We human beings are storied creatures who construct and tell stories to identify who we are to ourselves and to the world around us. As citizens in a secular democracy, we have access to certain national stories that define us as a people. In contemporary culture secular humanism is the predominant story that defines us. This is a story rooted in the Enlightenment developments of autonomous individuals now not only in control of our own lives but free from superstition and the tyranny of religious controls. So freed we find ourselves now center stage, lonely and alone in an anonymous universe where God has departed leaving us to tinker and maintain the mechanisms of creation. The contemporary story that defines most of us is a story that focuses on material success and emotional fulfillment. This is a very limiting story.
But we are also people of religious faith and as such we have access to an ancient story that defines us as collaborators with and in relationship with God. The Biblical Epic defines us as those liberated by God’s engagement with the political, social, and economic structures of human history.
We gain access to our foundational religious stories through doing the text. Doing the text means to entertain, attend to, participate in, and to reenact the drama of the text. Our foundational Biblical texts are stories that contain three elements:
- A promise made to our ancestors
- Deliverance from enslavement
- A gift of a place to settle-down in
Our task is to rediscover our connection to the definitional stories of faith, which authorize us to give up, abandon, and renounce other stories that continue to shape our lives in false and distorted ways.
But we come to an encounter with our faith stories already saturated with other stories to which we have given our allegiance and unwittingly placed our trust in. These are the stories of the prevailing ideology of our culture, which have become the stories we believe as a given.
The secular humanist story defines us as good people doing what good people do. While this is an example an area of overlap between faith and secular humanism, on its own its not a large enough story to provide us with that for which we yearn because it lacks the life-giving power of the holy – the larger perspective beyond ourselves, which we need to access if we are to live fully human lives.
We may wonder if a more public faith, a faith which takes a larger, critical view of culture is possible, and if with a larger public view buoyancy for discipleship as citizens is a possibility. (Brueggemann Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism)