Hire
Writers
Editors
Home Tour About Read What's New Help Forums Join
My Account Login
Shop
Save
Support
E
Book
Store
Learn
About
Jesus
  



The HOME for Christian writers! The Home for Christian Writers!



 
Short Dramas and Plays PLEASE ENCOURAGE THE AUTHOR BY COMMENTING

  LEAVE COMMENT ON ARTICLE AS A MEMBER OR ANONYMOUSLY
  SEND A PRIVATE MESSAGE
  HIRE THIS WRITER
REPORT ARTICLE

 TRACK THIS AUTHOR ADD TO MY FAVORITES
corner
What's New
 
corner
 
The Safest Place on Earth Act One
by douglas batson
09/23/13
Free to Share
Author requests article critique


  Mail
 





The Safest Place on Earth
a play based on Becoming a True Spiritual Community
by Dr. Larry Crabb, Thomas Nelson Publishing, 1999

Copyright 2013 by Douglas Batson, National Certified Counselor

Synopsis
This futuristic finale of the trilogy is set in 2041 Europe. Craig DiFatta and Patrice Nuernberger, of the Christian community Jacob’s Junction, stand before the European Court of Human Rights charged with child abuse, slander, and prejudicing minors’ multi-gender sexual orientations. Defending them are a State Department religious rights specialist and a burdened Slovene attorney. Each reacts strongly as Christ is revealed as the essence of true spiritual community.

Cast of Characters
Craig DiFatta, a 55-year-old principal with Jacob’s Junction; the protagonist in The Immanuel Agenda.

Patrice Nuernberger, a 70-year-old widow and Founder of Jacob’s Junction; a major character in The Immanuel Agenda.

Edward Greenhough, an 80-year-old retired counselor; protagonist in Shattered Dreams.

Alenka Dmovšek, a 30-year-old female attorney.

Eli Fitzgerald, a 25-year old U.S. government representative.

The cast requires a minimum of five: 3 men and 2 women. A sixth actor, male or female, can play the judge or it can be an offstage voice.

Scene: A sterile courtroom in Slovenia. Time: The year 2041.

Act 1 Scene 1
AT RISE: (dark, then lights on two defendants and attorney)
JUDGE (with thick European accent)
Accused persons, please stand up. (pause) Do you comprehend the charges against you?

CRAIG
Your honor, please repeat them again.

JUDGE
(angry) One--Conspiratorial child abuse by your sect, Jacob’s Junction, against a manifold handicapped child. Two—slanderous and libelous behaviors against state mental health therapists. Three—Indoctrination of juvenile members of your sect with creationism creeds that prejudice against multi-gender sexual orientations.

(angrier) Co-defendant Hamid Ali Aslan’s illegal flight makes bail impossible for you, Mr. DiFatta and Ms. Nuernberger. You remain detained until this court again convenes. Because you are United States citizens, you may hire an American defense attorney in addition to Ms. Dmovšek, your court-appointed advocate trained in European Union law. This European Court of Human Rights is adjourned until your formal hearings begin!

CRAIG (to Alenka)
Ms. Dmovšek, I hope I pronounced your name right. (angry) No bail! Are you kidding me? And I hope you speak better English than that judge because I still do NOT comprehend these charges!

PATRICE
(calm): Ms. Dmovšek, the judge had me wondering, too. Did Aslan, I mean, Mr. Aslan, take the wrong flight?

CRAIG
(still intense, sarcastically): Yeah, since when does Lufthansa operate "illegal flights?"

ALENKA
Mr. DiFatta, Mrs. Nuernberger, I attended college in the States so I think my English is up to the task. Last month, Mr. Aslan was before the same magistrate, but he failed to appear at his hearing. The magistrate is very angry because he expected a pious Christian man to keep his word.

CRAIG
You mean, Aslan skipped bail?

PATRICE
Ms. Dmovšek, for years Mr. Aslan has been in and out of Iran.
There must be a good reason why he did not make his court date.

CRAIG
…or why he did not tell us about these charges! Ms. Dmovšek, sometimes he goes into hiding in Iran. Even after the Ayatollah regime fell, it’s still an unsafe place for Christians.

ALENKA
Mr. Aslan will be tried in abstentia. I am very sorry, but you both are considered to be flight risks. (facetiously to Craig) That’s flight, the noun form of "to flee," and not Lufthansa airline flights. You must go to your cells now. Tomorrow at 9AM I return to prepare your defense. In the meantime I contact the American Embassy for a directory of American attorneys. Do you have urgent questions?

PATRICE
Ms. Dmovšek, thank you for taking our case. Yes, one question: Where are you from?

