Talk about abuse of power! The man, fully able to use his power to get what he wants- does just that. He takes a young woman into his trust and she is madly enamored with his personality and stature. After all, her husband is away at war. “What’s a little fling?” they both ask. After some time, their affair threatens to becomes public as she becomes pregnant with this powerful leader’s child.
He can’t let this news become public, so he arranges for the death of her husband in order to cover up his adultery. And then- he only asks for forgiveness once the Authority catches him. And that Authority uses a storyteller to convict the powerful man.
A story that is Earthy. Direct. “Talk Show” fodder.
But I bet you have heard this story of King David and Bathsheba told as Ethereal. Whispered. Other Worldly. How can it be? It is a story of deceit, adultery and, ultimately, forgiveness- one that should be told with all the human drama it contains.
I have a one man performance entitled “Voices from the Noise” that takes many familiar Bible stories and re-sets them, some dramatically and some humorously, into stories where modern audiences can find themselves. These stories contain real emotions that sometimes have been washed out of the telling of Bible stories. Who decreed that the Bible was a nice assembling of nice stories that must only be told in nice ways? We especially fail our teenage members of our churches when we choose “nice” over “genuine.”
How do you begin to make Bible stories “real” for your own telling repertoire?
1. Choose one story that most interests you- for whatever reason. You can only tell that which you are interested in. Which Bible stories capture your attention?
2. Change the names of the characters while you are learning the story. Perhaps it might be easier to dig out the real drama of a story if the names were Chris and Steve, instead of Cain and Able. You could try Jack, Cindy and her husband Tom instead of King David, Bathsheba and Uriah. Sometimes the names of Bible characters carry so much emotional substance that you may need to think of these stories outside of the original context.
3. Write down the story as if you were preparing it for a newspaper report. Better yet, pretend you are writing it for the fourth grade reading level of the supermarket tabloids. State the story in its most simplistic form.
4. Be a psychologist. What are the real human emotions that the characters are feeling? It does no dishonor to the Bible to view these people without veneer of reverence. King David let himself be controlled by his own lust. Cain was overtaken by his own insecurities. The people of Babel were scattered by their disobedience. What are your characters really feeling- and how does that affect their actions?
5. Like all forms of creativity- let this story sit in your brain for a while. After you have done your homework above, give yourself time to reflect, consciously and unconsciously, about the depth of the story and characters.
6. Start to assemble your story. Perhaps you will use parts of your “tabloid” writing- or rather start telling to yourself in an extemporaneous manner. What feels right about the words you assign to your story? Is anything excessive? Are you still using that Sunday-school teacher voice? Are you trying to tell things only for the shock value?
7. As you progress in your story building, begin to share parts with friends and family. What do they hear? What do they like- what’s challenging for them? What makes them uncomfortable- and why? Should you add more detail or subtract?
It is always interesting that after performance of “Voices from the Noise” or other presentations, that church-going people will say to me “Where did you get those stories? They were great!” Teens will say, “I never knew THAT story was in the Bible!”
Go dust off your copy of the Scriptures and begin a fresh approach to the familiar stories today. Maybe you will open up a new world for someone...even if that person is you.
C. 1999-2002 By Sean Buvala. Sean Buvala is the director of the Center for Creative Ministry and the Online Media Director for http://www.storyteller.net.