This is part 2 of a two-part article! Go read part 1 first!
Eventually, I created a third question in the Lo-Fi Way, it started with a triangle.
Stories have what storytellers call a story-telling triangle - there’s a fluid relationship between the storyteller, the story itself, and their audience - the teller has a relationship to both the Story and the Audience, and is trying to make a positive connection between the two. Stories, understood this way, are more like an "event" than a static piece of writing.
Let’s mess with that a bit, thinking about how that helps us understand the Bible:
The triangle helps use remember that everything in the story-telling process is Particular: a particular storyteller, wanted to convey a particular message, to a particular audience, so they told a particular story. Ancient writers didn’t write religious texts just to keep a record of facts - they wrote because they believed people they knew needed to hear the story.
We often fall into the mindset that we just need to read the text, and that the text will tell us what we need to know, but to really understand any story, especially the Bible, you need to take a moment to think about the author’s connection to their audience.
And, remember: YOU are not the audience. I’m sorry, but Ezekiel and Mark did not have American Christians in 2017 on their minds.
We are, however, "audience" to the "event" of the story’s telling.
In case you are confused, here’s an analogy:
I have a five-year-old boy, and a few months ago, we let him watch the original Star Wars for the first time. I didn’t watch the move almost at all - I spent most of he time watching my son. It was so great to see how he’d react to each scene of the movie - which ones scared him (the Wolfman in the Cantina), which ones were funny (R2-D2 getting zapped by Jawas), which ones amazed him (Darth Vader entering any room). My experience was observing his experience.
Now, one step further: My boy is now old enough to absorb really bad messages/role models/ideas from tv and movies, so we have to pay attention to what he watches. He’s also old enough to have the ability to re-imagine anything remotely scary he sees on TV when he’s in bed hours later.
My son the primary audience, but I have a role as audience to his experience as an audience.
That’s what’s happening when we read the Bible, and if we get mixed up and imagine that we are the primary audience, it can really make a huge mess (plus, it’s just arrogant).
The third question in the Lo-Fi Way takes our role as “audience-to-the-audience” seriously, and asks, simply:
“Why would the author tell THIS story?”
The authors of the Bible could write anything for their audience, but why did they think this story was important enough to write down? What was the connection between the audience and the story that they hoped would be made?
It’s often helpful to ask it from the other side:
What was so good about this story that the audience decided to keep it around? They could have dropped it any time, but they passed it down. In the case of the Bible, why would people re-tell this story, now, for thousands of years?
It’s trickier than the first two questions, because it often requires some homework - you have to dig into the background of the part of the Bible you’re reading and learn about who the writer and the audience were. But, history leaves us with some holes, so there’s always some speculation at play as well, so you have to stay humble along the way.
It’s a good thing there’s huge nerds like me, who had the time to go to grad school, have male bookshelf space, and who love digging into the history for you. It’s why I created the Lo-Fi Lectionary podcast - I’m here to help as best I can.
Let’s dig in.