Before Walt Disney, cartoons were like sugar. They held you over while you waited for the main meal, the feature reel. Cartoons then were full of cheap laughs and little depth. Disney proved with Snow White that cartoons could deliver something more than a laugh. They could carry a story.
The heart traffics in stories, says James K.A. Smith.* Disney+, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon — they’re the firesides of our day. New ways to deliver this ancient longing we all share, the quest for meaning, purpose, and identity. The stuff of stories.
God goes for the heart. That’s why he speaks in story.
Smith points out that stories have a way of grounding us, of orienting us both to ourselves, and the world around us. Maybe that’s why over 40% of the Old Testament is narrative.** God doesn’t give us a wikipedia page, He gave us a Story to ground us, orient us, and to lead us home. God goes for the heart. That’s why he speaks in story.
Jesus doesn’t invite us to watch, but to follow.
Stories don’t just entertain; the good stories invite us to enter. As we enter the world of Scripture — and what is Scripture but a telling of a story?— we don’t find a list of facts, but enter a story where the facts have flesh, Jesus himself. The good news of Jesus ties up the story of our Creator, His purpose, His rescue, and His glory.
One hour of cheap gags will never be enough to impress the story of Jesus — of dying and rising daily — into the grooves of our weekly routine.
In contrast, “Pop Christianity” is a cheap cartoon, and Jesus doesn’t invite us to watch, but to follow. One hour a week of watching clever teaching gags & visual tricks will come up short when life, and our hearts, demand a deeper story. One hour of cheap gags will never be enough to impress the story of Jesus — of dying and rising daily — into the grooves of our weekly routine.
Our hearts traffic in story. Will we be mastered by the ebb and flow, the rise and fall, of the story of Jesus? To be so mastered by His resurrection life and lordship, that our lives are a re-telling, an echo, of the gospel?
Like Paul, we should say “to live is Christ, to die is gain” — and when we do, we tell the story of dying and rising by the power of God to the world.
- * On The Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts, by James K.A. Smith
- ** Reading Old Testament Narratives
- ***J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life, by Paul Miller