Meta-narrative, no explanation necessary
Saw a bumper sticker at a stoplight today. It said WWJD? I’m not up on my texting terms. Took me a minute–What Would Jesus Do?
Our computer-savy dogs are also engaged in a story that can be expressed in a single line–My Dog Ate My Homework. No further explanation needed.
Narrative is a coherent system of stories, like Biblical stories or Greek myths. Meta-narrative is an understanding so deeply embedded in the culture that you don’t have to repeat the reference. What would Jesus do? printed on a bumper sticker is meta-narrative. Few people need that phrase explained. Likewise blaming the family dog for the missing homework.
Here’s one: Is establishing modern-day Israel another version of the Middle Ages crusades? Just one more attempt to take Jerusalem?
If you answer yes, you are based in a different culture than if you answered no. AND no amount of battles, won or lost, is likely to change minds either way. The story (which ever story is your cultural point of reference) goes that deep. We cling to our stories, even more so our meta-storeis. They’re hard to change, but not impossible. The genius of Martin Luther King is that he shifted the narrative surrounding the civil rights movement. Instead of rousing his followers to rage, he used the Christian meta-narrative to describe the oppressors as souls damaged by hate and therefore needing rescue (change) as much as the oppressed.
A few thoughts for next time you’re stuck in traffic behind a bumper sticker.