us to look deeper and makes the lessons learned much more powerful.
The Lord Jesus, of course, was Himself a teller of powerful tales. In the parables, we are drawn into stories that still enthrall us and convict us. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, for example, we watch – in our mind’s eye – as an innocent traveler is waylaid by thieves who rob him and beat him and leave him for dead. Will he survive? Didn’t anyone help him? You mean the religious people ignored him? Why did they do that? Oh, someone finally did help him! But it was a Samaritan? Someone from that despised race of religious half-breeds helped that poor soul? What does this all have to do with loving my neighbor?
Yes, stories are powerful vehicles, and as the Bible demonstrates, well told stories in the service of truth can be instruments of redemption and grace. This is why AFA has formed American Family Studios – to tell stories that will impact individual lives and therefore our culture. (See story here.)
The people who have supported the efforts of AFA for 34 years have helped us impact America. Now, as we embark on a new endeavor to touch the heart of our nation, we hope and pray that those who have been by our side for more than three decades will remain there.
It’s a story that we hope will have a happy ending.