If you have raced with foot-runners and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you fare in the thickets of the Jordan? (Jeremiah 12:5)
Operative Narratives (ON) can be compared with the operating system in a device. The older the operating system the more it is inefficient in coping with the demands placed on it. Just imagine using a 10 years old computer to write-up a report, or perhaps design a flyer or website, or CGI animation. It was once functional and fit for purpose, but with the passage of time and advancement in thinking, it is now a relic.
ONs are psychological safe spaces we agree to confine ourselves into, and we often retreat to these spaces when faced with stress, challenges or anxiety. It takes the shape of the story we deduce from early life experiences. They become interlocked in our belief systems, our values, and concepts. They become principles that guide our decision making, codes and rules that we adhere to.
Here is the problem. Whenever we encounter a more powerful or more compelling narrative, we loose our orientation, and end up stuck.
This was exactly what happened when my African ancestors encountered the sophistication of the machine gun of the Western army. Centuries of military strategy, manoeuvres, physical discipline, stamina, formations, communication, motor skills etc; suddenly became obsolete.
Let us take one of these skills — motor skills. Scientists define motor skills as permanent change in the ability to perform a skill as a result of practice or experience. These skills would have been learnt from adolescence. They would have been incorporated into dance routines during events and festivals, farming practices, and even sports.
At the encounter with a machine gun, seasoned generals suddenly had no answers and crisis ensued. The machine gun requires new skills and new thinking. They either fight valiantly to their end, or surrendered gracefully in the hope that their people will live and learn from this seismic shift. Similar to Africa we see civilisations disappear in America and Asia. With a slightly different twist we see the conviction of Islam take over most of the Middle East, parts of Africa and even Europe. Much later the battle of ideas in Europe with the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the French Revolution etc.
Ideas are powerful. Ideas are responsible for all the major changes on planet Earth. To this end the need to constantly upgrade our mental library cannot be overemphasised. The need to identify obsolete ONs, delete them, and replace them with up to date versions becomes a moral imperative.
Do not limit yourself spiritually or psychologically, step up to the challenges of the 21st century. I plead with Christian leaders to stop burying their heads in the sand, using the idea of a Rapture as lazy answers to the challenges facing our World. This has been used at various times in history and even most recently as we moved into the new millennium.
It is a terrible error which often sets the church behind. Sadly, because our leaders refuse to upgrade, engage, challenge and enquirer; we end up excluding ourselves from the most pressing debates, and out of public discourse. We end up becoming even more irrelevant.
The prophets of old, John the Baptist and even Jesus were all at the fore front of the socioeconomic debates of their era.