(Note: This is the substance of a speech on this subject delivered at the Spring Mass Meeting
at our Hope Church. I am attempting to reproduce it as accurately as possible from my notes. H.C.H.)
I am happy to be in your midst tonight and speak to you, especially because this occasion affords me the opportunity for contact with our young people, – something which I rather miss since I took up my new labors.
I am not happy, however, about the subject assigned. From a certain point of view it is understandable that drama presents a problem to you. The opportunity to take part in drama or to be entertained by it frequently recurs in your lives. You are confronted by the drama-question basically in regard to the so-called theater or movie problem. You are faced with it in connection with television, by means of which you can bring the theater into your homes very easily at the flick of a switch. In your school life too you rather often face the problem of taking part in or attending skits, dialogues, class plays, and other dramatic productions, sponsored by Christian schools or other apparently Christian organizations. Hence, from that point of view the choice of subject is understandable.
But from another aspect I cannot understand the repeated choice of this subject. In fact, it is rather perturbing that again and again this subject comes up. For it is not a new subject at all. It has been discussed and debated and spoken on and written about repeatedly in our circles and already a long time ago. I well remember that when I was a boy in David Society at First church we debated the subject rather vigorously. It was the subject of debate at a combined meeting of the Young Men’s and Talitha Societies in my day too. I recall that it was debated at a convention in Oak Lawn years ago. And undoubtedly more than one society has treated the subject in its after-recess program in the past. Besides, the pages of the Standard Bearer have given us instruction in this regard already before your time. Frankly, that makes me a bit suspicious that some of us want to discuss the subject because they indulge in drama, and probably would like to justify this indulgence. It also makes me wonder whether our homes have failed in this respect to instruct the generations of the covenant as to the proper attitude to take towards drama. At any rate, I want to say from the outset very bluntly, that as far as I am concerned there is absolutely no place for drama of any kind in our lives as Protestant Reformed people. And I don’t intend to compromise on that tonight. This drama-question ought to be settled among us. It ought to be a matter of settled policy in our homes that we do not allow drama a place in our lives. And we ought not to be forever learning and never coming to the knowledge of the truth in this respect. We ought to be leaving some of these first principles and going on to higher things and to deeper and richer truths.
Hence, if you are merely interested in an academic discussion of drama tonight, and want to “bat the subject around,” I assure you that I am not interested. But if you want to be instructed as to a sanctified and covenant walk in this regard, and want to practice that instruction, if you want to dare to be considered narrow and probably dull, than I have something to say to you. My subject is: “Covenant Youth and Drama.” And I will divide it as follows:
- The Basic Question of Attitude Involved.
- The Principal Issue of Drama as Such.
- The Practical Matter of our Walk at Stake.
When I speak of the basic question of our attitude in this connection I, refer to the fact
that we live in a world that is entertainment crazy. It is beyond question that one of the most important questions of the world today, which has much leisure time, is: what can we do to amuse ourselves? In fact, we may safely say that this is one of the controlling questions of the day. The whole world is bent on having a good time. I admit that this a broader question, including much more than drama. But I insist, first of all, that this whole amusement-craze is basic to any consideration of the drama-question. The purpose of dramatic productions is to entertain, to amuse. And the purpose of attending such productions is the same. It is sometimes claimed that this not entirely true, and that the purpose of drama is at least partly educational, that drama can serve a useful purpose in audio-visual education. Now, apart from anything else, I am old fashioned enough to believe that the value to so called audio-visual education is grossly overrated. But be that as it may, if we are honest with ourselves, the purpose of drama and the function of drama are not educational. I remember well from grade school days that we were treated periodically to dramatic productions on the screen in connection with the history of our country. I also, remember that we learned little history from those movies, and were not interested in learning history from them. We considered those movies a nice substitute for school work, and were highly entertained, especially if there was a little blood and thunder in the pictures. And thus it is generally with drama. We may safely assume that the dramatic productions, whether on stage or movie screen or TV screen whether amateur or professional, is entertaining in it purpose; and we may also assume without fear of contradiction that the sole reason for attending such productions is that we crave amusement.
I, therefore, make the indictment that our whole so-called “drama problem” is but one aspect of a larger problem, or evil, namely, that we live in an age that is largely entertainment-orientated, pleasure-mad, amusement crazy, and that we ourselves have in no little degree fallen victim, willy-nilly perhaps, to the devastating philosophy that people, especially young people, including covenant young people, need amusement! And by the same token, I venture to say that if you get rid of that wrong amusement-philosophy, root and branch, your drama problem will also be solved.