ALENKA
Where am I from? Why do you ask this? (Pause) Very well, I am a Slovene from Zužemberk, near where your sect has a, I had to find the word in the dictionary, a hermitage, called Zaklonišče. If I am not mistaken, Zužemberk was your travel destination when you were detained. (shakes hands) Goodbye. (Alenka exits)

CRAIG
In over 30 years I’ve never heard any branch of Jacob's Junction called a hermitage before. And J2Z2's downtown location is far from being a hermitage!

PATRICE
(questioning) J2Z2?

CRAIG
That’s what we call the work of Jacob’s Junction in Slovenia. The Slavic words are just too hard for us Americans to pronounce. She is from Zužemberk, the provincial capital. I don’t have a good feeling about that.

PATRICE
And I don’t like how she---and the judge---call Jacob’s Junction a sect. Let’s pray, Craig. (heads bowed) Father God, we stand before you confused and upset. Confused people listen better. And God we turn our hearts, minds, and ears to you. O God our redeemer, we are listening…

CRAIG
Father, guard my heart. I am upset---and shaken by these spurious charges. God, we are disappointed at being detained here. Yet disappointment has an upside; it inspires hope by making hope necessary. O Christ our Lord, you are our hope.


Act 1 Scene 2
AT RISE: (Alenka enters room where Craig and Patrice are seated)

ALENKA
Good morning, Mrs. Nuernberger (shakes hands with both), Mr. DiFatta. How did you sleep? Are you well rested?

PATRICE
The bed was comfortable enough. Now I understand why my late husband never ate veggie burgers. I guess I'll have to get used to eating meals from a 3D-printer; protein never tasted so weird!

CRAIG
Ms. Dmovšek, how can you expect us to sleep when we don’t understand the charges against us? I have spent weeks, months-- when you add up the time--in Zužemberk without any problems. We’ve been doing the same work there from the beginning, orphan care! Just last fall, the governor publically commended our work!

PATRICE
I have a question about jurisdiction. We are not European Union, but United States citizens, not subject to the European Court of Human Rights, right?

ALENKA
According to the World Juvenile Rights Protocol, which the U.S. signed in 2039, certain crimes against juveniles can be elevated from the European Court of Human Rights to the International Criminal Court. I am told that a U.S. government representative travels here now to explain these matters to you.

PATRICE
Ms. Dmovšek, we care for and provide education for hundreds of orphans, many of these children are unwanted due to their handicaps. So, to whom do these abuse charges apply?

ALENKA
The third charge, indoctrination of juveniles, applies to the 15 secondary school-age orphaned children in Zužemberk. The first charge applies only to the severely-handicapped Armando, uh, I forgot the last name. Surely, Mr. DiFatta is aware of this boy’s extraordinary handicaps. I understand that little Armando has become quite a celebrity, and in some very sinister circles.

PATRICE
Craig, is Armando the boy that the Catholic Bishop wrote about? (Craig nods)

CRAIG
So, the children adopted by J2Z2 members are not included in the charges. Oh, J2Z2? That’s what we call Jacob’s Junction, Zaklonišče in Zužemberk. So let me get this straight, charge number one applies only to Armando.

ALENKA
Yes, it is as you say. The prosecution can be expected call witnesses who say that your sect abused this boy by putting him on, what was the word?---a “traveling freak show?”---and profited from it!

PATRICE
I don’t know anything about this. Craig, perhaps you and I should talk together about this first. (Pause) I am all ears.

CRAIG
Even if I had all the facts, it would not help me explain miracles. I think Ms. Dmovšek should stay. That way, she can learn about who we are and what J2Z2 is all about.

ALENKA
Yes, please tell me about your sect, Zaklonišče in Zužemberk.

CRAIG
Let me explain things with how Armando fits in. Armando cannot walk or talk and is very small for his age. He came to us from an orphanage where he had been abandoned. He no longer wanted to eat because he no longer wanted to live, cast off from his mother. He was desperately thin and was dying from lack of food. After a while, at J2Z2 he found people who held him, loved him, and wanted him to live, he gradually began to eat again and to develop in a remarkable way.

Armando still cannot walk or talk or eat by himself. His body is twisted and broken and he has a severe mental disability, but when you pick him up, his eyes and his whole body quiver with joy and excitement and say, “I love you.” He has a deep therapeutic influence on people.

I asked the bishop if he wanted to hold Armando. He did. The boy settled into his arms and started to quiver and smile, his little eyes shining. A half hour later, I asked if the bishop wanted me to take Armando back. “No, no,” he replied. I could see that Armando, in all his littleness, exuding all the power of love, was touching and changing the heart of that bishop.

