What's Your Story?

"I cannot answer the question, 'What ought I to do?' unless I first answer the question, 'Of which story am I a part?'" These are the famous words of Alasdair MacIntyre, arguably one of the greatest ethicists of the last century. But what do they mean?

Stories have endings, and endings have meanings. Imagine if Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope ended with Luke Skywalker's X-wing getting shot down by Darth Vader instead of Luke destroying the Death Star with the help of the Force. The entire meaning of the story would change! Good doesn't triumph over evil. The Force is a silly old superstition instead of a universe-shaping mystical reality. Luke is not a hero. He's a fool. Knowing your story and its ending changes everything.

Paradoxically, I've come to know my own story better by listening to voices unlike my own, by expanding the range of my hearing to brothers and sisters around the world and in various marginalized communities. By listening to people in prison, I've learned how my purchases directly impact legal contemporary slavery. By listening to friends who have been beaten by police, I've learned how my default acceptance of the "official" version of an altercation is more about my own comfort than the pursuit of truth. By listening to my Native American brothers and sisters, I've learned how the land on which I live has been stolen using a Doctrine of Discovery that privileged people of my ancestry. Ironically, you don't really know your own story if the only story you know is your own.  

And you don't know the ending of the story while you're in the middle of it, unless you know the Author. That's why as a Christian I take the story of Scripture so seriously. According to the Christian story, "In the last days,...[God] will judge between the nations and settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." In other words, there will be both justice and peace at the end of the story. The Author will make sure of it. 

And if that is the end of the story, then I am (and you are) no fool for working toward justice and peace in the meantime. As Dr King said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."