Stories are an important part of being human. If you spend time with a person you have never met before, the chances are you will soon begin to exchange stories about your life. What we chose tell and how we tell it will communicate a lot about us, our values and priorities.
Many stories about coming to faith will revolve around stories. We might tell of a kindly grandmother taking us to Sunday School, a teacher or a youth worker who made us feel welcome or accepted. This should surprise nobody; Jesus taught many things through stories which communicated God’s nature, His plan for humanity, and how we should behave well towards each other. He chose stories as the signposts to redemption.
Stories are important in national life too, whether they be good, bad, or simply eccentric. They tell us who this collective ‘we’ are. Step off a plane or a boat, and you are not yet ‘one of us’, but show interest in our stories, be willing to share yours, and the beginning of becoming part of our community begins.
The news stories last week centred on two visions of nationhood, each presenting an aspect of ‘who we are’.
The BBC changed the form of the Last Night of the Proms, having distaste for the traditional presentation. Overwhelmingly, ordinary people did not like it. Nobody watches it to be musically challenged: if you enjoy the glories of Beethoven or prefer to hear experimental music played on a milk bottle and a bicycle chain, there were other nights for you. In the latter case, you might not have to worry too much about social distancing.
The Last Night is part of our much loved tradition. Its format has woven people together for decades. The Promenaders stand together, bob up and down, joke, meet people they met in the queues in former years: the event is an important part of the story of their lives, and many of those who watch it on TV perhaps engage with the only concert they ever listen to all year. They do so ‘religiously’. They don’t want it mucked about.
It is perhaps a recognition of this that the new Director General Tim Davie has reversed what the outgoing DG Lord (Tony) Hall called the best artistic and creative decision in the context of Covid-19. Instead of a mediocre musical offering by orchestra only, both ‘Rule, Britannia!’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ will have their lyrics restored. In a press release yesterday, the BBC announced: “Both pieces will now include a select group of BBC Singers. This means the words will be sung in the Hall..”
It is not about the music; it is about ‘us’ bonding, and that is what upsets the ‘silly clever’ folk at the BBC. The Last Night of the Proms is a very conservative event. The British people don’t object to a little innovation; they don’t mind the LGBTQ or EU flags among the Union Jacks. You can turn up in jeans or a turban rather than a dinner suit, and as long as you are good humoured and ready to join in, everyone will get along and have a good time.
That is not enough for the BBC. They want to change, to improve us, because they are better than us. It is the same kind of distain that drives Extinction Rebellion, Islamists, BLM Marxists or any other of the latest incarnations of intolerant aspiration towards domination.
The other news story last week was the launch of President Trump’s campaign for re-election. There was a fascinating contrast between how his people went about their task and how the progressives of the Biden campaign went about theirs. Trump doesn’t have that many celebrity supporters, but while the President’s opponents tend to think America and its history needs radically altering, the President’s people took a radical step of their own. They put a variety of ordinary people onto the platform to tell their stories about the American Dream.
Those voices rarely get onto the BBC News, or into the UK media much at all, but they were fascinating and telling. I enclose links you might follow below, but with all the reports of unrest on US streets, there is one story that everyone should watch.
Ann Dorn is the widow of a former St Louis police chief who was working as a security guard for a friend when rioters murdered him. He is not as famous as some recent fatalities. David Dorn’s black life of service did not matter to the media as much as others.
Ann’s story is moving and powerful. Whilst the Democrats support and justify the unrest on the streets, the President appeals to ordinary people like this lady, for whom the story of ordinary America is worth supporting. Celebrities will never suffer some out-of-town Marxist or felon burning down their home or the business they spent a lifetime building, or murdering their families, but for the Dorns this was the reality of ‘radical action’.
Tellingly, having remained silent throughout their own convention, Democrat politicians saw this campaign launch and the effects of the rioting on the polls. They began to make muted comments of regret about what has been happening for the past three months. Some wag observed that Democrats have not been so unhappy since Abraham Lincoln freed their slaves. Most British people do not understand who is supporting the President or why. Perhaps stories will explain:
Hershell Walker was a football player employed on the team which Trump owned and has been his personal friend for 37 years.
Vernon Jones is a Democrat State Representative from Georgia who spoke of the Biden racial stereotyping of people of colour, taking their votes for granted for decades, and doing nothing in return.
Kim Klacik is contesting the traditional Democrat seat of Baltimore. Her walk round the city spoke volumes about words not action.
Alice Johnson was imprisoned for life for non-violent drug offences but was given a second chance by legislation brought in by this President.
Nikki Haley, “a brown girl in a black and white world”, told of her appointment by the President to represent the USA at the UN.
Blind Chinese activist and human rights lawyer Chen Guangchen spoke of the reality of Chinese communism.
Scott Dane, a trucker and logger from Minnesota, spoke of how sustainable forestry created good jobs for remote communities, and made for a better environment.
Nick Sandman was the 18-year-old who won a record $250m against CNN after he was defamed when he he stood up to a bullying Native American activist at the Lincoln Memorial.
Melania Trump drew smiles when she pointed out that at least everyone knew what her husband was thinking, adding that at least there was authenticity in him.
Liberal Hollywood celebrity Bette Midler mocked the elegant immigrant First Lady in a tweet: “She can hardly speak English”, only to backtrack shamefaced when it was pointed out that Mrs Trump was speaking in her fifth language.
Diverse Americans stepped up and told their personal stories impressively. How many did the BBC report?