G. K. Chesterton said we get angry at satire because it’s true. Here’s a satirical story. Might irritate you, but it tells us we bury the lead in the most important story ever told.
A while back, my wife Kathy and I felt cooped up by covid. So we took a stroll. We bumped into Bill. I recently met Bill on a business zoom call. He’d never met Kathy.
Mike: Good evening Bill. How are you doing?
Bill: Fine… [looking at Kathy] and this is…?
Mike: Oh, this is Kathy. I have a personal relationship with her.
Mike: Uh, Kathy and I enjoy covenantal intimacy.
Mike: We’re in fellowship with one another.
Bill: Uh… are you two married?
Mike: Yes. Of course.
Bill: Why didn’t you tell me that at first?
I’m being satirical. But there’s a lesson here. Journalists would say I “buried the lead.” That’s when we begin a story with details of secondary importance but postpone the main part of the story to later on. Bill asked a question. I postponed the main picture—marriage—to later on.
We do this in sharing the gospel. I hear us say it’s union with Christ, or a personal relationship, or covenantal intimacy, or organic oneness. Union and relationship are factually true but generic. They’re concepts, qualifiers. They’re not metaphors.
Take the word relationship. I have a relationship with the desk where I write. But is it a standing or sitting desk? What color is it? Is it big or small? Old or new? Fancy or plain? You don’t know because relationship is a qualifier. It doesn’t give you the main picture.
So what is the main picture for the gospel? The “main picture,” Christopher West writes in his new book, Our Bodies Tell God’s Story, is God wants to “marry” us. The church is his bride. There are 1,500 references in the Bible supporting the main picture of God “marrying” us.
That’s a lot. So why do we bury this lead? Recent findings from neuroscience might tell us.
When we’re dealing with a new or unfamiliar situation, the right brain plays the leading role. The right tries to imagine the essence of something by thinking in pictures and metaphors. Bill was unfamiliar with Kathy. His right brain was listening for a metaphor. Marriage provided it.
But our brains work differently when we’re dealing with a familiar situation. The left hemisphere plays the leading role. The left describes the quality of something by using concepts. After almost 39 years of marriage, I am very familiar with Kathy. So I was talking out of my left brain.
This right-left dynamic happens across the boards. For instance, in learning new creative skills, we bias our right brain. But once acquired, we bias our left in creating new things, such as songs, sermons, poems, and paintings. The left hemisphere leads the way.
But the left brain buries the lead. We see this in how the gospel is described. As the faith becomes familiar, we lead with concepts like union with Christ or a personal relationship. Later on, we might throw in the church is the bride of Christ—but it’s too late. We buried the lead.
That’s a loss. I’ve seen religious Nones and exiles respond to God seeking to marry us. Four years ago, a young woman—a freshman in college—sat in our kitchen with a group of friends. She described how men ogled her shapely body. I suggested her body was telling God’s story.
A two-hour conversation followed. I started with God seeking to “marry” her, a story best told in her body. It blew her mind (blew the mind of the entire group). She came to faith. But the group’s closing question haunts me to this day: Why doesn’t anyone tell us this story?
We rarely tell it because songs, sermons, poems, and paintings tend to be individualistic endeavors. They’re left-brained, so the lead is buried. The remedy is including right brain thinkers in the creative process. It’s prophetic. It sees how the left buries the lead.
Memorial Day is a fitting day to remember Chesterton was right. Satire stings because it’s true. If my satirical story stirs you to read Our Bodies Tell God’s Story, good. If it leads us to stop burying the lead, great.