A Wedding Story...
Last night I went to Seattle Public Theatre's west coast premier of "A Wedding Story". A friend is in the play and, as is usually the case when I attend theater, I walked through the doors with a complete vacuum of expectations. A few short minutes into the play, however, I knew that this was going to be profound and meaningful at many levels, and covering a wide range of topics including:
1. children caring for aging parents
2. the challenges of holding the nuclear family together in a mobile society
3. our longings for sexual pleasure
4. the seasons of marriage
5. our ambivilance about commitment
6. Alzheimers disease and it's devastating effects on everyone touched by it
7. healthy and unhealthy ways of coping with disruption and loss in our lives
8. homosexuality (not a major theme, but certainly a sub-plot)
As my wife and I headed home afterward, I realized that I'd just walked through a slice of the issues we pastors deal with on a weekly basis. We're trying to help people navigate life's tumultuous waters by drawing upon both the revelation and strength of Christ, and even the caring and shepherding is fraught with it's own challenges, as I learn nearly every week.
I'm learning that theater is a powerful medium for exposing people to truth and the poets of our day, the musicians, filmakers, playwrights, should be among the mediums that we who follow Christ should digest. Yes, this play has more than a few points that are wildly divergent from the Christian world view, so know that going in (language and promiscuity, for example). I've written elsewhere about why I think such is setting can be appropriate for Christians, but for now I 'll just note that, when Paul walked across the hillside in Athens, looking at the idols and carefully reading their inscriptions, history tells us that he was gazing at idols which, by today's standards would surely be called pornographic. It also tells as that Paul was provoked by the encounter, even as I was provoked (and deeply touched) last night. The play draws the patron in to the lives of each person involved in this family as they deal with aging, brokenness, longings for intimacy, and how we rise up to the moments of challenge, or don't.
I get angry when people quote verses glibly, in response to another person's suffering or their choices. Christians rage against homosexuality who have never spoken with a gay person. We offer verses about the body wasting away while the spirit is being renewed as a means of comforting those facing terminal illness. Our approach is sterile, clinical, lacking empathy.
The theater is a safe place to learn how to empathize with gay people, with those struggling with sterile marriages, with those whose bodies are in rebellion and slipping away, and those whose cynicism regarding commitment has grown in the real world fires of betrayal and abandonment. If your ethics are pure theory, hammered out in a classroom, or on a mountain with a Bible... you need to start meeting people. But if that's too much, at least go to the theater, and start learning there. Either way, your approach to people will change - your convictions might not change (or they might), but your approach will change. You'll learn to weep with people over their brokenness, over their failure, over their sense of alienation.
"As your own poets have said..." - we'd do well to pay attention to them