Let me elaborate on this a little.
The proposition that we have ourselves to no little extent fallen victim to the evil amusement-disease hardly need proof. Let me appeal to your own conscience, first of all. How much is your own life not governed by the aim of having yourself a “good time,” even to the extent that your work and your schooling are governed by it and receive a secondary place? School work must not crowd us too much, and must be taken care of as quickly and as easily as possible, in order to make room for “fun.” How common is the complaint among young people, especially when certain types of entertainment are contraband, that “there’s nothing to do!” For many a person a night at home is unthinkable, much less so doing something truly worthwhile on such an open night. If nothing else, young people can find a multitude of excuses for just going out and tearing around in a car for no sane reason, and often not in a sane manner. In the second, place, think how all kinds of sports, ball games, bowling, boating, racing, skiing, roller-skating, etc.,-and all kinds of shallow entertainment, along with plays, pageants, movies, TV dramas, have come to play a dominating part of our life. If there is any kind of worthwhile program, it must not be too heavy and serious. Nor must it last too long. And it is even claimed that you cannot get an audience for a “light” program of religious music during the week. Such programs must be rendered on Sunday evening after the service. In the third place, how our societies suffer! Bible discussion is brief, and it is poorly prepared for. After-recess programs are a chronic problem, often of little real value, and receive still less attention and preparation. Beacon Lights, – let alone our Standard Bearer now, is little read by those for whom it is mainly published, our young people. And it is much less studied! This is all because we “have no time” supposedly. The truth is, of course, that we don’t take time, that we crowd our lives with entertainment and amusements instead. It is a rare thing when our young people, (to mention more items along this line), sponsor a lecture or other worthwhile program today. Even the entertainment side of our conventions looms larger and larger. The convention becomes more and more a time to get away and to go out without having too many restrictions from our parents. Attendance at business meetings and at programs must be enforced. And besides, a large measure of outside financial help is required by our young people to sustain their own federation activities; this in a day when they think nothing of spending endlessly on cars and gasoline and on all kinds of valueless amusements. More could be mentioned. But let this suffice. And it is my position that this whole matter of our attitude toward life, our outlook upon life, is an important aspect of the “drama problem” too.
Is this indeed the proper outlook on life for covenant youth? You might expect it from the world’s youth. But how about covenant youth? Is the chief, the most important thing to be entertained and to have pleasure? What is our answer in the light of God’s Word?
No, the Christian must not be an unhappy person with a long face. And this is especially not the case for covenant young people. The Christian must be joyful and happy! But the joy must be in the Lord! And there is undoubtedly a place in the Christian life for relaxation and recreation and enjoyment. But that place is limited! And that means, in the first place, that there must be the proper balance in our lives. Not amusements and fun is the chief thing, so that it becomes a most serious and pressing problem to provide enough of it. The place of entertainment is minor and subordinate. Even our entertainment and recreation must be but a means in fulfilling our life’s calling. In the second place, even our entertainment and recreation must be Christian, and our hours of relaxation must be spent in a Christian way. There is no relaxing and no truce in our battle to be manifest as children of the light! Spiritually we may not relax even in our hours of relaxation. And that means that all our pleasures must be able to stand the test of God’s Word. Our entertainments must have a positively Christian character.
No, the world is not a play ground but a battle field. And the calling of the covenant young man and your lady is not to play, but to fight a battle and to prepare and train for a spiritual battle. To that end, we need not amusement and recreation chiefly, but we need edification and instruction in the Word of God. We must become founded in the truth. We must be equipped to make our way through the world as saints! And therefore, you must not give your chief attention to amusements by any means. And you must not be led astray by all kinds of pseudo-Christian amusements. Amusements that are supposed to be of a Christian character merely because they are sponsored by some so-called Christian organization. No, you must prepare for battle! And you must do that by searching the Scriptures at every possible opportunity, at home, in catechism, in your societies. You must study! You must learn! You must grow in grace!
If you do this, you will find that even your entire outlook on life changes, so the question of drama becomes less and less a question. It will no more present a practical problem for you. For not only will you spontaneously have very little time, if any, for such things; but you will also realize that drama is not a legitimate form of entertainment for the Christian.
(to be continued)