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Heresy for Church Drama


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After a year of being involved with my church's drama team, they've asked me to take a leadership role. And in the first official meeting, I laid out a bit of heresy that I saw as a goal we should have for '04. Art that needs no justification, explanation, or tangible effect. The people in the meeting called the idea "revolutionary" but they were open minded to my thoughts. They see me as the young, passionate kick the arts ministry needs, so they give me more credit than I am probably due. But here's what I gave them in the discussion, and then I followed it up with an e-mail so that they could mull over the ideas.

Input or discussion on a part or the whole of my concepts would be both enjoyable and beneficial to me.

Premise 1: God is the first and greatest artist.  The arts are not just a nice gift from God.  They are an essential part of His character.  As Creator, He is the master sculptor, choosing vivid colors and brilliant shapes in his works.  We live in a sea of
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This'll take some thought, perhaps a couple of days, to properly address.

However, my first reaction is:

1. Sweet.

That said:

2. It's always an amazing and most excellent discovery to discover souls that place no limit upon their congregation, who do not 'play down to' but rather 'seek to lift.' This is a venture that I myself have been lightly chided for--in good humor, of course, but with a paternal smile that spoke volumes--because I 'expect too much of man.'

I often get that paternal smile, even from those my own age. It's that 'yes, wouldn't that be nice' sort of thing.

I think upon Mark 9, when Jesus dredges the demon from the depths of a soul by first communing with his Father after all else have failed in the attempt--he reaches the scene to find the father of the boy, who implores:

\"But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.\"  

\" 'If you can'?\" said Jesus. \"Everything is possible for him who believes.\"  

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, \"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!\"

This is a powerful prayer I've adopted, as poignant in my walk as any utterance by Jabez or David: the dissolution of all skepticism in matters of the power of God to perform the impossible.

It is no different when applied to your situation--you're positing a new paradigm, a non-results-oriented mission that directly beseeches the participant to rely upon faith and the power of the Holy Spirit to act as guide.

Your idea might be received well by a parcel, another parcel might resist, and still another might buck it in favor of traditional mores (unless you truly have a 'model church' so imbued with the Spirit as to be already made perfection in perfect, numinous unity, in which case send me the address because I'm moving) but overall, you'll be requesting that not only yourself, but that every participant, both active and passive, give your vision credence as having merit in the eyes of God. And this--this is where that prayer comes in, because with every innovation, or step toward a better grasp of God, especially in the oft-maligned or patronized area of the arts, the journey proves to be all the more open to vulnerable faith, a faith that creeps past the notional into the realm of miraculous, and a lot of people simply would rather not go there.

It's insane. Affluence in ministry and presentation is rampant; careful niches have been carved, well dressed and polished for Sunday's best--but shake it up and the house of cards threatens to topple. Art is a primary facilitator in rocking the boat and in the 'sanctity of church', your balance in the situation will be tested repeatedly by those who are comfortable with what they've known and by those who will say 'Finally!'

Churchill put it right: "Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse." And sadly, 'church dramas' often ride the ragged edge of contrivance and 'cute' because they're halfway committed to and self-conscious efforts that only serve as a prelude to the real sermon, the carefully prepared 45 minutes of the Word--not seeking to explore the hidden rooms of the soul, but to set up drops and dressing for the set the pastor will occupy. This is traditional, what, for the most part, we've begrudgingly come to accept over the years in church as the 'dramatic presentation' or the 'illustrated sermon'....

Anyway, yeah, heh, I guess the next couple of days will spark more biggrin.gif

You ever read 'Windows to the Soul' by Ken Gire? I highly recommend it for your journey--and no, it's not an OS operator's manual. wink.gif

Jason

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1. It's always an amazing and most excellent discovery to discover souls that place no limit upon their congregation, who do not 'play down to' but rather 'seek to lift.' This is a venture that I myself have been lightly chided for--in good humor, of course, but with a paternal smile that spoke volumes--because I 'expect too much of man.'

