The third element of religion is the existence of central stories or myths. Personally, I think this is the origin of religion, that group storytelling as a cultural mechanism gave rise to a more ritualized practice and more established bodies of myth.
Interestingly enough, one of the things I’ve committed to doing since the election and inauguration is to read more books on feminism, racial issues, immigration, LGBTQ+ history, etc. Not all of the books I’ve collected are filled with stories, per se, but the idea is that in sharing and partaking in each others’ experiences and points of view we become better able to be allies in the fight for human rights.
Essentially, it is in telling our stories to others that we establish ourselves in their minds as real, valuable people. It is by telling our stories that we become more than archetypes and stereotypes in the minds of those who’ve not shared our experiences. The telling of stories conveys ideas about cultural expectations, ethics and morals, and our relationships to each other.
Stories are infinitely more powerful than simple statements.
One of the most interesting groups to spring up recently is Pantsuit Nation, which started as a small group of Clinton supporters and grew into a collective of tens of thousands of people who, mostly, tell their stories to each other. They tell stories to express their frustrations and fears. They tell stories to help motivate each other. They tell stories to illustrate how the world is changing around us. They tell stories to keep each other hopeful. They tell stories to share ideas for action.
In more recent days I’ve seen groups pop up on social media telling the stories of immigrants and refugees, groups telling the stories of activists behind the scenes and on the ground, and groups telling the stories of little known heroes of the past. In a time when the world seems filled with anger and frustration and fear and hate, we’ve chosen to fill it also with our stories.
The central mythology of activism includes the stories of small actions which produced huge results, the tales of groups rising up to change the world, and stories of people just like us in the past who made it through similar circumstances. It’s a mythology centered on hope and inspiration. It puts our own struggles into perspective. It consists of the stories we need to hear to keep us going.