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The Immanuel Agenda Scenes 1 thru 4
by douglas batson
01/15/10
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The Immanuel Agenda: a play based on The Pressureís Off by Dr. Larry Crabb
Waterbrook Press 2002

Copyright 2010 by Douglas Batson, National Certified Counselor

Synopsis: In this sequel to Shattered Dreams, Iraq war veteran Craig DiFatta is a new Christian. Craigís summer friendship with seminarian-athlete Bryce offers exciting possibilities until a Muslim background believer explains the Immanuel Agenda. A science fiction film, a 30-year-old family secret, a war widowís pain, and an unforgettable day of conflict and consecration direct Craigís heart home to a seat at Christís dinner table.


Cast of Characters

Craig DiFatta a gung-ho, 25-year-old Army sergeant and new Christian

Linda DiFatta Craigís mother

Mike DiFatta: Craigís father

Bryce FitzgeraldCraigís new friend, a 25-year-old seminarian and athlete

Sue Fitzgerald Bryceís Aunt and Lindaís best friend

Hamid Ali Aslan a 25-year-old Kurdish Christian

Patrice Nuernberger a 40-year-old war widow

Edward Greenhough a 48-year-old counselor

The cast requires a minimum of six: 4-5 men and 2-3 women. The 82-minute, one act play can be performed independently of its prequel, Shattered Dreams.

Scene: Sueís living room. Time: the summer following the December timeframe of Shattered Dreams.

Scene 1

AT RISE: Sue walks across room. The phone rings; she returns to answer it.

SUE
Hi, Bryce. [pauses] Your blue notebook? Yes, I see it---right where you left it. [pauses] You were asked to lead the conference leadership track? I say congratulations, nephew! [pauses] Understood, not the whole conference, but one of several themes; I still think that is tremendous. [pauses] No, Iím expecting company right now. Can it wait until after lunch? Yes, I could run it up to you then. [pauses] Who? Linda DiFatta and her son, Craig. Right, heís the Army sergeant we have been praying for. Yes, heís got leave and is visiting... [pauses] Thatís right, he must be doing better. Iíll give you an update this afternoon.
(doorbell rings)
Whatís that? Brittany has changed her mind and will be here for lunch on Saturday. Got it---and gotta go! Bye
(Sue walks to door, opens it for Linda and Craig. Sue and Linda hug.)

LINDA
Sue, Iíd like to introduce you to my son, Craig.
(Sue and Craig shake hands).

CRAIG
Maíam.

SUE
Well, young man, Iíve heard so much about you. And your parents must be just thrilled to have you home! Come in and sit down.
(all take seats)

Now, Craig, how long are you in town for?

CRAIG
I have lots of leave time so Iím here all summer! Mom told me that you prayed for me---and I want to thank you for that. Iím a radically saved Christian now, and Iím home to make amends for the trouble I recently caused my folks.

SUE
Well, Iím just speechless. No matter how many Hallelujahs I could shout, they wouldnít be loud enough. Oh, I donít know whom to hug first!
(Sue jumps up to hug both; then sits back down)
O.K. How? When? What? Where? Linda, how long have you known?

LINDA
Craig came home yesterday, sat Mike and me down, told us this wonderful news, and then took us out to dinner! Iím still overawed, and wanted you to be the first to know.

SUE
So, Craig, how did this happen? When did it happen?

CRAIG
About four months ago a buddy was watching the movie, The Matrix. Have you ever seen it?

SUE
No.

LINDA
(incredulously)
Itís an R-rated, science fiction action film.

CRAIG
Thatís right. After taking red pills, the hero named Neo wakes up, and struggles to remove wires and plugs from his atrophied body. Like Neo, and the other human batteries in the film, I was deluded that my life as a self-styled seeker was cool with God. All the while I was like them, an oblivious captive. The red pills are like Christís red blood, setting me free from slavery to sin. [pauses] Does any of that make sense to you?

SUE
Craig, I honestly donít understand any of this Matrix talk about Neo, red pills, plugs, and wires. I just rejoice that youíre now part of the family of God!

LINDA
(tearful)
I donít understand it all either, but am so thankful. Craig, tell Sue about your health.


CRAIG
I had never prayed much, but I did ask God to get me out of tight situations in Iraq. When I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, I prayed that God would take it away, but nothing happened. When I believed in His Son while watching the Matrix, I wasnít even thinking about what was in it for me, I just wanted to belong to Him.

SUE
And?

