Paul Thompson blogs at The Bridge.
(You should know on the front end that this post is heavily influenced by A.C. Dixion, and his “Ethics of the Theater”sermon (1905.) I highly recommend you read that sermon and let your mind consider all that is said. Let me further say that it would be critically important to hear all that he says and all that he doesn’t say. It would be easy to conclude that he is saying that all theater is sinful, but he doesn’t, he is arguing that the believer exercise caution, and in this post, I’m arguing that the church must seriously and soberly evaluate the use of a secular method. Also, note that his observation is of the live theater, mine is more directed at the big screen, but must still include live theater.)
When the church handles secular things with a low level of seriousness, she is prone to become drunk with the fascination of success. When the church behaves like the theater manager, she will more easily be willing to look the other way on ethics, morality, and biblical truths because the crowds dwindle and are notably smaller (numerical and financial.)
Consider this… In recent years the Christian film industry has witnessed a level of respect from movie goers, especially with Sherwood Pictures of Sherwood Baptist Church. I’m on record promoting and encouraging believers to support and attend these movies. I think they have done great good and made good use of the stage and the spread of the Gospel and encouraging believers, especially men, to stand up and be “courageous” men. I’m not suggesting that this should not be done, I’m only asking about the overwhelming weight of the vileness that is put in front of so many and lightheartedly labeled ‘entertainment’ or ‘amusement’.
That said… there is a huge difference between the church and the theater.
- The theater teaches men (and women) how to act a part or even act out an emotion. Isn’t the purpose of the Lord’s church to teach all how to be real.
- The purpose of the theater is to amuse or give the viewer a place to escape the problems of their lives and live through a clever story line that usually ends with a good ending. The purpose of the church is to teach man to endure hardships by looking to the cross and not to escape.
- A contrast that Dixon makes about the church and the stage that I found both important and sober is… “The symbol of the Church is the cross of Christ, the symbol of the stage ought to be a baby’s rattle.”
- The purpose of the theater manager is to make money, usually at the expense of good morals. The purpose of the church is to make disciples of Christ and good morals are not for sale, at any price, ever.
- The theater gives people what they want, and usually the worst of shows draw the larger crowds. The purpose of the church is to give people what they need, even if it is unpopular.
- The theater encourages the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. The purpose of the church is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The theater caterers to the flesh. The church speaks as a prophet and rebukes the disciple.
- The theater tends to glorify revenge. The church teaches forgiveness of enemies and patient long suffering of wrong.
- The theater wants to keep people in their childish ways, making that which is childish and base appealing to the audience. The church work of the church is to train a child-like faith to grow in the heart of bold heralds of the gospel message.
- The theaters strategy is to keep all viewer hostage to its self-gratifying amusement. The Church is to lead the disciple into a self-sacrificing lifestyle.
lustful, proud, selfish and revengeful. And what God hath put asunder no man can join together.” (emphasis mine)
Now let me conclude by saying that I am not of the opinion that the stage is improper use for the church. Carefully read and carefully consider. I have thick skin – not something I’ve always had, but I can handle disagreement with the grace of God.