The Christian and the theatre.
Four: Is there, or can there be developed, a distinctive kind of safe
performance environment in which Christian artists who want to do plays can protect
themselves from temptations?
not, judging by the success of other Christian institutions attempting to do so.
Even if such an organization were possible, it may not be ultimately desirable.
A strong possibility exists that we are placed in the world specifically
to experience, struggle against, and overcome temptations through the strength
and forgiveness of God. It’s all tied up in
the theological question of free will. Besides, what
artistry could exist in a safe haven?
thinking about the question—a production company geared to Christians only,
a place where values will not be threatened—it must be remembered that none
of us can escape our flawed humanity. There
is no such thing as a Christian play, and no Christian theatre company, any more
than there’s a Christian university or a Christian bookstore.
There are plays written by Christians, theatre performed by Christians,
universities and bookstores peopled by Christians.
And all these enterprises may well seek to explore the world using Christian
principles and theology as a reference. But that still
doesn’t preclude or diminish sinful temptations of pride, intolerance, close-mindedness,
or the abuse of persons.
writing, producing and performing theatre as Christians, two principles are of
supreme importance. The first is that the artistic
and personal process we go through with persons matters ultimately.
And the second is like unto the first: the artistic and personal product
we present through and for persons matters ultimately.
Both principle one and principle two are tightly intertwined, and will
be significantly affected by the way we think and act about each, and by the way
we are willing to work to accomplish each.
into slightly different verbiage: how we do theatre
is just as important as what kind of theatre we do, or specifically
what particular play we do. No
matter how well intended a company of Christian artists may be, if it demeans,
denigrates, or damages persons in the process of accomplishing its mission, it
is deluded if seeking to fully honor God. The questions
of the abuse of authority, the self-righteous dismissal of differing opinion,
the disproportionate assignment of task and inequity of remuneration, expressions
of intellectual or spiritual superiority, gender or racial biases—these
are only a few examples of how sin slips into even sanctified enterprises.
Most Biblical injunctions against evil actions center on the treatment
of others and the elevation of self; the sins against persons are the most pernicious.
the characters as developed in a play script, serving as
distillations and representatives of all humanity, are also subject
to sinful mistreatment, even in a righteous cause. If
they are developed without spiritual dimension, if they express harmful or spiteful
stereotypes, if their creators recklessly defy community standards through arrogant
superiority (“That’ll teach ‘em!”), then imaginary
characters, too, can be demeaned.
with them, the audience to which they are presented.
the question of a separatist Christian theatre company being free from temptations
is a spurious one. Christianity is a process,
not a product, and it’s based always on the studied values and interactions
of persons. A group of Christians may well band
together to worshipfully practice their art and to serve as special missionaries
in the world. An individual Christian artist may enter
the mainstream theatre, and through example and personal witness worshipfully
serve as “salt” in a needful setting. Each
will be presented with the same challenge of the acting out of faith.
Each will need to humble self and call upon God’s promises of strength
Section: Question Five