Arguments, stories, truth

/ 8 July 2011

We talk a lot at Luther about how our curriculum is a rhetorically oriented one, but I’m not sure how often we actually act as if we believe that. Here’s a fascinating article that points out that facts are rarely persuasive, while stories that draw us into connection tend to be very effective. A taste:

In any case, because gathering to share our stories clearly does have such impact it’s that much more surprising that such sharing almost never happens at the level of big intra-religious conflicts over economic policy or torture or immigration or health care. Yes, the storytelling business is messy and diffuse. It doesn’t lend itself to sound bites as readily as the “I’m right/you’re wrong” confrontational throwdown does. But religious progressives in particular might well benefit from going this route, because so many of us have journeyed farther and over rockier ground than have our conservative counterparts.

Storytelling is already powerful when we hear the stories of others, but it starts to become transformative when echoes and parallels among individual stories begin to create what feels like our story. Now try to tell us that we’re wrong on the facts—that we’re wrong on points. Good luck with that.

Effective community organizers invariably give the people they’re organizing plenty of time to voice their own narratives, the warp and weave of their struggles. And as this goes on, you can see others in the room begin to nod and sometimes whoop their identification with the story. </blockquote>