CRAIG
Even though I still have anxious feelings, since then I have not lost control of my emotions again! I wondered if my PTSD symptoms would come back; itís rare that they donít. I even wondered if my new-found faith was real. Thatís why I didnít tell anyone until now. I wanted to be sure. And---woo-whooo, itís all for real!

SUE
What an unusual and fantastic testimony, Craig. Have you found Christian fellowship where you are stationed? And if you donít mind me asking, what was Mikeís, I mean your fatherís, reaction?

CRAIG
Iím being discipled by a band of brothers in an awesome Bible study on post. As for Dad, he was visibly moved when I asked forgiveness for my earlier profane and disrespectful language to him, but he never has had much to say about matters of faith. Heíll change the topic to where he can brag on me fighting in the War on Terrorism. He was in the Cold War Army, and is super patriotic: all of his company vehicles have big yellow ribbons and ďSupport Our TroopsĒ bumper stickers on them.

LINDA
Craig was just wonderful! I watched how a gentle answer turns away wrath. And Craig committed to spending a lot of time with his father this summer.

SUE
Craig, I was just thinking. I hope you can spend time with my niece and nephew, who are staying with me this summer. They are your age and fine Christians. Iím sure you will get along swimmingly with Bryce. Like you, he is a strong swimmer. Heís a phys. ed. major, but didnít like teaching school, so heís finishing up his Masters degree at the seminary.

CRAIG
And your niece, Mrs. Fitzgerald, is she a P. E. major, too?

SUE
No, sheísÖOohhh, I get your angle. Brittany majored in business, but she looks the part of a phys. ed. major.

LINDA
Sheís very fit, and quite pretty, Craig.

CRAIG
So, when can I meet her, I mean, them?

SUE
Brittany is interning down the coast at a resort. But, you can meet Bryce, well, right now. Heís wants me to drop off this folder at the seminary. I bet Bryce can better appreciate your testimony. Let me call him now and we could then go out for lunch to celebrate! My treat!
[Sue dials phone]

LINDA
(to Craig)
Bryce would be able to help you grow in your faith, Craig. Why, heís involved with teaching ministries at church and is a walking Bible dictionary.

SUE
(to Bryce on the phone)
Excuse me, itís ringing... Bryce, Aunt Sue. Change of plans and get this: Lindaís son, Craig, has come to faith and has an incredible testimony. Have you heard of a movie called The Matrix? You have. If youíre still free, I can bring your folder now, and you can meet Craig. [pauses as Craig reaches for the phone] Wait, Craig wants to speak to you.

CRAIG
(to Bryce on the phone)
Hey, Bryce, this is Craig, the Crocodile, DiFatta, your new brother-in-Christ.


(BLACKOUT)
(END OF SCENE)



Scene 2


SETTING: One month later in the morning at a Conference Center.

AT RISE: Bryce, Craig, and Sue are seated, laughing.

BRYCE
(to his Aunt Sue)
ÖAnd when I asked Brittany how she would like a date with Craig, the Crocodile, she said ďnoĒ because, get this, she didnít want to drive all the way to Gainesville! She thought Craig was on the University of Florida ďGatorsĒ swim team.
(all laugh again)

CRAIG
Mrs. Fitzgerald, has Bryce or Brittany ever had a nickname?

SUE
We did call Brittany ďCandylandĒ when she was a child because she liked playing the board game so much.

BRYCE
That was a long time ago, Aunt Sue. I donít think sheíd appreciate that name now. It wouldnít fit her image of a business executive.

CRAIG
I happen to have inside information that Brittany is exploring an exciting, future opportunity as we speak.

BRYCE
You know a lot about my sister after just a few dates with her. If you would take me up on my offer, your own future would be exciting.

SUE
Oh, what offer is that?

CRAIG
Bryceís thesis shows how to combine swimming, and other athletics, with Christian leadership to form a new youth ministry. Iíve known your nephew for all of four weeks, and heís already recruiting me to join him as a youth coach.


BRYCE
(enthusiastically)
And, Craig, youíd be perfect! You are what? An Army Master Fitness Trainer, a combat veteran with a crazily cool Matrix testimony. Plus, Aunt Sue, Craig offers experience that I canít.

CRAIG
Bryce puts a premium on my B.C.---thatís Before Christ---years. Iím not so convinced.

BRYCE
Coming up shortly is my leadership session. Once you hear what itís all about, youíll totally be on board!

