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Drama-Should We Use It?

This article appeared in the May, 1957 issue of Beacon Lights and was the negative part of a debate in print. We use it only and not the affirmative statement because the very real problem concerning this subject is close and obvious to each one of us. It need not therefore be established by an article. This presentation by the late Jim Jonker is a correct one and to the point. Let us seriously, for a moment as young people, think on these things.

Drama has become one of the most popular forms of entertainment in our day. We can find it in various places, on the radio, over television, in the movies, in operas, in amateur plays, and even in the church. But though it is popular, it is also very questionable. Questionable not only regarding practice, especially as it is corrupted by Hollywood in our day, but also regarding principle. The question for the Christian is, ‘ ‘Is it right, or is it principally wrong?” If there is principle objection to it, no one will dare to maintain that it is still right and proper to have drama. Let me prove that there is such principle objection. We will consider drama from two aspects; its origin and development, and its essential make-up.

Drama originated with the Greeks and soon was studied and copied by the Romans. In England, Roman drama was adopted. The drama came to America especially from England, but some came from the Greeks and Romans. We would note here, that at an early date the church began to use the drama, but also at an early date it felt the evil of it, banished it, and relegated it to the streets.

Especially two things are evident concerning the origin of drama. First, drama surely originates in the world. That the world of Greece and Rome was evil and the Greeks and Romans an ungodly lot is plain from the accounts of many and various historians, but above all from what Paul tells us of them in chapters such as I Cor. 1 and 2, Acts 17, and especially Romans l . Secondly, drama busies itself with the world. Drama came out of a lust for the sensual and in both Greece and Rome centered about and grew up out of rites to the god of wine.

But now you ask the question: “Just because drama comes out of this world, is it necessarily evil? Is the drama as such sinful? To this we answer “Yes.” Note the essential make-up of drama. The original word from which “drama” came means to perform or do, and hence to act out. The drama as a stage term, therefore signifies that life is dramatized and acted out; that one person assumes the personality of another. Why is this wrong? We call your attention to three reasons.

First, the Christian may not dramatize life. Life is an immense reality. Life is the allotted time which God gives His image-bearers to serve Him. Life is God-given and that life is not a joke or a play-thing. A Sovereign God gives it, and a Sovereign God demands that the creature shall glorify him with it. Can a Christian play and act such a grim reality? and that for amusement or profit? Shall he play the life of rebellion of the reprobate, or play the serious struggle of the child of God? Does not Scripture forbid it? Life is too serious! Don’t bring in an excuse that drama can show life. Would you see life, then turn not to the stage, but to the Bible!

Secondly, the Christian may not play the part of any other human. God gave each man the stamp of personality. If a man takes a personality which God gave, not to him, but to someone else, and tries to put off his God-given personality, he is living and acting the lie. The better the actor can realize that lie, the lie that he loses his identity in that of the one he is dramatizing, the better actor he is said to be. If one plays the part of another, he is of necessity a HYPOCRITE. It will be striking to note that the word “hypocrite” as it is used in the Scriptures is exactly the word the Greeks used to designate a person who takes part in a drama. And Scripture tells us that hypocrisy is a great sin. (e.g. Rev. 22:15). Note also our Belgic Confession in Art. 37: “Nay, all men shall give an account of every idle word they have spoken, which the world only counts amusement and jest . . . and then the secrets and hypocrisy of men shall be disclosed and laid open before all”.

Thirdly, no Christian may dramatize sin. Apart from the fact that this is done for profit or amusement, to dramatize sin should be for the Christian a capital crime. Instead of abhorring it, one becomes an imitator of that which is evil. The covenant child of God, instead of playing sin (which is a denial that sin is a terrible reality and an abomination to the Lord), seeks more and more to be made free from it.

When you, Christian friend, consider this question, look at it basically and principally. Come not with petty arguments and excuses or try to compare it to other things which are acceptable and by a stretch of the imagination can be construed as remotely resembling drama. Do not ask questions about its results, such as, “Can drama not be educational?” No one will doubt this. Many sinful things can be educational. The end never justifies the means. Look at it for what it is: behold it in the light of God’s Word.

“Be ye not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

“Love not the world, neither the things of the world. If any man love the world, the love of God is not in him.”

Let your prayer be that of the Psalmist — ‘Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.’