The Christian and the theatre.
the relationship between your strengths, interests, convictions and what to do
with your life is perhaps the major question of your undergraduate education.
Fortunately you can—and statistically you will—change your
career several times in your working lifetime, so that decision
is never made once. But dealing with the larger issue
of integrating your artistic impulse and talent with your faith,
now that becomes a central fulcrum for your sense of life’s
purpose, human worth and ongoing personal well-being. It
deserves some real attention. Also, remember, it may
also affect your work career preparation.
it has not been with a unanimous voice that the Church has spoken about this dilemma,
throughout its history some of its leaders have expressed significant reservations
concerning the very nature of the theatrical act as well as, of course, the social
responsibility of the art.
ancient Tertullian to Saint Augustine
to puritan Jeremy Collier, many Church authorities have indicated significant
"uneasiness" with what they have perceived as theatre’s supposed flawed
artistic base, its basic premise of "imitation."
They have linked it with blatant hypocrisy—"the
act of pretending to be what you aren't." How can
Christians truthfully write, produce or perform in a false act?
additional quarrel some Christian leaders have carried on with the theatre is
the seeming selfishness, or egocentricity they
perceived as underling the very nature of acting. It
is arrogance, they have insisted, to assume the ability to enter into the soul
of another for the purposes of manipulating the responses of an audience.
Humility, they have pointed out, ought to be the goal of the Christian,
not the usurpation of the role of God in the creation of persons.
Such activity leads only to self-aggrandizement and inwardly-focused pride.
many Christians, leaders and laity, have had difficulty with various forms of
the portrayal of evil, ranging from 1) the use of disapproved
language, to 2) the moral dangers of the embodiment of unsavory or "evil" characters,
to 3) actions and themes that violate specific mores of traditional Church teachings.
last, coupled with a pervading notion that pretending an action or a character
in a role will somehow endorse that act or, far worse, become
a causal factor in the performer becoming like
that character, these form the basis for much Christian criticism of theatre
can you ask my daughter to play a prostitute?”
can’t say that on our stage! I can hear that
had a gay character in your play?”
know it’s not real, but do we have to have drinking in all
play’s not Christian. I thought you were a Christian
university. I was going to send my daughter (son)
to your school, but not now! I’m writing your
these and other moral concerns raised you must, as a Christian theatre artist,
develop careful responses which will not defensively dismiss the objections as
silly, or unimportant, or misinformed. (Somehow you
must separate the human being and the argument from the righteous vituperation.)
But you must also develop an informed aesthetic interfacing
your faith and your art. Because this aesthetic
is so foundational to your artistry, it presents the most serious aspect of your
philosophical development during your undergraduate years.
follows below is an introduction to a few of the traditional questions surrounding
the relation of the theatre to the Church. Answers
certainly can’t be attempted here, but they must be a part of your thinking
as a developing Christian artist.
section: Question One