SUE
Craig, donít you have to go back to the Army next month?

CRAIG
Yes, I do. But my enlistment is up at yearís end so Iím entertaining options:
(facetiously)
I could stay in, get out, or serve part-time in the Army Reserve---and use my GI Bill to also earn a Masters degree in Christian Studies and become a Junior Bible Answer Man---just like my best bud, Bryce, here!
(Craig & Bryce bump fists)

BRYCE
(interrupts)
Itís either that, or, if you keep hanging with my sister, youíll end up her home-alone husband, while Brittany pulls entry-level hotel shifts: evenings and weekends to include Sundays. Think about that!

SUE
Well, Bryce, even if Craig and Brittany donít become an item, there is another way for you two pals to become inseparable brothers-in-law. Who knows? Joyce could hit it off with you.

CRAIG
Whoa! Look out Bryce! I mean, can you handle rejection with a capital R? Once my sister finds out about the Masters in Christian Studies, sheíll run the other way, automatically assuming that he is a gay-bashing, abortion clinic- picketing, right-wing extremist and all.



SUE
Iím concerned that a widening political-social gap prevents many non-believers from seeing the Gospel change lives. Peoplesí attempts, no matter how sincere, at legislated, cosmetic changes will not only fail, but alienate others in the process.

CRAIG
Joyce is already super alienated. What can be done differently, I wonder?

BRYCE
Our faith has a markedly unhip image. Thatís why Crocodile Man here should join me in the youth ministry venture.

SUE
Itís time for Bryceís presentation. Craig, would you pray that Bryceís work ministers and meets with the professorís approval? Heís worked so hard on this.
(all bow their heads)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


Scene 3

SETTING: Two hours later, Craig is alone in the hallway of Conference Center.

AT RISE: Craig looks around to ensure no one is around, makes a call on his cell phone.

CRAIG
(exasperated)

Mom, itís Craig. Iíve just come out of the conference track Bryce developed and Iím bothered by it. [pauses] Why? It doesnít square with my experience---or anyoneís I know. [pauses] Well, I guess because Christianity came across as the best system available to make life work well. [pauses] No, let me give you some examples.

If you want good kids, raise them according to Christian principles. If you want a good marriage, follow the biblical model, if you want God to bless your ministry, embody godly leadership principles, yada, yada, yada.

Hearing the Bible touted as mere rules for living reminds me of training on how to live the Army Values, but at least with those, no implicit promises are made that youíll be promoted, or come out on top in life. [pauses] But here, Mom, the testimonies were more than implicit. One woman said: We must convince the world that Christianity is true through the family. We need Christian parents to demonstrate that raising kids according to Godís plan produces the kind of child every parent wants.

Then this middle-aged couple just beamed with pleasure when they spoke of their son, who had received a ďwonderfulĒ promotion at work. His salary nearly doubled. ďGod is so faithful,Ē the dad said. Then his wife relived how their son had turned his career over to God and exclaimed: ďAnd look what is happening now!Ē

Contrast that with what the men in my Bible study share: A Command Sergeant Major couldnít hold back the tears as he told us about his 16-year-old daughter who is pregnant by a soldier in another unit. ďI should have spent more time with her. I was so busy running my battalion. I thought I was doing the right thing,Ē he said.

And a 40-year-oldís voice cracked when he spoke of his singleness: ďAll I have ever wanted is a family,Ē he said: Iíve followed Christ all my life. ďMy most consistent prayer has been for a wife and children. I just donít get why I still have no one!Ē he said on the verge of tears.

That first woman went on to say: spend time with your kids, model well, affirm often, discipline fairly, stuff like that, and your children will turn out great. I think Dad did all those things without checking them off a task list. [pauses] Exactly, how do I confront Bryce that focusing on these principles as methods creates pressure to perform?

Yes, I do need to settle down before I go back in. [pauses] Just trust God, yes, I will. Bye.

ASLAN
(appears from shadow, speaks with a thick Indian accent)

Excuse me, I could not help but overhear.


CRAIG
Ooooh, you overheard my ranting. Iím sorry.

ASLAN
On the contrary, that you trust God for life satisfaction gives me my only spiritual nourishment this day. You want Him. Nothing less, even His blessings, will do!

CRAIG
Well, thank you. Iím sorry, I donít know your name. Iím Craig DiFatta.
(they shake hands)
Were you also in Track C?

ASLAN
My name is Hamid Ali Aslan, please call me Aslan. Yes, I attended the Track C.

