7 Story Matters


If we can say nothing about God that is not a reflection of our own story—personal, tribal, etc.—why speak about God at all? I suspect the answer is this: speaking of God for many of us is the way we speak of meaning making. I know that is true of me. My theological narrative is constructed out of the stories, both religious and scientific, that give my life meaning.

Story is the way we humans make sense out of the world, and the sense we make shapes our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Look at the billions of humans who shape their lives around the God of their respective narratives. Look at how their stories determine who they are, whom they love, how they dress, what they can eat, and whom they can hate and even kill. Story matters, and matters absolutely.

It may be possible, as my teacher Krishnamurti might say, to live story–free, though that, too, may be a story. And, as we shall see when we come to the mission of the Jew, we Jews are called by our story to free ourselves of stories (Genesis 12: 1–3) in order to be a blessing to life. But the stories we are to drop are stories that inhibit our mission: stories that make us fearful, arrogant, ignorant, bigoted, violent, etc. We are not called to be story–free altogether, though, again, that might be a good thing.

I do not pretend to be story–free, nor do I suggest Judaism is story–free. What I do suggest, and what makes me so grateful to be a Jew, is that the way we Turn Torah, the way we engage with our story, liberates us from readings that no longer serve our mission even as it empowers us to invent new readings that do serve that mission. The key is to remember that it is all story. As soon as we mistake story for history, narrative for natural science we are in trouble. As soon as we mistake our projection of God for God, and hence imagine that we are what this projected God says we are—watch out! Bad things are coming. For then we are giving divine sanction to the human shadow, and there is no evil we can’t do when we imagine we are doing it in God’s Name.

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