Armando’s physical deformities are impossible to hide. As normal adults, our own deformities are moral ones and thus more easily concealed. Someone like Armando is necessary for spiritual community to develop, someone who is loved in his brokenness and therefore pours love out of his very being, with neither a hidden nor self-serving agenda. What happened next defies all explanations. The bishop referred people to J2Z2 to hold this child. Some famous people, and infamous, as I later learned, criminal bosses and their families.

PATRICE
Criminals? Craig!

CRAIG
Patrice, if they were once criminals, they aren’t anymore. Although guests at J2Z2 experience fine hospitality, none were interested in knowing God until they held little Armando. From what Primož tells me, the “pre-Christians” who held Armando instantly wanted to become Christ-worshippers. That's the miracle, and I still can't explain it.

ALENKA
Excuse me. Is this man you speak of Primož Oblak, the gangster? And who exactly are these pre-Christians, perhaps people receiving catechism within your sect?

CRAIG
Yes, Primož was a crime boss, but is now the local leader of J2Z2. And no, the term “pre-Christian” became part of JJ’s vocabulary over 20 years ago. Our very own Mr. Aslan suggested that calling or labeling people as non-believers or non-Christians created an unhealthy us-versus-them mentality. At JJ, that’s short for Jacob’s Junction, Aslan started using this more gracious term because God has created every human being in His image to be in relationship with Him. At the same time, the term Christ-worshippers started catching on at JJ.

ALENKA
Mr. Oblak must still think of himself as a powerful boss. According to the complaints, he wrote a critical article about state mental health therapists. When they visited the orphaned children in Zužemberk, he shouted at them, slandered them, and threw them out of the building!

PATRICE
Craig, why do I feel so uninformed? I know that I delegated J2’s European work to you, but these charges, the ECHR and ICC, the miracle of Armando, and Primož' aggressive behavior. I’m feeling overwhelmed by the shock and awe.

CRAIG
I’m genuinely sorry about the shock part. I delegated authority to Primož for J2Z2 and, yes, shock and awe sums it up for me, too! Primož and I were awed by what God was doing through little Armando. Primož did not want it to appear to be something it is not, what Ms. Dmovšek suggested, a handicapped child in a side show. Just when he and I agreed to keep it quiet, the miraculous effect Armando had had on pre-Christians stopped as suddenly as it began. Like I said, it is a miracle I cannot explain.

ALENKA
Mr. DiFatta, you have much to explain to the magistrate. (frustrated) I have not learned any informations how to make your defense. Perhaps you do not realize the seriousness of the ICC examining the charges of endangering and exploiting a severely-handicapped child.

PATRICE
Ms. Dmovšek, don’t you agree that without the love and support of J2Z2, little Armando would have died? I have learned that someone like Armando penetrates the barriers all of us create around our hearts, just as you will.

ALENKA
I am sorry; I do not know what to say in reply to this.

CRAIG
(glares at Patrice, clears throat) Let’s return to the subject. Armando, and the many other orphans who were abandoned, unwanted, or unresponsive in state institutions, but have flourished in our JJ communities. Orphan care distinguishes our ministry.

ALENKA
(happy to return to the orphan subject) This is true and well- documented. The Zužemberk social office has received many positive inputs about your sect’s orphan care and adoptions. It is an impressive record. Armando seems to be the only exception. Perhaps we will make more progress in a defense against the second accusation, libel and slander against state mental health therapists.

PATRICE
OK, but before we do, I feel we should get to know each other better.

ALENKA
I have read your case files, many pages on each of you.

PATRICE
Yes, but that is only biographical information. It won’t tell you what things in life are important to me. How about if I go first?

ALENKA
(anxious to change subject) Wait, I do have questions about Mr. DiFatta’s military service. Were you an officer or, what is the other soldier classification called?

CRAIG
Enlisted. (pause) Actually, I was both. So, I’ll go first in telling about myself. As an enlisted soldier, I had had some emotional problems from the Iraq war. Back in the States, I became a Christ-worshipper after watching a science fiction film, and met Patrice and Aslan at a conference. Patrice invited me to join JJ, which I did part-time, and I also served as an Army Reserve officer. I began full-time at JJ about 10 years ago.

