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Handbook Appendices Forms Theatre Scholarships For Theatre Majors, Minors, and Intendeds University Theatre Handbook Table of Contents Theatre Home

A.1.c. The Christian and the theatre.

Question 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?

Probably 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?

In 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.

In 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.

Put 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.

Incidentally, 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.

And with them, the audience to which they are presented.

So 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 and forgiveness.

Next Section: Question Five

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