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mattbiopicUnderstanding Stories to Understand the City of God

By Matt Bianco


A man once described—I’m sure it was that guy we call St. Augustine—the world as being made up of two cities: the City of God and the City of Man. I’ve taught my children that the City of God is made up of people who belong to God and do things that pursue Him and His kingdom. The City of Man, on the other hand, is made up of those who do not belong to God and pursue that which is pleasing to them. It is true that sometimes non-Christians do things that are good for the kingdom, and sometimes Christians do things that are bad for the kingdom. I want my children to be aware that life, and people especially, aren’t always black and white. It is important, however, that they understand the two cities distinctly so that they can be sure they are pursuing the right one.


On one occasion, as this explanation of the two cities reached the ears of my two younger children, one of them piped up, “Dad is heavy metal music Satanic?” Well, now, this is an interesting question. My initial reaction was to be slightly miffed—why such a random question? But, then I realized how pertinent it was to our conversation. How can children know, when it comes to music, television, movies, books, and other arts, whether they are pursuing the City of God or the City of Man? So, we first defined Satanic. The best way to identify the Satanic, I believe, is to define the different types of stories as I first learned to do reading A Thomas Jefferson Education: Broken, Bent, Whole, and Healing.

 

Broken: A Broken story is one in which good is called good and evil is called evil. However, even as evil wins in the end, it is understood that this is a bad thing. Herman Melville’s Billy Budd is a Broken story because the innocent Billy Budd dies. George Orwell’s Animal Farm is a Broken story because the evil pigs win. It is usually recommended that Broken stories be read less frequently than Whole stories. However, it is important for us to read them because it helps us to teach our children (and ourselves!) that injustices exist and how to deal with them.

 

Bent: A Bent story is one in which good is called evil and evil is called good. Evil usually wins in these stories—because it is considered good. These stories generally work to pervert our understanding of right and wrong. They should be read sparingly, and only by mature readers. The Golden Compass is an example of a Bent story.

 

Whole: A Whole story is one in which good is called good and evil is called evil. And, as one might expect, good triumphs. Lots of the classics fall into this category: The Chronicles of Narnia series, Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, Number the Stars, and others. We should read lots of these stories.

 

Healing: A Healing story is either a Broken or Whole story that tends to inspire and motivate you to want to either correct the injustice (in a Broken story) or continue the justice of the Whole story. Examples of Healing stories are Billy Budd (Broken) and Number the Stars (Whole).

 

That which is Satanic opposes God and His kingdom. Of the above story types, it is the Bent story that does this. Isaiah 5.20 has this to say, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” These people, Isaiah goes on to say, have “rejected the law of the LORD of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel,” and His anger is kindled against them. These people oppose God and His kingdom, and they do this—at least some of the time—by telling their Bent stories.

 

So, then, my son’s question about rock music aside, we—parents and our children—need to be able to recognize and categorize stories so that we know whether they are opposing or supporting Him and His kingdom. My children and I then undertook an exercise. Which of these four categories do heavy metal songs fall into? We determined that some were bent and some were broken. Thus, some are Satanic and some are not. Caveat: We are not asking whether it is good music, just whether it is Satanic or not. Then we categorized some of their favorite television shows and movies. By the end of the exercise, they were telling me—without cues or clues—which categories they fell into.

 

This makes them wiser in their watching, reading, and listening to the stories told through television and movies, books, and songs. And by making them wiser in this area, they are being prepared to start learning about different worldviews and how to recognize them. Better, they are learning how to support arts that glorify God and His creation, and, ultimately, to become better citizens of the City of God.

 

 

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