I often get that paternal smile, even from those my own age. It's that 'yes, wouldn't that be nice' sort of thing.

Oh yeah. Good call. And for those who are claiming our audience "just won't get it" I'm going to suggest that they're better off not getting abstract truth, than having it handed to them. For if they just swallow it whole, they won't own it, but they'll think they've conquered the concept and won't deal with it further.

It's insane. Affluence in ministry and presentation is rampant; careful niches have been carved, well dressed and polished for Sunday's best--but shake it up and the house of cards threatens to topple. Art is a primary facilitator in rocking the boat and in the 'sanctity of church', your balance in the situation will be tested repeatedly by those who are comfortable with what they've known and by those who will say 'Finally!'

Interestingly enough our church is one that almost pats itself on the back for doing church like nobody else does (even though they are constantly comparing themselves to Willow Creek). But they are so committed to this "innovative style" they've made it into dogma.

Churchill put it right: \"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.\" And sadly, 'church dramas' often ride the ragged edge of contrivance and 'cute' because they're halfway committed to and self-conscious efforts that only serve as a prelude to the real sermon, the carefully prepared 45 minutes of the Word--not seeking to explore the hidden rooms of the soul, but to set up drops and dressing for the set the pastor will occupy. This is traditional, what, for the most part, we've begrudgingly come to accept over the years in church as the 'dramatic presentation' or the 'illustrated sermon'....

Amen brother. Those invovled in the programming side of our services use a phrase that drives me crazy "pass the baton." They see every thing before the sermon as the early runners in a relay race, and that, of course impies that the only person who can get across the finish line is the pastor. This is a far too linear model for me, and dare I say, my generation. I see all the things that occur in the service as flowers blooming from the same root system of truths. And that root system shares the water table I call the Truth. You can get to the roots, subsequently God, via any of the flowers, and potentially more than one, but different people will be attracted to different blooms.

You ever read 'Windows to the Soul' by Ken Gire? I highly recommend it for your journey--and no, it's not an OS operator's manual. wink.gif

I was disappointed by his book about films (which was really about him), but if you say so, I'll at least skim it the next time I'm at Barnes and Noble. I'm pretty hooked on Ann Lamott's "Bird by Bird" at the moment.

Thanks for all your insight Jason! You're a real intellectual roller coaster, and I'm in the line for the front row!!

Dan

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Heh, thanks Dan. As long as I'm not a Tilt-a-Whirl, I'm relieved. wink.gif

So how 'on board' do you suppose your pastor is to your idea? Have you spoken to him about it? Believe me, you guys really need to be on the same page if this is gonna fly, because he's the one who'll bear the brunt of the congregational impact. (Unless your elders are staunch buffers, in which case he may remain blissfully unscathed...) biggrin.gif

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In truth, I have only presented this to the leader ship of the drama team (two other people) and if I can get them on board our intent is to start "planting seeds" of this concept inctead of nailing them to the sanctuary door. We'll see if it works.

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are there other arts going on with your church? how did your church come to have a drama team in the first place? what you shared above on your take on art and God is marvelous and refreshing to read. Thanks for posting it!

oh, third question--what do you see is their current take on the arts that you are interested in stretching?

O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!--John of the Cross
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are there other arts going on with your church? how did your church come to have a drama team in the first place? what you shared above on your take on art and God is marvelous and refreshing to read. Thanks for posting it!  

oh, third question--what do you see is their current take on the arts that you are interested in stretching?

My take - on the arts and the Church as a whole

The arts were left high and dry a while ago by the Church because they were not pragmatic enough. Why should we be goofing around playing pretend? Jesus is coming at any minute!!!! - That sort of thing. Recently, the tides have turned a bit. The church has acknowledged that postmoderns are all kinds of artsy and so they want to tap into that. The return to the arts, therefore is a utilitarian one. I think therein, lies the rub. The arts don't need a purpose they are good because God made them.

