INTRO: Hello and welcome to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe, a podcast for artists and storytellers about changing the world for the better through story.
Well, we're in the Christmas season. And Lulu and I are here. We're trying to get through some important foundational stuff for season three of this podcast so that when we get to the new year, we have a real jumping off platform for all of us that are writers that are trying to create.
RECAP: Now, I have been trying to lay a pretty strong case against what we have adopted in Christendom as the criteria or the standard of what makes a story good. And so the last few episodes have been about laying out a foundation of seven new criteria that I think we ought to adopt, if we want to tell stories that are truly powerful, that truly have the ability to penetrate the hearts and the minds of the people, the culture, that can compete in the marketplace of ideas. These are the sorts of criteria we need to be looking for.
TOPIC INTRODUCTION: Now, what I want to talk about while we're in the month of Christmas, I want to talk about a couple of other foundational things. And that has to do with what I believe we're being called to be like in today's cultural climate. You know, we need to be savvy, and we need to be in touch with the climate of our culture today. And if you are, you know, we are in a battle.
There are different schools of thought. And the narrative, the narrative is where it starts. How you see it—what story you tell. Narrative is so powerful that it changes everything. Which is why we better be careful about the narrative that we're telling. And we ought to be telling the right one.
But that brings me back to the point of today's episode, which is that we can no longer be casual about it. We can no longer hang out in the background. We are called to be bold, to be courageous. That is the call of season three of this podcast. It is time for us to not be cowards anymore. We have to change the paradigm. And there are different ways to do that.
PRESENTATION: Now as storytellers, the primary way that we can change the narrative is to start telling different stories, which is why I spent so much time going over what I think those stories ought to entail. So we have to start defying the expectations of what Christians think they want, our well-meaning people in the church who are not quite engaged in the battle. See if we're storytellers, we're on the forefront of the battle. So we should be leading the charge. We shouldn't be following the tide. We should be out front and telling them, "No, we gotta go this way. We got to go this way." And that's what we're doing here. But we have to be bold to do it. We have to help them understand what the new criteria is, and what the new expectations ought to be.
We have to be willing to offend. For so long in Christendom we have tried to be nice. The time to be nice is over. Now, I don't mean by that, that we're rude and arrogant and haughty. That's terrible. We don't want to be that. We want to be winsome. We want to have the kind of demeanor that ultimately can win people over to our way of thinking. We want to be reasonable. We don't want to be the screamers out there that are just yelling and unreasonable and we're mean and rude. That's not what I mean when I say the time for niceness is done. What I mean is we have mistaken kindness for niceness too long. We can't be nice anymore. We have to be willing to offend.
We need to be dangerous. There's a great Jordan Peterson podcast where he talks about what it means to be dangerous. And what he basically says is that as people, we don't want to do what Nietzsche talks about, which is be obedient cowards, but primarily that's what makes up our society. We're a bunch of obedient cowards. We're too afraid to break the rules. But nobody wants to say, "Oh, I'm an obedient coward." No, nobody wants to say that. So instead, we say "No, I'm a rule follower. I'm a law abiding citizen. I am a civilian who understands that there needs to be order, so I maintain order."
Well, okay. I get that and yet mostly you're just an obedient coward because all of this political correctness—that is about being obedient. It isn't about being for order. See, there's a fundamental break here in our understanding of these things. And we have adopted these terms to apply to the wrong things. When it comes to ideology, when it comes to ideology, we need to be rule breakers.
You know, again, Jordan Peterson talks about how one of the things that happens, or has to happen, for totalitarianism to win is that people have to systematically lie to themselves and others. They know, in their knower they know something's wrong, but they deny it. They deny it because in their minds, they're doing that for the greater good. But in doing that, anytime you have to stifle a truth, something that you know in your knower, something you just know in your heart—there's something wrong. There's something wrong. And unfortunately, with the ideology that's coming out today, that's what's happening.
We are cashing in common sense, in order to uphold absurd ideas, things that would have been absurd 15 years ago, but now we're, oh, we want to be so understanding. We want to be so supportive. But we're literally checking our brains at the door. No, we're not literally.
There are things that we know to be true. We know it. Experientially, commonsensical-ly. Rationally, we know it. And yet, we kind of live in a culture where we're being gaslit all the time. Where we're being told that we're bad people, if we disagree.
