Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Picky, Picky, Picky

It’s that time of year again – auditions for my church’s drama group.

BADD – Bel Air Drama Department – is a covenant group of 30 or so members. We take our work as public ministers seriously, and search out members keeping in mind two major criteria: artistic excellence and spiritual depth (and a whole slew of minor criteria).

Thus, when I tried to get in, the audition process was the most grueling of any audition I have gone through in my professional career.

Which raises a few hackles from some churchgoers.

I took a call a few weeks back from an actress who wished to star in our short videos, and needed to know what time we met so she could show up and start being used. She was offended to her core when I told her that we held auditions – she believes strongly that to do so is anti-Christian.

The final straw for her was when I described the responsibilities of group membership, which included all members pitching in and helping out on our shoots – even actors have to pull cable.

That brought the accusation that we obviously were not a “loving” group of people. She slammed the phone down on me; and it was reported that she then called to complain to the church and withdrew her attendance – based on the notion of the drama group holding auditions and expecting their members to be servants.

I’m going to ignore the whole “I’m a star, not a production assistant” question. If you’re a star and not a p.a., good for you – but please for the sake of Christ’s Bride, stay away from the Church. Thank you.

So the next question: Is holding auditions anti-Christian?

Sure.

As long as by “Christian” you are don’t mean anything dealing with “Christ,” but rather that watered down version where everything in life is “G” rated, sin doesn’t exist, the cross is pretty, and the defining virtue of Christianity is being “nice” at all costs – and I do mean at all costs.

But if you are talking about a Christianity defined as following Christ, then auditions are very much pro-Christian.

Here are some reasons that I believe this to be true (and, please, if anyone has a Biblical justification for why being selective in ministry is anti-Christian, let me know!)

We are called to give our first fruits to God. (Nehemiah 10:35-37)

When we give to the Lord, we are expected to give our best – not our leftovers. We are not called to eat, drink, party, go to the movies, have an ice cream cone, fill up the car with gas, play the slots, and then, if there is anything left over, tithe.

No, our tithes, our sacrifices and offerings are to be off the top – the best of what we have.

This seems to be commonly accepted. No one to my knowledge has suggested that we give less of our money to the Deacon’s fund, or that we intentionally give bad quality food to the soup kitchen, or that we look specifically for grumpy greeters and fiscally irresponsible accountants for the church staff.

In fact, I have never heard an argument made in ministry that we shouldn’t give God our first fruits

Except in the area of the arts.

And here I have heard repeatedly that God doesn’t care about our best when it comes to performance. We shouldn’t seek out the most qualified actors, directors, writers, etc.

God only cares about the heart, not quality; or so they say.

Which, by the way, is a lie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a “nice” lie, a feel good lie, a “gee it sounds good” lie. But it is indeed a lie – a taste of poison.

There is no Biblical exception for actors to the “give God our first fruits” ideal.

In fact, the opposite it true.

To be continued.

Just my thoughts,

Sean

3 comments:

Tempest said...

Hi, Sean. You don't know me from Adam, but our philosophies are very similar. I found your blog through a link from Jeffrey Overstreet's blog.
I was director/student producer for Christendom College's production of "The Scarlet Pimpernel" musical, by Frank Wildhorn. I held rigorous auditions--insisting, for example, that the students walk into the room and answer random questions in character...or, after call-backs, sing a piece or two from the musical. This was the first in NUMEROUS scandles associated with what is now known as Christendom's most successful show.
Why is it that Christians insist on cheesy mediocrity--especially in the later half of the 20th century until now? There is nothing "Christian" about mediocrity--bad art does not fit the "Transendentalness" of God...only Good, True, Beautiful art.
As for that actress--I pity her. What artist WOULDN'T want to take part in all aspects of production? The reason we CAN'T most of the time is that we end up overspending ourselves, exhausted and artistically drained...art is more addicting then any drug high--but the crash is brutal if one doesn't temper one's endeavors..

All in all, a most elequent argument to challenge Christian art to high standards of excelence...I hope we all remember well the parable of the talents..."to whom much is given, much will be expected of"...
Pax et Bonum!

jessi knippel said...

Sean,

Thank you so much for your words on the need for integrity in arts especially in Christian context. As both an actress and theologian I find this is the constant struggle between the two.

Jessi Knippel

regina doman said...

Excellent post Sean! I reached you from Janet's blog.