My church - the most refreshing thing about my church is that with their acceptance of the arts (music, dance, drama, etc.) they have taken on a desire for excellence. The quality of services is taken very seriously. We will have three rehearsals for 5-6 minute sketches! The church does high quality stuff, and that's why I've felt comfortable getting involved at the minsitry level there (note: I do this stuff for a living too, so I often can take or leave the dramtic efforts of the churches I've attended). But the drama group is a fledgling group. Strong on talent, weak on influence in the decision making process and weak on philosophical underpinnings.

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ok, another question. do you/y'all write your own sketches? there was a team that used to come through the church i grew up in in Alabama called The Refreshment Committee and would perform drama. I looooved them and i think what they did was really good (though i honestly don't know if my tastes in high school were good or just ok). That's about my only experience of drama in churches.

However, I did hear a guy named Jon Lynch talk about Christian writers/actors. He's a playwrite and a pastor who is part of a group that writes plays for a secular audience. They are good enough that his group now has permission to perform any time in the main theater in Phoenix, AZ.

Hmmm. None of this really tells you what I think about your "artist statement" above. I think it is excellent and again i'm really glad you are challenging the people in your church in this way. sounds like a health, open minded, creative place.

O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!--John of the Cross
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sounds like a healthy, open minded, creative place.

well, i reread some of your earlier posts in this topic and i take it back. :oops: the church sounds less open minded. The idea of everything else being prelude and postlude to the sermon is troubling. All the best in your efforts to help people see the depth and breadth of worship and that being edgy or innovative just to be edgy or innovative doesn't get it at all.

O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!--John of the Cross
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sounds like a healthy, open minded, creative place.

well, i reread some of your earlier posts in this topic and i take it back. :oops: the church sounds less open minded. The idea of everything else being prelude and postlude to the sermon is troubling. All the best in your efforts to help people see the depth and breadth of worship and that being edgy or innovative just to be edgy or innovative doesn't get it at all.

I'm not ready to say they're not open-minded. The kind of thinking about the arts is not innate. It takes some recalibrating. I think their way of doing things is because they don't even realize the alternative.

I still like the place quite a bit.

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The kind of thinking about the arts is not innate.  It takes some recalibrating.  I think their way of doing things is because they don't even realize the alternative.

I still like the place quite a bit.

Good way to put it. My husband and I are in a group that meets monthly to discuss evangelism (witness? is there a better word without so many connotations?) and they are in the same place. They are really enjoying the opportunity to stretch their thinking and they are eager participants. And of course, we are learning from them as well.

In fact, we were wondering if we could borrow your words from above and use them at the group next week...

O guiding night! O night more lovely than the dawn!--John of the Cross
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Dan,

I loved your piece -- LOVED it. I'd add a couple of things to premise 1 & 2.

One of the illustrations I use when I give a talk about Christians and the arts is about how God's creation is a praise to him. If we lived in a flower-less world, and some genius somewhere came up with a beautiful, sweet-smelling, self-reproducing plant, the world would stand in awe. That flower would be celebrated and the artist would be honored to the highest degree. So it says something about God that he didn't just make one kind of flower or one kind of butterfly or one style of galaxy (or even one model of snowflake)--the extravagance of beauty is breath-taking.

But, relevant to this discussion, what I have found remarkable is that so much of God's creation is there as the logical result of creative ability: a Creator creates. It is not to gain attention, make money or even to be seen or acknowledged, but simply as a declaration of the glory of God (praise), i.e., it declares him to be Creator. So, in a remote valley, a flower grows, blooms and dies--never seen or admired by any human, but a praise to God nonetheless. Similarly, the unique beauty of virtually every snowflake is simply wasted to the processes of melting and evaporation, never catalogued or preserved. If we could create something comparable to a snowflake, each one would be enormously expensive, and each one would be sold or preserved. Yet, as I sit writing this, millions of snowflakes are falling outside my second floor office: none will survive.) I love your phrase 'a sea of "purposeless" beauty,' and it is all part of God's resume, a tribute to his character.

