Because of my last few posts, I've gotten a lot of feedback as to the safety of drama. In response to all your comments (which I really like; I love hearing feedback!!!), I've decided to write up a post totally dedicated to the subject of drama.
In William Shakespeare's play called Hamlet (which I will never watch due to its content), he portrayed the power of drama when his main character, bent on proving the guilt of his father's murder, struck on the idea of having a play performed. As the scene similar to the murder was enacted, he would observe the suspect, who was the king: "...the play's the thing, wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king."
When I came upon that little tidbit of information, I was amazed to see how similar it was to another story I had read in 1 Kings 20:
After having a young man smite and wound him, one of “the prophet(s) departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king: and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver. And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.” Then the prophet proceeded to tell king Ahab that the Lord would do the same to him because of his unholy alliance with Ben-Hadad!
The Lord was very displeased with what Ahab had done, and surprisingly enough, he used drama to "catch the conscience of the king". Over and over in the Old Testament, you see the prophets acting out little dramas to enforce the Lord's words on the people's minds. In Ezekiel 4, God asks Ezekiel to re-enact a siege upon Jerusalem (a very interesting story that you might like to read). In chapter 5, He again asks Ezekiel to perform a visual drama to show the people of Israel how displeased He was with them. Over and over in the Old Testament you see God using visual representations to speak to the people; baskets of fruit, potter's clay, cutting of staffs, etc. To begin our interesting study on the topic of drama, let's take a quick look at how God has used drama on a larger scale than I've already mentioned.
Drama is the most powerful weapon available to enforce the message you are trying to get across to your audience. When Pharoah hardened his heart and wouldn't let the people of Israel sojourn into the wilderness, God used 10 powerful demonstrations to prove to the people his authority over the gods of Egypt. When God spoke the ten commandments to the children of Israel from Mt. Sinai, He used both visual means, lightnings and fire; and audible means, thunderings from the earth and His inexpressibly powerful voice. After that earth-shaking experience had finished, the people cried to Moses to spare their lives and to translate all of God's messages without them having to hear God's voice. When John beheld the vision described in Revelation, he was overcome with awe and wonder. The first glimpse he got of Jesus Christ, standing before him in all His power and glory, John fell at His feet as a dead man. After the whole drama enacted in Revelation had come to a close - overcome with adoration to God for the glorious ending to earth's wickedness - John fell down to worship at the feet of an angel, who instructed him to worship God instead.
One of the main questions Adventists ask me when talking about the subject of drama is this: If God used it so many times to enforce His words to His people, why does Ellen White condemn it? Let's take a closer look at why Ellen White speaks out against drama and the theater.
When reading the list of entries in Ellen White's index, the results are quite shocking! "among most dangerous pleasure resorts; attendance at, contrary to Christ's teachings; not good for sanitarium patients; tends to evil; species of idolatry; crime is acted at; demoralizes; hotbed of immorality; imagination depraved and morals debased by; only safe course is to shun; youth educated in crime by; spirit of frivolity in;" the list goes on and on.
In many of her statements, she lumps theater-going with drinking and gambling, but why? As when studying the Bible, we must look at the context of Ellen White's writings also. Back in her day, the theaters were a place where sensual attitudes and actions were portrayed, stories were enacted that had no mention of God in them except to take His holy name in vain. Regrettably, a few years ago we attended a couple theaters that were about the history of Alaska. Thinking they were like history stories enacted in the historical town's theaters, we decided to attend and learn more about the history of Alaska. What we saw there was shockingly repulsive, as most of the content - while being history - was crude and sensual. Those theaters were a prime example of what they were like back in Mrs. White's day; places of amusement, pleasure, and sensual riotousness. Going back to the play I mentioned earlier written by Shakespeare, one description I found was this: "The themes discussed in the plot include indecision, seeking revenge and retribution, deception, ambition, loyalty and fate." Those were the kinds of plays so prevalent in Ellen White's day. Unfortunately, the same is evident today. Just a quick look at the films being produced will show you that Satan hasn't given up his hold on visual drama. I really like the following quote:
"The blessing of God would not be invoked upon the hour spent at the theater or in the dance. No Christian would wish to meet death in such a place. No one would wish to be found there when Christ shall come.
When we come to the final hour, and stand face to face with the record of our lives, shall we regret that we have attended so few parties of pleasure? that we have participated in so few scenes of thoughtless mirth? Shall we not, rather, bitterly regret that so many precious hours have been wasted in self-gratification, so many opportunities neglected, which, rightly improved, would have secured for us immortal treasures?" - Messages to Young People p.39
Serious thoughts to contemplate! So that brings me to the ultimate question: Is there any good in theatrical performances? or should it be totally shunned by Christians? Quite surprisingly, I believe that it is something each person must decide for themselves. For me personally, I believe it CAN be used to glorify God and further His work here on earth. God has made us to be impressed with powerful demonstrations; it's a part of our genetic code. Nobody can explain why we're affected by it, but nevertheless, we are! It's kind of like music. It's something God has created for us to enjoy, but the reasons behind why it affects us is a scientific research phenomenon that we still don't completely understand. And just like music, Satan has taken drama and warped it to the point where most people are not satisfied with the way God created it to be; they want it to enthrall them and so encapsulate their senses with sensual and abysmal actions that they no longer thirst after the living water God offers; it seems too "boring" for them.
As long as drama is performed in such a way that it renders total honor and glory to the Creator, I believe it is perfectly safe. As long as you as an audience member could imagine Christ sitting beside you, watching the whole production with you; or look back with thankfulness, reminiscing on how it helped you focus on your walk with the Lord; or see your attendance record written in flaming letters during the fearful judgement day, and have no regrets; than I believe it is a safe course to take.
In closing, I'd like to call attention to my statements in the last paragraph. Those are VERY FINE filters! About 99.9% of the movies for sale today would not be fit for Christians to watch; including some Independent Christian Films! Every person is different. Let's take two Christians for example: Maybe person A puts less emphasis into the way they dress, thus having lax standards in that area; while person B is deeply convicted and thus committed to having their style of dress be pleasing to the Lord. If person A produces a Christian film, it's automatically going to have looser dress standards than person B holds. That's where I believe Christians must draw the line in the films they watch; "by beholding we become changed", and as I said, drama is the most powerful means that we have available whereby we can communicate our ideas. Therefore, we should be ULTRA careful in choosing the movies we watch, as they will, unfailingly, affect us for the rest of our lives.
When discussing means of "advertising" spiritual truths, Ellen White made the following statement: "We must take every justifiable means of bringing the light before the people. Let the press be utilized, and let every advertising agency be employed that will call attention to the work. This should not be regarded as nonessential. On every street corner you may see placards and notices calling attention to various things that are going on, some of them of the most objectionable character; and shall those who have the light of life be satisfied with feeble efforts to call the attention of the masses to the truth?" Evangelism p.129
Although the press is still operating, the media has largely taken over its work. If Mrs. White were alive today, she would probably say something like this: "We must take every justifiable means of bringing the light before the people. Let the media be utilized, and let every advertising agency be employed that will call attention to the work. This should not be regarded as nonessential. In every city theater you will see movies calling attention to the debasing works of Satan, all of them of the most objectionable character; and shall those who have the light of life be satisfied with feeble efforts to call the attention of the masses to the truth?"
It is my prayer that we each will prayerfully consider ways and means of spreading the gospel; utilizing the tools that are around us. I'm honestly sorry this post got to be so long, but to do thorough justice to all aspects of this highly debated subject would take an entire book! Hmmm... I'll think more about that later.