See, it's not enough in our society these days for us to just abstain. They want us to articulate agreement. And so they bully us and they tell us we're bad. We're wrong. We're racist. We're terrible people. We're Nazis. Man. They just demonize us as Christians, especially if we express disagreement to a particular value or lifestyle or way of seeing the world.
But this is where the niceness thing comes in. Because the truth is, I applaud us for this. We are conscientious. We're trying so hard to make sure that we're being kind to everybody, that we're being fair, and that we're being just and we should. We're trying to offer compassion and grace, and we should. Those are things that are Christ's qualities that we very much ought to embody.
However, we have actually given up our right to think clearly about these things, because we are preferring the idea of compassion over and against reason or common sense—OR over and against the willingness to offend. What happened to the willingness to offend?
Again, Jordan Peterson said, "What makes a man noble is not obedient cowardice." That does not make a person good. What makes a person good, or embody the trait of goodness, is that they are ferociously dangerous, and they restrain themselves. And that's how we ought to be. People that are obedient are not dangerous. They're not culture changers. It's the dangerous people that have the potential to change the tide.
And how are you dangerous? Well, you're dangerous when you tell the truth. That's primarily it. You tell the truth. You have to be willing to tell the truth. We have to be willing to go to dark places. We have to be willing to look at our own sin nature. We have to be willing to own it when we have done wrong. There are all sorts of ways that we can tell the truth that we're not doing.
And I'm going to go into that more in the next episode. I'm going to break this down. What are the various ways that we ought to be telling the truth in our personal lives, let alone our stories, that we're not.
Because if we can't do it in our personal lives, how do we ever expect to do it in our stories? It is a muscle that we're building. It is a habit that we're working into our entire being, so that we have the potential and the capability to stand up and tell the truth when the chips are down, when the pressure is on, when we're in the lion's den. See, if we have not built up that fortitude in our character now, we will never be able to do when it counts, and it always counts. But what I mean is, if we can't do it when there are lesser things at stake, how are we going to be able to do it when it's really serious? When lives are at stake? We won't be able to. We will always compromise. We will always give in. We have to learn to tell the truth.
So, it is time for us to be bold, to defy expectations, to be willing to offend, to be dangerous, to think outside the box. We have to be like Jesus and go dine with the sinners. We have to think differently. We can't close ourselves off from the things that are happening in that world. That is not courage. That's cowardice.
We also have to stop being afraid of what other Christians are going to say about us. Let me tell you something, we are judgy. We are really judgy. I'm judgy. But there are some things we ought to judge and some we ought not to. See, this, again, is where we get into troubles.
We are supposed to use our ability to reason to exercise discernment, which means we are making an evaluative judgment over what is morally right and what is morally wrong. That is not something that we can escape, and that is not being judgmental. Being judgmental, means that we are putting ourselves in the place of God and judging the quality of a person's heart.
But exercising discernment means that we're rationally pulling apart the ideology, the arguments, the foundations of a person's belief systems, and we're evaluating their merit based on evidence, based on experience, based on the Word of God, based on truth. And there is nothing wrong with exercising that sort of judgment. In fact, it's a command, and we must do it.
But we have gotten confused. And so now we have, again, sacrificed that—we have given up that—because we don't want to be judgy. And yet the truth is, we're judgy anyway, because the people that are being bold, to speak out, are being terribly maligned, even within the church itself.
I happen to know a particular professor of mine, my very favorite professor from Biola University that I believe is about to be fired. And to me, he is the last bastion of truth at that school, because he's the one who keeps standing up against all this woke doctrine that is infiltrating the entire academia of a Christian college. He's the one who keeps saying, "No, no, no, no, no, that goes against Orthodox Christianity." And guess what he's hated for it.
People don't like it. People, even within the church, don't like it. But guess what, we have to stop being afraid of that. We have to be willing to offend. We have to be willing to be hated. When's the last time you were willing to say something because it was true, even though you knew it would tick people off and they would turn against you?
Now, how we say it becomes another issue. And I'll get to that in future episodes. But for our purposes now, what we need to understand is that we have to stop worrying what the pharisaical community within the church is going to think or see or believe about us. So, one of the ways, as I've said, that we need to be different and we need to change the paradigm is we have to start telling different stories.