PATRICE
Now it’s my turn. The Iraq war affected my life, too. My husband was killed in the initial invasion 35 years ago, (sigh) that’s half my life now. I still call it a privilege to bring other people into a restorative relationship with God; that’s what we do in our JJ spiritual communities. Ms. Dmovšek, can I ask you a personal question? (pause) How much do you need God’s forgiveness? (5 second pause before Alenka’s cell phone rings)

ALENKA
Excuse me, I must answer the mobile phone. (Alenka exists)

CRAIG
Saved by the bell, wasn’t she? (perturbed) Patrice, why say that Armando will penetrate the barriers of her heart, and then ask about her need for God’s forgiveness? That face she made, well, I could not read whether it was shock---or awe. We know nothing about her spiritually.

PATRICE
True, we don’t know anything about her, but after 70 years on this earth, I do know when the Spirit is prompting me. I was visioning how Ms. Dmovšek would talk about her life if it were overflowing with God’s forgiveness.

Craig, I apologize for my tone when I remarked how out of the loop I feel regarding Armando and all these charges. That was rooted in fear. I am sorry.

CRAIG
Accepted. And my confession to you is I had wanted the miracles surrounding Armando and the growth at J2Z2 to be a surprise. I thought it would encourage you. I should have brought you here earlier. I regret that now, but wanted to be sure that J2Z2 would endure.

(excitedly) No one has heard of a Christward movement of ex- crime families, following the example of Zacheaus, the tax collector, inviting Christ into their hearts and homes; tears of repentance and remorse followed by restitution. They gave away much of their wealth and did so with joy. They quickly moved from flesh to spiritual dynamics! Like dominos----their natural passions to control and define life, and the legalistic pressure to perform---fell one after another. Some have started new spiritual communities, being prompted only by the Spirit.

(sigh) For years I had prayed for revival at J2Z2 and God chose little Armando to spark it. And now, these damn criminal charges! On the turn of a dime I feel pressured to minimize my involvement, what I knew of Armando. God is laying bare my weakness with the fear factor. I am also afraid that that judge is out to get us. I am so sorry, Patrice. I am feeling afraid that your questions might alienate Ms. Dmovšek. But I am going to trust that God is speaking to you and…

(Alenka returns to the room)

ALENKA
That call was from your U.S. embassy official; he is on the way here now. I will not be available this afternoon, so until tomorrow, same time in the morning.

PATRICE
Why don’t you stay then?

ALENKA
(surprised) You need not include me in consultations with your government representative.

CRAIG
Ms. Dmovšek, we are very open and transparent people and we welcome your advice. After all, you are our attorney.

ALENKA
(surprised) Very well, I will stay---on the condition that Mr. Eli Fitzgerald gives his consent.


Act 1 Scene 3
AT RISE: (Alenka and Eli enter room where Craig and Patrice are seated)

ALENKA
Mrs. Nuernberger, Mr. DiFatta, I introduce Mr. Fitzgerald from the American embassy. I ask again, are you sure you want me to remain?

CRAIG & PATRICE
Of course/absolutely.

ELI
Mr. DiFatta, Mrs. Nuernberger (shake hands), Eli Fitzgerald, just call me Eli, pleased to meet you both. I know, you were expecting someone older, and with more experience, hmmh?
PATRICE
We will not despise your youth, Eli. Please call me Patrice.

CRAIG
How long have you been with the Foreign Service?

ELI
I am not in the Foreign Service, but with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. I want you to know that we are on the same team spiritually as well as nationally, hmmh?

PATRICE
Eli, are you aware that since many churches and Christian groups’ tax-exempt status was taken away, that we in ministry just might cringe when someone shows up, saying he is from the government and is here to help?

ELI
Yes, it is unfortunate that the former administration took that step. Too many churches had become partisan political surrogates. But the new administration is friendlier to faith-based organizations, hmmh? I am proud to be in the first cadre of religious rights specialists, with specialized paralegal training. The kind you are in need of right now, hmmh?

CRAIG
Let me guess, the 2039 Bremen Protocols that the U.S. signed is the issue here. It can be interpreted to allow for the detention and trial of U.S. citizens on matters of conscience and faith.

ALENKA
Mr. DiFatta, child abuse is not a matter of conscience and faith!

ELI
Ms. Dmovšek and I have discussed your case vis-a-vis the Bremen Protocols. We want to learn more what your faith community, Jacob’s Junction, is all about so that we can find the best attorney to represent you, hmmh?

PATRICE
We are happy to tell you about JJ, which, thank you, is indeed a faith community. We build low-profile and unassuming spiritual communities. In the States, it is a movement of small groups attached to various churches. Abroad, like at J2Z2, that's what we call our branch in Slovenia, it is a stand-alone organization extending our desire to care for orphans and foster children.

ELI
In my research, I read many a positive article about JJ, as you call it, with you, Mrs. Nuernberger, hmmh? as its founder.