Similarly, the Mona Lisa is a tribute to da Vinci, Hamlet is a tribute to Shakespeare, and his many scoring records are a tribute to Wayne Gretzky. The flower is a tribute to God's design genius precisely because it exists and functions as intended. (Although we must acknowledge that, in a world that includes deformity, God's finest work is reserved for the inside of a person, and the struggle and pain of physical weakness are often his crucible.)

So--we have been imbued with the creative spark, and we praise God when we create (unless the art is in some way dishonorable). Jesus cursed the fig tree that was not fruitful in season, and he told a story about an unfaithful steward who did not put his master's resources to work. Therefore, art is more than imitating God, it is the expression--the giving-back to God--of a God-given ability; it is the 'blooming of the flower', and to withhold that creative expression is to withhold praise, to be the 'unfruitful fig.'

As to premise 3... I essentially agree. We shouldn't pre-digest truth for people. I heard Bob Bennett (singer/songwriter) say once that we should never take away the thrill of discovery from someone by unpacking truth for them, even if they want to give it to you.

Arts pieces should not be explained to the congregation.

I would say that art can serve a role as a sermon illustration, and sometimes can and should be explained. Art and preaching don't need an artificial wall between them if they are both forms of worship. Think of the stained glass windows that vividly co-communicate with sermons in cathedrals. And film criticism, which often seeks to uncover the meaning of films, has become an industry, almost an art itself. It can do so without destroying the experience of the film, and perhaps preachers can be better at helping the audience interpret art as well. But the whole premise of teaching/preaching should be to communicate truth, and it shouldn't be any more 'wrong' to deconstruct a play or dance than it is to review a film. I agree, though, it's often done counter-productively.

The Church could justifiably have ministries nurturing people

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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Dan,

That's the most compact and succint description of the role that art should play in the life of Christians. Do you have a title for this piece? The Christian Artist's Manifesto perhaps?

Oh and this bit:

Churchill put it right: \"Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.\" And sadly, 'church dramas' often ride the ragged edge of contrivance and 'cute' because they're halfway committed to and self-conscious efforts that only serve as a prelude to the real sermon, the carefully prepared 45 minutes of the Word--not seeking to explore the hidden rooms of the soul, but to set up drops and dressing for the set the pastor will occupy. This is traditional, what, for the most part, we've begrudgingly come to accept over the years in church as the 'dramatic presentation' or the 'illustrated sermon'....

Great quote and couldn't agree more with the rest.

Not to hijack the thread but I have a question. Just about everybody who posts here seems to have a similar view of the role that the arts should play and I think most people here would agree that most Christians are oblivious to these issues and so time after time at church after church we end up seeing the same shallow, recycled, sentimental "art." The only differences seems to be that professionalism and production values go up or down in relation to the size of the church (and ministry budget).

So my question is, with all that's wrong with the state of the arts in the church, how do you keep from getting cynical, bitter, and angry - emotions that are crippling my spiritual walk. There just seems to be so much that's so wrong and so many people are unaware of it all. How do you keep from pulling your hair out and running for the hills, dresing in camel hair clothes and eatting locusts and honey? Of course, I'm exagerating but really, this is something that's eatting away at me - a foothold for the devil if you will. Both prayers and suggestions would be welcome.

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Tim! Great comments!! Very interesting. I especially love the snowflake examples and the fig tree thing.

On the "Explaining the art" I am with you that there is a time and a place for explaining art. But in a presentational mode (like the sermon) to give them the art, and then explain it is a real injustice. If the church wants to facilitate critical and analytical venues for art discussion, I'm ALL for it. But the viewer has to be part of the process. I realize this takes training, but not for the cutesy dramas that happen in church. A ten-year-old can even grasp the ideas there, but the fact that they remain unstated makes them more powerful. The same way a joke is funnier if nobody comes out and explains why its funny.