But another way is we need to start consuming different stories. We just do. We have to stop accepting tripe. We have to stop applauding the people that are creating really subpar stuff for us. Cliche, trite, really bad subpar art. We shouldn't be reading those types of books. We shouldn't be watching those types of movies. We should be putting out of business companies that are creating stories for the Christian community that are not good. They're not good.
We should be demanding a higher caliber of art for our community. We shouldn't support them and keep them doing something if they're just not good enough artists to compete in the marketplace of ideas. Don't pay. Don't go. Don't buy their books. Don't watch their film. Because that doesn't do anybody any good. It's not going to change culture.
And all it does is dumb down the Christian community and keep us weak. We need to be bold. We need to be courageous. We need to be dangerous. And I certainly am being willing to offend you by how I'm characterizing this, because I'm so passionate about this, and I'm so tired of it.
Recently, I had been hired to work on a story where they wanted me—and it was a Christian company—and they kept wanting me to up the Christian stuff, up the Christian content. And this was an adaptation from a true story in history. So I was trying to be true to the truth. But okay, I can try to give them what they want. And I tried to play up certain elements that were organic to the story.
But also, because they were organic to the story, they didn't feel tacked on, they didn't feel like I was beating the audience over the head. And when I made my appeal for that, because they were like, "Oh, it's not enough. We need to really, really do something here. We need to really Christianize this. You know, we need prayer warriors." And I'm arguing, "No, that's the worst thing. This is subtle. It works. It's organic." And the owner of the company said, "We don't do subtle here."
And that was kind of an "aha moment" for me, because I'm like, "Oh, that makes sense. You don't respect your audience. You don't respect your Christian audience. And why? Because they keep coming to your stuff. They keep coming to watch the movies that you're making, and you're condescending to them, and they think they're being nice in doing it."
But guess what, he doesn't respect you. The owner of this company doesn't respect you. So stop. Stop. We need to be more sophisticated. There shouldn't be a market for Christian films. There should only be films that are good or bad, right?
Part of what our calling is, I really believe this, is to let Hollywood know what sorts of stories we want to consume. And we do that by letting them know that we actually have good taste, that we have a more sophisticated palate than they've given us credit for, that we are intelligent, that we are complex and mature, that we have the capacity to go deeper than this tripe that we've been fed, and that we expect stories to reach us on a mature and deep level. We have to be willing to let them know that these types of stories that they've been churning out aren't good enough for us anymore. We have to stop being nice. We have to stop being nice and start being honest.
UP NEXT: Okay, so this episode is really just a foundational one of what we're going to go into in the next couple of weeks. So one of the things we're going to talk about is something called protest literature. But also I'm going to unpack the types of ways in which we need to be bolder in our personal lives, as storytellers. And then the last thing I want to do, before we get into the new year, is lay out a plan of attack. Because we have to be bold in changing our habits, our plan, our expectations, we have to take some radical action.
CONCLUSION: It's a call to action, all of it is. It's a call to be bold, a call to be courageous. And looking at the various ways in which we could do that. It's very much laying a philosophical foundation from which we can launch into the new year. And when we get into the new year, that's when we're going to start digging deep into craft. Really, really looking at how do we do this with excellence. What sorts of things ought we be doing in our stories? How can we do it? How can we reveal character? How can we tell our stories well in a three act structure? How can we tell the truth and compromising situations? All of these types of principles. So I hope that you will continue to join me as we continue in season three of this podcast.
CALL TO ACTION: In the meantime, if you are enjoying this podcast, I would like to invite you to please rate and review the show on Apple podcasts or on YouTube. We need that.
If you haven't watched the podcast on YouTube, please do. We're there. Now it's very exciting, you can actually see me.
And lastly, we would like to be able to get the word out to more people. So if you happen to know other Christian artists, even if you don't think that they would agree with everything, and you think they need to hear this, share it. What do you have to lose?
Be bold. The time has come to be bold. And that means spreading the good news that we're free and last to write adult content material, but we have some criteria to follow that are guidelines for us. And the real goal is to stop being nice and to start being dangerous because we're such truth tellers.
I hope that this has been challenging for you today, and it's given you a lot to think about, and that you'll join me next week.
OUTRO: In the meantime, thank you so much for listening to The Storyteller's Mission with Zena Dell Lowe. Me you go forth inspired to change the world for the better through story.