The Story is the Point

Seth Godin wrote a great book called “All Marketers are Liars”. He wasn’t really saying that all marketers are liars. He meant that all customers believe what they want to believe, and marketers can take advantage of that. He says:

“Successful marketers don’t tell the truth. They don’t talk about features or even benefits. Instead, they tell a story. A story we want to believe.”

That’s what’s going on here. Saying something doesn’t make it true. Never has, never will. But truth is hardly the point here. The story is the point.
– from bokardo.com

One of my professors was asking me about the emerg[ing/ent] church the other day and more specifically what it has to do with postmodernism. I still have a lot to learn about postmodernity as a philosophy, a style, and an era(?). But I know that story and meta-narrative have something to do with it. I just can’t figure out whether postmodernity embraces story or rejects story. But when it comes to the church, I do know that we need to become better at embracing the story.

So what insights does this nature of relationships between marketer and customer teach us about the relationship between church and world?

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  • Thomas, I think the shift is in the authority of the story. For moderns, the metanarrative is authoritative, and determines the truth and value of the individual or community story. And we could lump individuals who challenge us or disagree under a competing metanarrative and easily dismiss both. Today, we can hear other people’s stories directly, thanks to diversity in our communities and schools, the ability to travel, video and the internet. So individual and community stories have gained authority, while the power of the overarching stories have eroded some. I don’t know that we’ve actually seen them flip, but the absolute power and acceptance of the metanarrative is dead.

  • so in other words, the stories matter, and even our interweaving stories matter, but there is no overarching framework?

    Does that mean postmodernism does not believe Hawking et. al. will ever find a “Theory of Everything”?

  • It is not that there is no overarching framework, it is that there is no ONE metanarrative that automatically has precedence. Someone who, for example, doesn’t fully buy the US story that our actions are all good and right and our enemies are pure evil doers but acknowledges that others in the world could have a point about American use of wealth and power is synthesizing their own story out of competing stories. It is often said in postmodern theology that there is absolute Truth, but none of us has total access to it. Our stories, unlike God’s, are necessarily incomplete. Interesting point about the Theory of Everything…although I think the work of science is different than someone’s insistance that they have THE story, you may be right that such a theory will be one explanation, not the only explanation. Given the speculative nature of such work and the complexities involved, that may be a wise approach. While scientific theories are not mere guessing, as non-scientists often believe, they aren’t purported to be absoute truth, either.