PATRICE
Yes, and I insist you call me Patrice. As a courtesy to Ms. Dmovšek, we'll keep our explanation of JJ simple. Ms. Dmovšek, please stop us at any point to ask questions.

CRAIG
We at JJ spend most of our time with individuals or in small groups teaching a biblical worldview. You'll notice how much we use four talking points. For example, the storyline of the Bible is summarized in four points:

1. Creation. It answers the human existential question, “Who am I?” God created each of us in His image. Every human life is precious and sacred, even little Armando.

2. The Fall of Man. There is a problem and it is us---our rebellious, self-sufficient, and sinful natures that choose life apart from God.

3. Redemption. God sent his Son Jesus to redeem us, to buy us back from our lost condition.

4. Restoration. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, we are restored to a right relationship with God. And spiritual community restores us to each other. If we get community right, then Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, making pre-Christians thirsty for what they were created for, to know God.

PATRICE
But most evangelicals think of spiritual journeys as God-directed adventures, that is until something in life goes seriously wrong, or until certain problems persist past the time we give God to take them away. Then we typically think about solving problems ourselves more than finding God in the midst of them. This is unspiritual community---when we focus more on using God to improve our lives than on worshipping Him in any and every circumstance.

In building JJ spiritual communities, integrity is paramount. What makes us unique is that we admit, to a spiritual friend or spiritual director, who we are at our worst. We find that we must tell our personal stories without conscientiously leaving out a chapter.

CRAIG
Without a relationship with our Creator, we are lost people in the eternal sense. But without spiritual community as God designed it, we are still not whole persons. We are not at ease because our souls, our inner beings, lack a safe place. Sadly, this includes many churches. At JJ, we feel safe with folks who are broken yet strong, vulnerable but full of hope, and respectfully curious about one another. Because of what we know about God's character, we can celebrate each other. We feel--- more solid---in each other's presence. Ms. Dmovšek, are you able to follow this?

ALENKA
I think so, but it is not relevant to very serious child abuse charges.

ELI
Maybe I’m the one who is not following. What exactly is it that makes JJ anything unique, hmmh?

CRAIG
In most churches, believers are religiously entertained, inspired, and formula-directed rather than ushered into spiritual community. In a word, JJ is not solution-focused. We don’t strive to have successful lives or to fix things gone bad by following biblical principles: wondering which seminar to attend, rules to keep, or Bible promises to claim.

Why is spiritual community so rare? I suspect that it has something to do with the requirement of brokenness. Most Christians would much rather be impressively intact than broken. But only broken people share spiritual community. And with a truly Christian worldview, we expect every encounter with a fellow image-bearer, persons created in God’s image, to include handicapped orphans like little Armando, will be valuable.

PATRICE
We find that when we turn our chairs toward each other, it lifts us into the presence of Christ. And from that encounter, we become His hands and His feet and minister to the least of these, At J2Z2, that's the orphaned children.

Starting in the early 2020s, some Europeans concluded from scientific evidence that abortion, in any state of fetal development, is murder of a person. As a result, some E.U. countries used “Personhood” legislation to curb that horrible practice. But later, local governments were unprepared for and embarrassed by scores of unwanted children, abandoned and left in the streets. Many localities are all too happy to allow faith-based organizations to care for and educate orphaned children. In some parts of Europe, it seems that only Christians uphold human dignity and keep traditional society running with mother, father, and children.

CRAIG
At JJ, we realize that we, as adults, are exactly like these abandoned children, searching for a safe place. We find that months of study, discussion, and social justice lead pre-Christians to truth. Truth always leads to freedom, but freedom does not necessarily lead to truth. Society at large, secular universities, the media, and politicos all advocate freedom, but skip over the means by which we gain it.

ALENKA
What is truth, and this resulting freedom, Mr. DiFatta? Only a religious experience?

CRAIG
It’s not a single experience, but a journey to know the One who made us, loves us, and died for us. Freedom in Christ is not freedom to do what you want, but freedom to be who you were created by God to be. At JJ, we are committed to the spiritual journey that involves deep levels of conversation. We dive into the messy world of relationships, admit our failures, identify our tensions, and explore our shortcomings. We strive to become the answer to Jesus’ prayer, that we become one the way He and the Father are one.

PATRICE
In spiritual community, the Christian’s soul is regenerated, made alive with the actual life passed back and forth among the members of the Trinity. It is a good life, what we at JJ call the Upper Room, and evidenced by the Holy Spirit’s creative involvement in each others’ lives.

