Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Stories Shape Culture

I love stories. I was raised around stories. I remember when my dad would both tell and read stories to us before we went to bed. I remember going to the library frequently with my mom to find all the Berenstine Bears books lined up for me to read. Even though I am 25 now, I still find myself most relaxed when I am reading a story. My mind is at ease and I can let my imagination go places painted for me in the story.

I say this because I believe that there are certain stories that shape our lives, morals, and belief systems. They shape how we think about God and other people. Yes many of them are simply non-fiction but they still contain elemental truths. There are other stories that not only shape these things in our lives but change an entire perspective of culture at large.

I mention all this because I have been recently thinking about a particular story, namely "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. It is a popular story to revisit at this time of year. Some of us may even know this story by heart and could regail others with the entire tale. Even as common as the story is, few probably realize the awakening it brought to Victorian England when it was written.

I wish I could paint the whole picture, but I will attempt to be brief. The story was written following a new set of laws called the New Poor Laws. These laws required men and women who were applying for welfare to live in dirty miserable infested workhouses. It was also written to address the condition of working men and women. Imagine for a moment your 5 - 8 year old working in a factory. Our health inspector today would have that place shut down in a New York minute. Rather than going to the nice sterile elementary schools, your child is helping to raise money by working for a factory where they are constantly abused if they don't work right. These are just a few of the injustices that plagued the Victorian England.

If you look at the workplace today there is something to be said about how lifestyle has shifted. But the whole point of this story was not social injustice. It was Love your neighbor as yourself. What other stories have shifted culture?

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