I'm not crazy about the sermon illustration thing. I think this is a bastardization of the arts. Like using a bulldozer to kill a fly. If you're just illustrating the sermon, tell a quick story, interview someone, but to use the arts degrades their power. If they arts serve the sermon, they'll be vierwed as less important.

I have to think more on the explanation of art, and where it should take place. But for now, the pendulum is WAAAAAAY at the other end, so I'll stick to screaming from the opposite extreme until I see it headed back my way. wink.gif

Lone -keeping from getting cynical

I try to keep in mind that people not thinking this way is a result of sheer ignorance. Which, in many ways, is not their fault. I have yet to spend time with someone and discuss these issues and have them say, "Oh I know all that, but I've decided against it." When I speak to someone about the arts not needed justification or about them being a vital aspect of understanding God, they find it revolutionary. Not that I came up with it, but they'd never thought that way.

So, just like you wouldn't get angry at a 3-year-old who doesn't know how to read, you must have patience with a Church that doesn't know how to do art.

But, I still get annoyed every now and then. It keeps me passionate!

Edited by DanBuck
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I'm not crazy about the sermon illustration thing. I think this is a bastardization of the arts.  Like using a bulldozer to kill a fly.  If you're just illustrating the sermon, tell a quick story, interview someone, but to use the arts degrades their power.  If they arts serve the sermon, they'll be viewed as less important.

I hate to say it Dan, but this may be the point. Art, to some, exists to serve the gospel. I'm tempted to say that a pastor who illustrates with a , heh, skit instead of story, or analogy, is probably thinking he is "giving artists a chance" rather than seeing his weakness as an illustrator of spiritual points. You are right to protest. Also, rather than degrade, some would see it as keeping the arts in check, or under dominion/submission, rather than an autonomous part of the worship that might not be worship per ce, to this POV.

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Lone Tomato

Great question.

One of the biggest battles: The sense that cynicism and 'stiff necks' will prevail no matter what.

There will always be at least one thorn. Always.

I'm an actor/director. 33 years old, been doing it since I was 7. Went to a high school for five years (yeah, count 'em, FIVE) that did 16 shows a year, then to community college for a bit until I sought independent instruction for 2 years under a guy teaching Stanislavski's Method in Seattle, then from there I went to the National Shakespeare Conservatory in NY--after this, to L.A. Done film, TV, radio and stage, stage stage.

Coming to our church I and my wife, also a performer, also professionally trained, were soon asked to use our talents to serve in a performing arts capacity.

Now, coming in, we could tell several things right away--some people sang flat, others had large egos and were competetive, still others were doing it out of obligation with little investment.

We were asked early on what to do to improve the worship, to bring the 'level of worship to a new standard.'

So, seeing these issues, we told the pastor what we saw. Humbly, and in a manner that was simply objective.

Well, the issues were handled, but afterwards several people were bitter because of their notions that:

[OMINOUS RUMBLING]

Service is simpler than performing.

[RUMBLING FADES]

Simpler and, therefore, more honest.

Because I and my wife had training and talent, we were (by some) considered 'worldly' and 'glory seeking' simply because we are professionals. Because our standards and goals are high, even though we make every effort to remain humble and moreover accountable, our offerings were met with resistance from a small faction of people who'd been told by their pastor, in a gentle way, they needed to step it up or step down.

People don't like criticism in general. Longstanding figures in church like it even less, it seems. Sad but true, oftentimes--affluence supplants accountability.

And new people are wrong.

Which bugs the tar out of me. I can't stand Christians who are afraid to own their mistakes, to open themselves for correction, to be confronted even in a humble manner. I can't stand it, because if I'm around them long enough I become like them.

So things changed. I wrote a Christmas piece the first year that was received very well, even asked for at different churches.

