My Christian faith defines my narrative. “This public story explains the way the world works and the meaning of human life, including what is good for humans to be and do. A narrative provides guidelines for human action.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 37) The Old Testament stories of God’s blessings and deliverance of His chosen people and the New Testament stories of God’s unfathomable love and grace form the basis for the decisions I make, the way I respond to others, and the way I choose to live my life.
Of special interest to me are the many “petite narratives, a term that acknowledges the existence of more than one understanding of human life and the good” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 38) present within the Christian faith. Though the bible is the book all Christians claim, there are many different interpretations of its passages and verses. I don’t believe in literal interpretation of scripture. I believe it is divinely inspired, but still must be interpreted through the lens of history. Political, societal and religious events happening in the time it was written must be studied when discerning its meaning. The Presbyterian Church USA, the denomination that I claim, allows that interpretational latitude. Other denominations are more literal oriented and believe that each word is to be taken exactly as written.
I’m not even sure that all that follow the Christian narrative share the same “oughtness.” As explained by Jensen, “Oughtness does battle over values. We struggle to understand right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, just and unjust, virtuous and corrupt.” (Jensen, 1997) Different denominations, and even different churches within the same denomination, have differing views on a variety of ethical issues. Though we all believe in Jesus Christ, our views on good, justice, virtue, morality and even who is going to heaven and how they will get there may be dramatically different. While Christianity is our narrative ground, we deviate wildly in how we interrupt parts of that narrative.
Personally, while I subscribe to the Christian narrative, I take a contextual communications approach to life. I believe the Christian narrative and the contextual approach are intertwined. A contextual approach “recognizes the variations in culture, persons, and setting when applying communication ethics principles, protecting and promoting the good of the particular.” ((Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 57) Each individual we encounter is unique and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. I believe that is what is meant by one of my favorite Old Testament verses which reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 Revised Standard Version)
Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.
Jensen, J.V. (1997) Ethical issues in the communication process. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum