Friday, March 11, 2016

The Power of Our Stories

We need to ensure that we encounter reality as it really is -- to learn its real Story -- and not try to force it into our preconceived notions and our own stories.

Many Americans complain about media bias, and rightly so: the objectivity of news stories has objectively (pun intended) decreased over the last several decades, as journalists have tended to see themselves more and more as advocates for a particular position than as neutral, third-party observers. And that means that they more and more try to fit the content of their reporting into their preconceived notions of the way things are or at least should be; in other words, they try to fit them into their own "story" of the world, into their own narrative.

One place this is most easily seen is in the secular media's coverage of Pope Francis and his predecessors, particularly Benedict and John Paul II. Despite the efforts of professional journalists like John Allen Jr. (see this piece, for instance), most of his colleagues continue to portray Francis very positively and his two predecessors... well, less so.

Look at this Reuters piece from just today, for instance. In the course of the article, we come across this: "They were the latest in a line of unscripted utterances that have left many conservatives feeling nostalgic for the days of Francis's two predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, who regularly thundered against contraception, homosexuality and abortion."

The last phrase in particular ("...Francis's two predecessors, Benedict and John Paul, who regularly thundered against contraception, homosexuality and abortion") caused an inadvertent eye roll. I think -- no, I know -- that the authors of the piece would be surprised to see how long the percentage of words which JPII and Benedict devoted to these three doctrines was, and I would challenge them to demonstrate that they regularly "thundered" against them at all.

Again, this just illustrates the power of narratives, of our preconceived notions and biases. Don't fool yourself: we all have them. Our task is to make every effort to first, be aware of them, and second, to lessen their impact on how we perceive reality.

Or better yet, we need to rediscover the true narrative, the true story, the truth about ourselves and all of creation...