The following post has been modified from my Philosophy Thesis on Christian Drama which was required for the completion of my sophomore platform. My goal is that you will find the topic of this post as thought provoking as I found it was to write about. I am most definitely interested to hear any comments or personal thoughts and opinions you may have on the practicality and usefulness of drama for the Christian and the Church.
Over the ages, drama has always been a rather controversial subject among Christians. The questions of whether theatre is appropriate for the Christian, whether it should be used within the church, outside of the church in participation or in attendance, or merely for enjoyment, have all been issues debated for centuries.. It is my personal conviction that theatre and drama can be cultivated as a wonderful tool for the Christian’s use to spread truth and the glory of God.
Christians can use drama and theatre to effectively communicate truth. Drama can communicate and present ideas and messages via ways in which ordinary preaching and general conversation are limited. Rather than conveying a message through objective discourse, plays enact a message through dramatization. More specifically, when a message is effectively communicated in this manner, the audience not only understands the meaning but also simultaneously comprehends its application and effects in unity. If truth is communicated in this way—through drama—the audience will not only have heard the truth, but will have also vicariously experienced the deeper application of the truth, provided the execution of the production is successful; in summation, drama can create vicarious experiences for the audience member.
Christians involved in drama must also be aware that productions communicate far more than just the play’s specific inherent message. While the communication of the theme is the most important factor, the other facets of the production will not go unnoticed by the audience. Choices of the stagecraft, costuming, major production details, and even the actors are other variables that convey immanent significance. All facets of a production should, of course, point to the same vision and goal of the director so that the truth can be effectively communicated. Within this context, details should be chosen tastefully so as not to be a distraction from that truth. Costume choices should not be immodest or inappropriate. “Objectionable” elements should be handled tastefully, even if realistically, but never gratuitously. In other words, the presentation should never be objectionable. The set, of course, should be well ordered and reflect skillful craftsmanship and good taste. Even the actors should be well chosen with great consideration so as that a person playing a given part will not cause unnecessary confusion to an audience member’s mind; this may seem excessive, because associations are not everything—but if certain actors are notorious for their ungodly reputation and character, despite their talent, it could potentially send confusing messages to an audience in regard to the validity and reality of the truth that is meant to be conveyed through a given production. In summary, the standards that are set within a production communicate much about the validity of the truth within the message you are presenting.
The components of the theatre yield various opportunities for the Christian to engage with others. Participating in drama provides obligatory collaboration among others within the same production. Opportunities would include the close proximity of working together, sharing ideas, and pursuing a common goal—all of which would bring an inevitable building of interpersonal relationships. Christians involved in secular drama would inevitably have the opportunity to be a testimony of salt and light on a personal level with the others involved in the theatre. Christians involved in a church production or a Christian drama organization would experience a unique fellowship provided by opportunities that the theatre brings. On the grander and larger scheme of things, for Christian Drama in particular, the production itself is an opportunity to positively engage with not just one person, but with many—an entire audience.
Secular theatre and drama offers the Christian an insider’s view to the outside world. While active participation in certain secular productions may not be wise, and in some cases sinful for the Christian, going to see, or studying secular dramas, in general, can potentially be an eye opening experience and a worthwhile opportunity for the Christian. At the same time, not all secular drama is “viewable” for the Christian because of explicit objectionable elements; here the individual would have to make decisions on a case-by-case basis. However, just as I mentioned above, by observing drama one vicariously experiences a particular message and it’s application. While most secular dramas convey anti-biblical messages and present godless worldviews, the Christian can learn much by being able to “vicariously experience” what life must be like through the eyes of the lost. This understanding would give us a better knowledge and attitude toward the despair the world knows without God, and ultimately an awareness of how we can better reach the world around us with the truth.
Drama also provides opportunities for solid engagement and discussion with others about philosophy and worldview. If Christians are familiar with secular dramas and theatricals, it opens up discussion opportunities regarding theme and message that might otherwise find difficulty surfacing into normal discourse. In reverse, Christian theme and worldview within popular drama would be a great tool for general discussion as well.
Finally, theatre and drama is another way we, as Christians, can artistically reflect the glory of God. Whether or not we are involved in secular or Christian drama, our talents should be used to accurately reflect the glory of the God we serve. In this respect, our art should be taken very seriously; this would not only include the way we perform, but also in the way in which we prepare for the performance beforehand. Our final performance should, of course, reflect God’s glory in the talent he has given to us. However, it may not be the audience who completely sees the testimony of our work in action, but rather, it may be those with whom we are working alongside.
In conclusion, theater is an effective means of communication within our culture today. It would be wise for the Christian to view it as another opportunity to present truth to the unsaved world. In many circumstances, theater and drama may be the only means or opportunity we can use to influence those we may never actually be able to meet in person. But most importantly, theater is not merely just another opportunity for evangelism, but rather another opportunity to display God’s glory through the creativity He has given us.