The next year, I wrote another. The pastor wanted to do one that was more 'risky.'

So I prayed. And I wrote.

It was hard to present--it seemed more geared to a secular audience; relatable, universal in theme, and provocative--bringing Christ into a perspective not often entertained by those 'in the know already' who don't need to ponder His nature any more because they got it.

It was hard to present because it addressed the main hypocrisies and idiosyncrasies occuring during the Christmas season, all the facets that have drawn people away from Christ and more toward the worldly commericalism and yes, cynicism.

And it was hard to present because a goodly portion of our congregation were indicted, in one way or another, by the content.

After, the pastor was approached by some of the old guard: next year, let's do the happy one again.

11 people, I am told, came to the Lord the year I did the confrontative one--the one that asked the questions, that expressed bitterness and angst and, ultimately, redemption.

One man who was going to leave the church stayed because of it, and is now one of my best friends. I didn't even know him at the time.

But it wasn't 'What people want to see during the holidays,' our Pastor was told. They want the Christmas story of baby Jesus.

That's what they want.

And the Pastor assented, because this was, after all, the old guard.

I began a downward spiral that lasted over a year. I was bitter, even though many gave thanks for the show, believers and non-believers alike. Many had tears in their eyes. Many stated it needed to be seen. Some said nothing at all.

But when it came back to me through the rumormill that I'd done it for my own glory, that was it.

Why, Lord, I ruminated.When I could be back in L.A., making money, gaining fame, fortune, acting upon every impulse that wracks a man--if I were doing it for my own glory, why would I choose a small church in Auburn, California, to do the best I could, and to give to every inquiree the reason for my joy---My God, my Savior, my grace? And why would anyone get that impression?!?

Am I really doing it for you?

Am I blind?

Have I been wrong all along?

Why do you allow your people to be the worst of all, in matters of treachery, blind secondhand convictions and hypocrisy?!? WHY? I'm better off out there, where at least I know people will stab me in the back--

Ah, the subtleties of the flesh.

I ate it, worm and all, hook and all, for over a year. Bitter, angry, and overall hurt--it infected my wife, my family, and I nearly blew my marriage to smithereens by withdrawing from everything and everyone except for my work.

Y'know, that whole 'My sheep know my voice' passage?

And then, 'You were running a good race---who cut in on you?' and 'Do not listen to every word a man says or you will hear your own servant cursing you' and and and and---

Oh yeah.

God.

God.

"Who is this that so darkens my counsel with words without knowledge?"

My questions were ultimately ridiculous--boils down to, I let the liar win. I believed in defeat more than success. I placed weight upon the result in man's eyes rather than the offering in God's.

I believe this is what makes us cynical.

I believe this is the root of our bitterness--when we attempt to weigh man's response as the tare upon the scale by which we measure out our offering to God, we will never find balance. And in the discrepancy we become frustrated--instant, tangible gratification versus invisible eternal reward; we see a pile of ingots where man's approval rests but only a grain in the plate where our firstfruits lie...so we try to take those ingots and place them in the God plate. Get people to agree, Yes! God likes this!

Those ingots aren't ours. Those belong to other people and shouldn't be on the scale in the first place.

In fact, there is no scale. It's between us and God--weighing against anything else is folly. What can offset God? What tare? No wage, no weight can come close.

My cynicism was a direct result of putting people opposite God on the scale. The only balance comes from watching my life and doctrine closely, weighing my actions against the Word of God and His law written in my heart.

More later--I gotta go. Thanks for listening.

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Rich Kennedy wrote:

: Also, rather than degrade, some would see it as keeping the arts in

: check, or under dominion/submission, rather than an autonomous part of

: the worship that might not be worship per ce, to this POV.

Just a note to say that I am So Glad the church I attend does not dilute the worship with skits and other forms of quasi-individualist expression. It's bad enough when worship bands start playing sax solos and you begin to feel you're at a concert, rather than focusing on God.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Dan, Jason,

Thanks for the encouragement and perspective. Cynicism is an ugly weed with roots that drive deep and wide. I believe that God's grace and love are sufficient to uproot the beast, but damn that unbelief. This board helps me get by.

