Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A War of Narratives: What the PCA Can Learn from NY Times Columnist David Brooks

David Brooks, an Op-Ed writer for the New York Times, has put his finger on what I believe is the problem with most disagreements today, especially those within the PCA. While at a conference that brought together Americans and moderate Arab reformers, Brooks recognized that the two groups just "passed each other without touching." That is to say, one group was talking about X, while the other group was talking about Y, and "never the twain met or shall meet." Why? Brooks noticed that each side "had a different narrative." That is, they told themselves different stories to make sense of the data.

Now, narratives make sense of reality for human-beings. We use them all the time to make sense of the data that life throws at us, especially the data that we don't quite have categories for. Thus, we tell ourselves stories in order to fit the data into categories so we can understand the world.

Within the current debates in the PCA on the New Perspective on Paul (NPP) and the Federal Vision (FV), each side of the debate has its own narrative to make sense of the data; and if each side has its own narrative, then it also has different vocabulary; and if different vocabulary, then, never the twain shall meet!

Therefore, if we (in the PCA) first recognize that we're talking beyond each other and that each group makes sense of what's going on by telling itself a different story, then we might (and I say, "might") make it beyond the (narratival) impasse.

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