Did you ever watch any "soap operas?" You know, the daytime television series like "All My Children" or "The Guiding Light" and "The Young and the Restless." My grandmother followed a couple of them, although I don't remember which ones, and she called them "stories." I have heard other people call them stories, too. As in "I need to be home by 3:30 so I can watch my stories."

These stories usually featured good looking people wearing very snazzy outfits, living in impeccable houses, eating at tony restaurants and not working at actual jobs very much; the plot lines followed certain core people through their lives with other folks showing up to spice up the atmosphere from time to time. Long lost husbands or wives or children, mysterious strangers, the new doctor in town, etc. Plots included illegitimate children, incest, scams, and horrible family conflict amid the usual getting together and breaking up of relationships.

And drama. Lots of drama. Well dressed people in lovely homes making all kinds of dramatic statements and gestures to one another. Revelations of secrets is stock. And the follow up reactions as well. Many of such reactions involving declarations of never speaking to or seeing someone or doing something again. Never, never, ever.

Needless to say, I don't think that many soap opera plots make good models for healthy family and community life. (Including church life.) Taking stands, hatching plots, and announcing loudly to all and sundry that one is never speaking to another one again in the face of this decision or that revelation is standard stuff for soap operas, but it really doesn't work well in real life, unless one is determined that real life should be filled with constant drama. (I make exception in the case of abuse, of course.)

After all, in the life of constant drama, one has to work pretty hard to stay on top of what everybody else is doing that one has made a statement against so as to apply the proper (and dramatic) reaction. One has to regularly if not constantly monitor the moves of others whom one has pitted oneself against in order to keep from polluting oneself with their presence/views/consequences of their actions. This takes up a lot of energy, which could be used for something else, except doing something else might allow the grudge or whatever it is to dry up and one couldn't have that. Too much is at stake. Apparently. Although I'm not always sure what that is. The soap opera characters seem to feel that it's about one's dignity or something.

In the case of the church, I occasionally get the feeling that it must be about salvation, or else the grudges and never, evers wouldn't be nursed so fiercely.

In the case of soap operas, it is usually infidelity or betrayal that precipitates the announcement. Certainly one ought to stand up to bad behavior. But in the case of communities (often churches) there seems to be this tendency to claim that "other people" are forcing one to decide to take one's marbles and go home. That just sounds like soap opera drama to me.