CRAIG
When that happens, it’s a miracle, a convincing miracle! Jesus told us that the world would believe in Him when that miracle occurs. Spiritual community is always a miracle.

ELI
I’d like to think that I have experienced the Upper Room at times, but it didn’t last.

ALENKA
I am sorry to inform you that my time is limited today. The four tenets of the world view are easy to understand, but this talk among co-religionists contributes nothing to making a defense. Can we not stay on topic, please?

PATRICE
Ms. Dmovšek, we are relational people and getting to know each other and the ethos of JJ is important. We’d like to know more about you, too. You said that you had attended college in the U.S. Where was that?

ALENKA
Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati.

ELI
Really? I grew up near there. Ms. Dmovšek is perhaps right, we should get down to business, hmmh? I have here a list of U.S. attorneys trained in European Union law. I don’t know what kind of financial resources JJ has at its disposal, but I do know that none of them come cheaply, hmmh?

CRAIG
Eli, we already have the advocate we need.

ELI
Mr. DiFatta, you don’t mean to say that you will rely on God, or the Holy Spirit alone, hmmh?

CRAIG
Good one, you know your scriptures, young man. And you can call me Craig. I should have phrased it that we have identified the one advocate we need for this situation; an older gentleman, so let’s hope he is up to making the trip. Eli, can you get us in touch with Mr. Edward Greenhough?


Act 1 Scene 4
AT RISE: (Craig and Patrice are seated and in prayer)

PATRICE
Father, we long to experience you in worship, trust, and obedience, just as Paul and Silas did when they were in prison.

CRAIG
Yes, despite the confusion and disappointment of our circumstances, let your New Covenant with us be visible to others, in a new purity, new identity, new dispositions, and new power. In the name of Jesus Christ, we pray, Amen.

PATRICE
Thank you for that prayer, Craig. Being known as a woman of faith is humbling in these circumstances. This detention conjures up fears that all of us will be behind bars for years. A grim prospect for me at age 70! And, I admit I have misgivings about Edward coming here.

CRAIG
Edward is coming because I don’t want a technician, legal or otherwise, involved here. I sense in the Spirit that this is what God wants. Thank you for trusting with me. He spent the last years caring for his terminally ill wife. Mary Alice has passed on, and Edward is in good shape for his 80 years. Mentally and spiritually, he is still razor sharp.

PATRICE
Yes, but he lost his case against the U.S. Counseling Association, which revoked his license. I can still see their gloating faces; they wanted to send a message that this is what happens to those who oppose multi-gender sexual orientations on biblical grounds.

CRAIG
Edward risked everything to speak truth that day. God ordained the outcome, difficult as it was to accept. His testimony garnered a lot of media attention. Thousands heard the Gospel; who knows how many responded to it, hmmh? (smiles).

PATRICE
Are you making fun of Eli with that “hmmh?” Well, it is a bit annoying. What made you warm up to him? At first you were rather harsh with the young man.

CRAIG
Under this stress, my emotions are getting the best of me. I was angry with Ms. Dmovšek for calling J2Z2 a sect, and with Eli, being from the government, (sarcastically) “and here to help.” Then it dawned on me that Eli Fitzgerald is none other than the son of Bryce Fitzgerald! You and I and Aslan, and Edward, too, all had lunch with Bryce at the seminary the day we met!

PATRICE
Are you sure Eli is his son? Did you ask him?

CRAIG
No, I didn’t, given the fallout I had with Bryce. But it’s obvious that Eli is his son, the same eyes and athletic build---and he is from northern Kentucky. I once read that Bryce was on the board of the God and Creation Institute, and that’s in northern Kentucky.

I’ve got more agitation to confess. I'm angry that Aslan’s skipping bail caused us to be detained. It's so bizarre, at the same time I envision Aslan defending us against the indoctrination charges by explaining the JJ approach to science and creation. He told me that his school curriculum has brought hundreds of Kurds and Persians to faith. So let me know if you have any dreams of three wise men from Persia; you know, bearing gifts, they traverse afar.

PATRICE
So, you have had these dreams and wonder what they mean. And I wonder what God’s purpose is with Ms. Dmovšek and us. I cannot tell whether she is even for us.

CRAIG
As she constantly reminds us, the child abuse charge is by far the most damning. Ms. Dmovšek is all business, but I think she means to do us good. But what really bugs me is that we have not heard from Primož. Something is wrong about that; something very wrong.


Act 1 Scene 5
AT RISE: (Edward is seated in a conference room)

ELI
(enters room; shakes hand with Edward) Mr. Greenhough, a pleasure to meet you, Sir, thank you for coming. I trust you had a good flight, hmmh?

