How Stories Help Us Love Our Neighbors Well


Bret Lott once said that when someone tells him they’ve read one of his books, he responds with astonishment: “Really? You read that whole thing?”

I feel the same way. It’s been about eight months since The Stories We Tell: How TV and Movies Echo and Long for the Truth (Crossway) was published, and I remain surprised and encouraged when anyone says he or she actually took the time to read it.

Authorial Intent?

Authorial intent is a recurring conversation with readers of my book. I don’t mean mine, but the intent of the filmmakers and writers whose material I discuss throughout the book. Is it fair to look at The Wire as a reflection of Ecclesiastes if that wasn’t in the mind of David Simon? Is it fair to see superheroes as messianic figures if Stan Lee, Bob Kane, and others didn’t intend that connection? These questions were central to a great conversation I had a few weeks ago with Alan Noble, Richard Clark, and Derek Rishmawy during a Christ and Pop Culture panel at TGC’s National Conference.

My first answer to that question is “no.” I agree with many Christian cultural critics who say Christian criticism too often seeks to turn every story into a Sunday school lesson. That was certainly not the goal of my project in The Stories We Tell.

My favorite example on this topic is one beloved by Christians: J. R. R. Tolkien. In the introduction to a later edition of The Lord of The Rings, Tolkien scolds readers who would turn his story into an allegory for the Bible or World War II. He acknowledges parallels but says his goal was to tell a story that stood on its own. Christian readers who argue Gandalf is symbolic of Jesus, Frodo and Sam are Peter and John, and so on are simply wrong; that’s not what Tolkien was doing with his story.

However . . .

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SOURCE: The Gospel Coalition
Mike Cosper

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