CRAIG
Were you also bothered by what you heard in there?

ASLAN
Yes, very disturbed. It is classical Old Way thinking.

CRAIG
Whatís Old Way thinking?

ASLAN
Do you have the time to sit down and discuss?

CRAIG
(looks at watch)
Sure.
(they sit down)

ASLAN
The Old Way involves a quid-pro-quo arrangement with God. If one does religious obligations correctly, then one receives blessings. The Old Way falsely promises a better life to make one happy.

CRAIG
Quid-pro-quo? A something-for-something exchange with God? Sounds so Old Testament.

ASLAN
Yes, exactly, but also common to all world religions. The New Way promises a better hope rather than a good life. It promises the proximity of God to you, not on your timetable, and often through suffering. People who live in the Old Way believe in a Law of Linearity that postulates that doing A leads to B, a happy life. People who live the New Way believe in the Law of Liberty. They come as they are to God without performing ablutions.

CRAIG
Performing what?

ASLAN
Where I come from, Moslem people perform ritual cleansings, called ablutions, before they approach God.

CRAIG
Oh yeah, I saw those---ablutions---outside mosques when I was in Iraq. I just didnít know what they were called.

ASLAN
You were in Iraq? Perhaps as a United States soldier. I am Iraqi, you should know.

CRAIG
Youíre an Iraqi? But judging from your accent, I thought you were from India. I did two tours of duty in Iraq.

ASLAN

I am a Kurd from Ninevah, but educated in India. This visit is my first to the USA, therefore I have difficulty comprehending your accent. Can I continue with my thought, lest I forget?

CRAIG
Sorry, go right ahead.

ASLAN
People who live the New Way come to God as they are. They do not perform ablutions beforehand; they come to God for the bath.

CRAIG
They come to God for the bath! Yea! You do have a way with words. Can I ask you some personal questions? [Aslan nods] How long have you been a Christian, and how did you come to faith? And, if you donít agree with what we just heard, why are you at this conference?



ASLAN
The last question is easily answered. I accompany my friend, the widow Patrice, to this conference. Patrice plans to open a Spiritual Direction Center to teach the New Way of living.

CRAIG
(reflectively)
That sounds like something Iíd want to know more about.

ASLAN
Coincidentally, I am to lunch with Patrice. If you join us, I am sure that she will provide the details. I invite you.

CRAIG
And I accept---on one, no, on two conditions. One: you tell me more about yourself, and two: I can also bring my friend, Bryce.

ASLAN
Such a discussion will take much time, Craig; you would forfeit the afternoon conference sessions.

Craig
Guess what? I am skipping the rest of the conference just to hear more from you, Broí Aslan! (slaps Aslan hard on the back, who gives a wide-eyed, startled look)

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)


Scene 4

SETTING: One hour later in the cafeteria.

AT RISE: Craig and Bryce enter from one side.


BRYCE
So, let me get this straight. Instead of you telling me what you thought of this morningís session, an Arab who, in your opinion, is wiser than Solomon, will give me feedback? And where does the old widow fit in again?

CRAIG
Aslan is not an Arab, heís a Kurdish believer whom you have got to hear. And I donít know how old the widow is. Hold on! On the far right, havenít Iíve seen that woman before?

BRYCE
Craig, sheís a nice-looking woman. But save your pick-up lines for someone closer to our age, please.


CRAIG
Knock it off, Bryce, Iím serious. See, they are motioning us to come over. They must have a table.

(Craig and Bryce move across stage, lights appear on other end to reveal Aslan and Patrice at a table for four.

ASLAN
Craig, may I present Mrs. Patrice Nuernberger. (he butchers the pronunciation).

PATRICE
(extends hand)
Itís pronounced Nuernberger. So, you are Craig DiFatta and your friend isÖ?

BRYCE
(steps forward, extends hand)
Hi, Iím Bryce Fitzgerald.

PATRICE
Bryce Fitzgerald? Isnít your name on the conference program?

BRYCE
Yes, maíam, it is. Track C is an extension of my masterís thesis. I am finishing a degree in Christian Studies at the seminary.

ASLAN
(steps forward, extends hand)
Good day, Bryce, I am Hamid Ali Aslan. I would be very pleased to learn more about a Masters degree in Christian Studies.


CRAIG
Our agenda just keeps growing. Aslan is right, the lunch period wonít be long enough, so letís get started
(all sit)
But before we do, Mrs. Nuernberger, I do have a question for you. I am an active duty Army sergeant. Were you ever in the military? Fort Hood, Texas?