EDWARD
(stands) Likewise, Mr. Fitzgerald, yes, it was an easy flight with just one connection. I had thought my European traveling days were behind me. (both sit at table) The Embassy briefing on ECHR protocol and procedures made my head spin---and that talking blackboard playing devil's advocate! And now I am here for some kind of pre-hearing screening. Can I expect to converse with real people? (pause) Oh, I suppose that I am showing my age, having never “interfaced” with holographic blackboards before. Can I assume that you are as concerned about my advanced age as I am about your lack of years?

ELI
Sir, it’s not your age that bothers me…it’s…

EDWARD
Spit it out, please. This case is larger than perhaps either of us realize. It’s best if we are straight shooters with each other.

ELI
Agreed, straight shooters---and fellow believers. By relying so much on your testimony, Mr. DiFatta and Mrs. Nuernberger are putting their all eggs in one basket. Your former career in counseling may qualify you as an expert witness, but you don’t exactly have a stellar track record in defending your position in legal settings, hmmh? And why do you say that this case is bigger than either of us realizes?

EDWARD
I might be over 80, but my hearing is as good as ever. At the Embassy, I overheard some water cooler conversations, that’s all. We are straight shooters, right? Is this case really the first involving U.S. citizens and the Bremen Protocols, and that it might be elevated to the International Criminal Court? (pause) With the stakes so high, there is the small matter that this is your very first case.

ELI
(gulp, pause) The ICC? Sir, are you sure that's what you heard? (pause) That just might explain why the Undersecretary was copied on email about the child abuse charges! Sir, I thought that you, excuse me for saying so, a defrocked ex-counselor, testifying before the ECHR was what was making this case high profile. Granted, this is the first case involving the Bremen Protocols for any religious rights specialist, but I guess I have not been fully informed, hmmh? I'll talk to my boss about that. The U.S. attorney your friends selected to represent them cannot arrive here until next week. Would you mind giving me an idea of what you will say about the slander and libel charges?

EDWARD
Of course, I wouldn’t want anyone on the defense team to be caught off guard by what I might say. But first, I relay greetings to you from your Great Aunt Sue.

ELI
My great Aunt Sue?

EDWARD
Yes, she and I went to high school together. Since, young Mr. Fitzgerald, you are a believer, let me add that your Aunt Sue and I came to faith together in the same youth group way back when. Another high school classmate of ours was Linda, Craig DiFatta’s mother. And, you might be interested to know that your father was one of my counseling students at seminary.

ELI
Sir, you have my full attention now! All these personal connections are double A! (pauses at Edward’s puzzled look) Oh, double A? That means something that is “awfully awesome.” (Pause) My Aunt Sue is a gifted lay counselor, so I'm told. How did you get into the counseling profession?

EDWARD
Well, I owe that to "Sheila" rather than to your Aunt Sue. When I was growing up, we had only three television channels and, in essence, also only three world views to choose from: Christianity, atheism, or apathy. In college, a book titled Habits of the Heart noted a profound societal change taking place and called it Sheilaism. Named after a yuoung nurse, this worldview was very representative of the then-adolescent Generation X’s spiritual outlook. Sheila said: “I believe in God. I’m not a religious fanatic. It’s Sheilaism. Just my own little voice; it’s just trying to love yourself and be gentle with yourself.”

My spiritual director, my mentor at the time, who had been at L’Abri in the 1960s, helped me realize the implication for the American Church: millions of new, individualized religions, one for each of us, gleefully free from the alleged dead hand of the past with its creeds and statements of faith. Training in counseling, I thought, would best equip me to communicate how the Bible is true and the alternative is nothingness and despair.

ELI
Well, that’s very different, Sir. I mean, why didn’t you go to seminary, hmmh?

EDWARD
My wife, my first wife, that is, thought the same. But after we had a son, she changed for the worse and became, well, much like Sheila. She didn’t want to be married anymore, divorced me, and kept our son because I was deployed for the Persian Gulf War. So, as it turned out, I was the one who ended up with feelings of nothingness and despair!

I lost my family to divorce and felt disconnected from God. I tried to find Him---and answers to my “why me?” questions--- externally, at the Toronto Blessing and the Pensacola Outpouring. I ended up staying in Florida and limped along spiritually with deep emotional wounds, all the while having a solid military career and counseling practice, even teaching at the seminary. It was about 10 years later that God ambushed me with His grace, and forced me to look inward rather than outward to find Him. It was a chance airport encounter with Linda DiFatta that broke me. I had this dream of sorts. Craig DiFatta, whom I had not yet met, was in it; so was your Great Aunt Sue.

