I am learning a little about cultural narratives and cultural imaginaries from listening to some of my friends talk. Narratives can be so powerful, especially when we are not aware of them.
One of the narratives I grew up with from my church background was that of rejected Savior. Like our idol, we spoke of our movement in the same way. Here is our story (according to us, mostly gleaned from prophesies and sermons):
We were great people. Special people. People Chosen by the Lord. For Greatness.
Because we were so humble and despicable.
Because we loved other people so so much.
We could save them.
But they rejected us. Rejected our message. Rejected our Boss.
Then they persecuted us.
But we kept trying to save them. Because we loved them. And we loved our Boss.
Since obedience to authority on fear of punishment is real love.
It wasn’t a large shock to know that there were other Special Chosen People. We were so humble, and we knew that eventually all of humanity would see we were right all along. There could be many Special Chosen Ones all working for the same goal.
It was not dismaying to learn that other people didn’t want us to save them. They were blinded. That is why we were persecuted.
It was unsettling to find out we weren’t actually being persecuted. That was a major crack in my narrative.
Like the Focus on the Family homophobes who claim that not being allowed to bully is the real injustice, or anti-choice groups that say not being allowed to control women’s bodies is a human rights injustice, or mayors claiming that their lies and criminal activity are ‘keeping it real’ while asking questions about it is ‘hypocrisy’ – our group framed itself as the persecuted minority.
This is a very effective tool for group cohesion. Not only does it posit others as more powerful, which causes the group to feel it needs each other more, but it creates fear which distances the group from others. Unfortunately, portraying Others as more powerful also decreases compassion towards them and can be used to justify unethical behaviour. It disguises real privilege which upholds real oppression. Basically, it lets us be jerks and cry foul when people point it out. Being a jerk was NOT part of our self narrative.