PATRICE
Please call me Patrice. Yes, my late husband was career Army, and, yes, we were last stationed at Fort Hood. Did you ever visit the Army Education Center? I used to work there.

CRAIG
Thatís it! Yes, maíam, I was a regular at the Education Center! And I bet if I were in uniform, you would have recognized me, too.

ASLAN
What a little world we live in!

BRYCE
Come again, Aslan.

CRAIG
I think he means ďitís a small world.Ē

ASLAN
Yes, exactly. Itís a small world. (all smile/chuckle)

CRAIG
Yes, it is, and how cool is it that we can all meet for lunch on such short notice? Iíll say grace, then, Aslan, Iíd like for you to tell Bryce, and me again, about the quid-pro-quo arrangement with God in the Old Way.
(all bow their heads, pause for silent prayer)

ASLAN
This I am happy to recount. May I suggest that Patrice cooperate with me because you, Craig, want to know about the Spiritual Direction Center. The two topics are truly one and the same.

OK. Every believer walks one of two paths. Walk the first path and oneís life is filled with pressure. Oneís soul becomes weary because it is a quid-pro-quo arrangement with God. If one does what one ought, in return, one gets the life one wants. One remains in control of how things turn out in oneís life.

PATRICE
But, if I may interject, in the New Way God plants a desire in your heart, a longing that values His presence over happy circumstances. You have hope. Your soul may be weary, you may have struggles no one sees, but you have hope. The New Way delivers God so near to you that you want to give up control. Great freedom brings great joy.

ASLAN
Yes, God draws near, but not on our timetable, and often through suffering. People who live the Old Way believe in a Law of Linearity, that doing A leads directly to B, the blessings of a happy life. People who live the New Way believe the Law of Liberty. They come to God as they are. The do not bathe before they approach God, they come to God for the bath! They trust God to reveal Himself to them regardless of circumstances.

PATRICE
Most Christians live the Old Way though it seldom delivers. Feeling confused, or that they somehow messed up, they redouble their efforts to make life work. They remain in control and thus the pressure is on.

CRAIG
And the New Way takes the pressure off, yeah, I get it. Bryce, what do you think?

BRYCE
Hmmh, what scriptural basis is there to think that most Christians are off in left field, so misguided that they relate wrongly with God?

ASLAN
I would be happy to explain the supporting Bible verses. Please give me a few moments to consult my Bible.

PATRICE
Itís tragic when the Bible is reduced to Rules for Living. Itís doubly tragic when Christians assume itís their birthright to have an exciting, successful, personally fulfilling life and pursue linear Bible-based formulas to help them with their job, their marriage, their money, their relationships, even with their diets. Life with Jesus becomes merely a better quality of life. No wonder the Bible is so popular, and no wonder it changes so few lives of those who read it.

ASLAN
Yes, a linear understanding of Christian living is fundamentally flawed. Deuteronomy 29 summarizes the conditions of His Old Testament children. ďCarefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything that you do.Ē

But Hebrews 7 reveals how God annulled the Law of Linearity. ďThe former regulation is set aside because it is weak and useless and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.Ē The better hope is intimacy with God. Life may be pleasant, or it may not be, either way one can know God!

Finally, Galations 4: ďWe were in slavery under the basic principles of this worldÖbut now that you know God, how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again?Ē These passages contrasting the Old versus the New Way summarize all the Scriptures! The Spiritual Direction Center will teach believers to walk the New Way.

CRAIG
Itís too bad that your Center isnít up and running yet, Iíd want to enroll!

BRYCE
Craig, thereís a reason this center doesnít exist: there is not much demand for reflective escapism. Life demands action and Godís Word tells us what to do.

CRAIG
Bryce, be kind and listen! But you are right about the low demand. Check out the best sellers in any Christian bookstore and youíll find ample evidence of just how strongly we Christians prefer cheapened linearity over pure freedom. We say, ďI trust the Lord,Ē but by following principles to produce Godís blessings we really mean, ďI trust Him to honor my efforts to live right by giving me the blessings I want.Ē

This is awesome! Donít you agree, Bryce? Wow, Iím going to use those verses when sharing my faith with those who havenít seen The Matrix. Bryce, donít you agree, itís all right there in the text?


BRYCE
(reluctantly)
Itís in the text.

(BLACKOUT)

(END OF SCENE)



If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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