Thanks again.

Oh, and

skits and other forms of quasi-individualist expression

I love that phrase. Almost fell out of my seat laughing!

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A ten-year-old can even grasp the ideas there, but the fact that they remain unstated makes them more powerful.  The same way a joke is funnier if nobody comes out and explains why its funny.

Good point.

I'm not crazy about the sermon illustration thing. I think this is a bastardization of the arts.  Like using a bulldozer to kill a fly.  

Hmm. I know you have a good point, but I'm wondering if using the arts to illustrate/emphasize is necessarily bad. I mean, if the arts communicate at all, then should the message be different than the sermon? How would that be helpful? And if we want to include the arts, then have them communicate something that works with the other elements of an event. Now, if you mean that a ham-fisted dramatization of a sermon point is counter-productive to both preaching and creativity, I agree.

Honestly, I think it might be important to know your audience, too. Some people who have better experience with theatre might need less guidance, while some churches with a less "sophisticated" (hate that word) congregation might be frustrated at having to guess at meaning. I mean, if we aren't speaking their language it's not helpful.

Randall & Jason, thanks for your comments (and Jason -- nice writing!). Amazing how we take ownership of results, eh?

I have a saying: People are weird. This has become one of my life sayings, and what I mean is, if you deal with people, you deal with weird. People react unpredicatably, and we can't control the actions of others: our responsibility is for our own response.

I hope you guys continue to create. Go nuts!

"Could we ever know each other in the slightest without the arts?"

« Nous connaîtrions-nous seulement un peu nous-mêmes, sans les arts? »

Quoted on Canada's $20 bill; from Gabrielle Roy's novel La montagne secrète. The English translation, The Hidden Mountain, is by Harry L. Binsse.

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  • 2 weeks later...

UPDATE: After some careful thought and reading my views thoroughly I believe the drama leadership is very enthusiastic about the concepts I've presented. For example, an email from one of the other leaders:

Note: I used Lost in Translation as an example of understated art. Darian is the third of our drama leadership team and Caron is the head of all things creative at the church. (also the pastor's wife)

Certainly Lost in Translation has replayed itself to me multiple

times after seeing it, because I so much want to understand why it's

such an amazing work--using it as an example of gracefully understated

observations about human nature, is very helpful as a concrete example

of the standard you are aiming for.

If you, Darian, and I can hold that standard before our own eyes (and I

think it's important we all 3 understand it,) then we can use it as a

filter to consider up-coming dramas and how to elevate our present

status quo.  That elevation may come incrementally or it really is

possible for it to happen suddenly.  At any rate, I see no reason why by

the end of this year, the three of us won't be fully certain we have

crossed a plateau and are presenting dramas that are truly little works

of art and in so being, full of diverse meaning and multiple levels of

enjoyment for the viewers.  

Having said that, we should consider 1) re-writing and/or original

writing of scripts to keep from bludgeoning the meaning over viewers'

heads--which means a great deal more work on potentially all 3 of our

parts 2) finding the best and wisest way to help Caron and the rest of

the planning team understand our vision and desire it right along with

us.  One sub-thought related to that is considering Caron's very strong

philosophy toward element transitions in any given service. She

explained it recently like this:  Each element is a bead, making one

continuous and beautiful necklace. (She used a scripture from proverbs

about a necklace, but I don't know it off the top of my head.)

Personally, the philosophy appeals to me in the same vein I believe you

are careful to say dramas at Discovery should not be disparate.  Part of

the challenge then, is working with others so transitions remain

cohesive without being commentaries about what is about to be seen or

what has just been seen.

It's hugely exciting to me to have this vision and thank you again, Dan

for sharing your insight.

Love,  

Leslie

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