Christian Living

Fundamentalists and Theater: Act Four, Says Who?

Act 1 l Act 2 l Act 3

In The Nick of Time

Dave (not his real name) was a missionary in Eastern Europe. One Sunday, he was preaching to a church full of nationals. Not yet experienced with the language, Dave unknowingly uttered an obscenity from the pulpit. It was not an ordinary, garden-variety obscenity. No, it was about the worst thing that anyone could say in that language. Then, seeing the audience wince, he assumed that they were under conviction and repeated what he had just said. At last, he went on with his sermon, never guessing that the congregation didn’t hear another word.

After the service, the pastor explained the problem to Dave. Of course, Dave was mortified. He was still embarrassed when he told me about the episode years later. He said, “The problem is that nobody tells you about the bad words until after you say them.” The pastor also told me about it—separately—and then added, “I was praying that the Lord would kill him before he could say it again.”

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A New Year Wish

As another year comes to a close, we are again faced with how we, as believers, should view the changing of the years. The Chinese may have started this practice with special dishes symbolic of good luck and prosperity along with fireworks to attract the attention of benevolent gods and to frighten away evil spirits. Today there is a celebration of the close of another year, and we welcome the prospect of a better year with noise, bubbly, and New Year resolutions. But what should believers wish each other for the New Year? Perhaps Paul’s words in his final farewell to the Corinthians might be applicable here.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”2 Corinthians 13:14

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Meditation on Psalm 90

On the threshold of the Promised Land, disaster strikes. Hardened with unbelief and the fear of the Canaanites, the Israelites refuse to go on. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb, who try to persuade the people of God’s faithfulness, face a lynching. Just as the tension and turmoil are as great as they’ve ever been on this people’s faithless and complaining journey out of Egypt and into Canaan, the glory of the Lord roars into the camp, and He pronounces their doom: they will wander aimlessly in the wilderness for 40 years; all Israelites aged 20 and up (save the faithful few) will die within that time; the children whom they thought would be prey to the Canaanites will inherit the land (Num. 14).

Moses, the man of God, now leads a people whose sole expectation for the next 40 years is to litter the desert with their corpses. Heartsick with deferred hope, he prays. What does one pray—can one pray—at a time like this?

A Prayer of Moses the Man of God

Lord, thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.
(Ps. 90:1–2, KJV)

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Copland, Pluralism, and Musical Meaning: Implications for Christian Aesthetics

Aaron Copland was a composer, not an aesthetician or theologian. But as the honorary “Dean of American Composers,” he was often called upon to discuss musical meaning, and his thoughts on the matter were well-informed, both by his study and experience. In the view of this writer (also an American composer, but of a much smaller order!), Copland’s ideas have great value for Christians who make aesthetic judgments in accordance with Scriptural revelation. In a 1951 speech at Harvard, Copland said,

I am warily approaching one of the thorniest problems in aesthetics, namely the meaning of music. The semanticist who investigates the meaning of words, or even the meaning of meaning, has an easy time of it by comparison with the hardy soul who ventures forth in quest of music’s meaning.

Certainly this is a frank assessment of the difficulty faced by any aesthetician, Christian or not! He continues,

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Fundamentalists and Theater: Act Two, So What?

In The Nick of Time
They say that confession is good for the soul. Well, here’s my confession.

I love the theater.

I fell in love during my junior year in high school. On a whim I tried out for a school play and somehow ended up with a lead role. That was a turning point in my life. Acting was the first thing I discovered that I could do really well.

I loved it, and I threw myself into theater for the last two years of high school. As it turned out, I was in the right place at the right time. Our little school had a terrific team of theatrical coaches. Under their direction, we repeatedly captured the highest honors in state competitions. Because of their investment, I personally was given the highest awards that it was possible to receive.

Granted, this was high school. But we were working at a level far beyond most prep school theater troupes. We were outperforming even the big, metropolitan schools and functioning beyond many college theater departments.

I loved the greasepaint. I loved losing myself in the roles that I played. I loved the applause. I loved the camaraderie. I loved acting.

After I graduated, I qualified to become a judge in that state’s high school speech and theater association. I wanted to judge the acting events. At that time I was the youngest judge ever to be credentialed in that state—a record that probably still holds.

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Eternal Rewards

A few years ago, I gave sewing lessons to two different teenage girls. The first girl was eager to learn, and she was a joy to teach. When her first sewing project was finished, she presented me with a $20 gift card to a fabric store. The second girl did not like sewing very much and was always trying to weasel me into ironing her project or finishing the edges for her. While she sewed, we would talk about her struggles at home and school. I was not sure she was learning very much about sewing, but I knew that the time I was spending with her was making a difference in her life.

One day during sewing lessons, my second student decided to cut out a pattern on top of my bed. While cutting out the fabric, she cut a big slash through my comforter. When I saw the destruction, I quickly left the room. Tears were flooding my eyes, and I did not want my emotions to show through to my student. I found refuge in the bathroom and allowed myself to have a good cry. A battle began to rage in my spirit. On one hand, I kept telling myself, It’s just a comforter. It’s only a thing. And on the other hand, I kept reminding myself of how much money the comforter had cost and how it had been just the right one in the store. So the tears kept rolling out. My self-pity continued as I began to entertain bitter thoughts toward my second student: I spend all this time teaching her, and I get no thanks—only a ruined comforter. My first student was so nice—she got me a gift card.

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Fundamentalists and Theater: Act One, Whatever Happened?

In The Nick of Time

My parents came to Christ when I was about three or four years old. They responded to the witness of a home missionary who was planting a fundamental Baptist church in their small Michigan town. After they were baptized and joined that church, they brought up their children under the sound of its teaching.

bauderpq1.jpgIn those days, fundamentalist churches almost universally recognized a ban on theater attendance. No real distinction was made between the stage and the screen, though stage productions were not very accessible to most people. Typically, this prohibition was understood in simple terms: “Christians don’t go to movies.”

That has changed. For the present generation of young fundamentalists, theater attendance is probably more fundamental than daily devotions. Most Christians, even those in relatively conservative circles, resent the suggestion that they should not attend movies. They are likely to bristle about what they call legalism, and they pride themselves upon the refinement of their spiritual discernment for the selection of theatrical amusements.

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