Stories of Salvation

March 10, 2013
Cheryl Woelk |

Blame. Hatred. Lament. Ignorance. Shame. Defense. It might just seem like stories of the past, but the struggle for history brings out deep feelings, as I discovered in our visit last year to Kyoto. 

I had heard the Korean narratives of suffering under numerous invasions and finally occupation from Japan. The Korean story is our family's story. My story. And I feel it. 

Visiting the ancient Japanese capital, though, I also heard different stories. Stories that glorified imperialism, justified acts of genocide, legitimized cultural and linguistic violence, and omitted mention of slaughter and torture. How can these two narratives be referring to the same history?

Yet on both sides, each narrative is the teller's view of truth. Even when there is evidence to point to specific facts of life and death, the story built around the fact shapes past events. The victim's story includes little complexity or context lest it be seen as validating oppression and injustice. The offender's story includes nothing that would allow the victim humanity or any form of power lest citizens start to empathize as humans tend to do.

Hearing and feeling these stories, I return to Canada and find myself immersed in the same. Except this time the narrative I'm closer to is the colonizer's story. It is also our family's story. My story. And I feel it.

I feel the sense of ignorance at not knowing the stories of the "other side" that show humanity and power of the indigenous voices of my home. Shame at the horrific realities that I'm learning about. A latent sense of defensiveness throughout which arises at the clash of my narratives -- my "good" and "peacemaker" identity story no longer fits and it's hard to re-story my family's place in the past.

History is emotional stuff. It may just seem like stories of the past, but how we tell these stories determines what facts and evidence we recognize as true, what quality our relationships have today, and how we will live together in the future.

This is why the Christian narratives of breaking down dividing walls, and Christ's life of transforming love even resulting in death are more than stories. These narratives are good news because when we act out the Christian narratives of love of enemy, and reconciliation with God and other, these are truly the stories that will save us.

Author Name: 
Cheryl Woelk
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Hi Cheryl,

I agree that the stories we tell are so critical!

Is it the really the story that saves us?

-M Turman

Thanks for your comment. I think in the sentence above, I wasn't trying to say that it's the stories themselves that do the act of saving us, it's more indirectly. In comparison to other stories, the ones we hold to of God's transformative work in the world through Jesus are the ones that connect us to the idea of God's saving us. Perhaps there's something in aligning ourselves with the stories of Jesus and his way, and then seeking to act out that story in our life, that allows us to even recognize the concept of God's salvation. If we don't have these stories, we won't necessarily name God's saving work in our lives. Does that help clarify?

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