ELI
Aunt Sue again? That’s double A, Mr. Greenhough! I read that you worked as a counselor at Jacob's Junction for many years. Tell me something about counseling's role there.

EDWARD
OK, our society has assumed that emotional problems have underlying causes properly called psychological disorders. An expert is necessary for treating disorders in much the same way a trained surgeon knows what to look for in a symptom-filled body, and how to remove whatever is diseased. That’s what I thought, too---learned it just like that in college.

At JJ, however, we believe that the root of all non-medical human struggles is really a spiritual problem, a disconnection from God that also creates a disconnection from oneself and others. That disconnect widens the more a person is determined to take care of oneself in the face of a disappointing and sometimes assaulting world. The inherent resolve to look after oneself, we plainly call rebellion; it breaks fellowship with God and others and is a violation of our created nature to be givers. We need the resources that God, and others, pour into us that occurs only when we are openly, vulnerably, and trustingly connected. This is the essence of spiritual community.

Most psychologists operate on the premise that the central motivating drive in human nature is self-actualization, the tendency toward the preservation and enhancement of self. I think it’s true. But I am convinced that this is a huge problem; that it’s bad while most psychologists believe that it’s a good thing.

ELI
But, Mr. Greenhough, therapists do a world of good. You are not going to diss therapists before the ECHR, are you? That’s the very charge against your friends, hmmh?

EDWARD
I wholeheartedly agree that when therapists accomplish good results, and many do, it is because they are lovers, in the personal sense of the word, and not because they are experts. Only genuine, non-billable love accomplishes the work that needs to be done in the human soul.

ELI
And little Armando, hmmh? It seems that he has an abundant reservoir of this un-purchasable love to give. (Pause) And what about churches with counselors on staff? They offer grief counseling, consolation, and help mend broken hearts. They do God’s work, don’t they?

EDWARD
Analyzing underlying causes and working with the psychological dynamics created by dysfunctional backgrounds are only efforts to release self-serving tendencies in a more adaptive manner. In biblical language, it amounts to little more than rearranging or socializing the flesh.

Counselors in churches who work with the natural energy within a person to promote healthier, happier living fail to take advantage of the supernatural presence in Christ-worshippers. Whatever improvement comes about is not empowered by the Holy Spirit. It represents no movement toward Christ and spiritual maturity, and it consistently fails to equip that person to contribute to spiritual community. That's a lot to digest, I know. Should I stop here?

ELI
Please go on, Sir.

EDWARD
Alrighty then. In most churches, spiritual formation has become dominated by the behavioral sciences, and thus inevitably secularized and individualized. It is much like Sheilaism, with occasional prayerful nods upward for help in self-actualization. For instance, "God, grant me success on this admissions test, job interview; in dating and marriage, financial investment, or colonoscopy." In short, it’s Narcissus on his knees!

Therapists are busier than ever, Eli, and rather than identifying a lack of spiritual community as a foremost problem needing attention, churches have tried to handle problems in un-spiritual community. Churches are good at offering congenial, cooperative, conforming, and especially consoling and counseling relationships, to people in conflict. But all of that is not spiritual community. I’ve committed my life to see the word “church” redefined as spiritual community. At JJ, it has happened; it’s a safe place to explore our desires, our human longings, and learn how they are already met in Jesus.

ELI
Wow, Mr. Greenhough, were you teaching this stuff to my dad in seminary? I could listen to you for hours. You have a kind of apostolic air about you, hmmh? (looks at watch) And because you also have a screening appointment, we have to be on our way. The court officials want to be sure that you are competent, and that they can understand any American English terms you might use. Shall we? (both exit)


Act 1 Scene 6
AT RISE: (Craig is seated; Edward and Eli enter room, Edward and Craig embrace)

CRAIG
Hey Old Man, it’s good to see you. So glad you are here.

EDWARD
Top, you are looking fit at what, 55, now? (mock punches Craig’s belly) You still look like you could swim the English Channel! You were swimming buddies with Eli’s dad, as I recall.

ELI
Mr. DiFatta, is this true? You knew my dad?

CRAIG
I invited you to call me Craig when I figured out you must be Bryce’s son. Yes, your dad and I were close when he was finishing up seminary. I was on leave from the Army, recovering from PTSD from the Iraq War. I attended your dad’s thesis presentation at a conference. He asked for my feedback, but didn’t care for what I had to say. That was the last conversation Bryce and I ever had.

ELI
Wow, with all these personal connections I might lose my professional bearing here! (excitedly) Mr. Greenhough’s pre-hearing screening, Sir, I mean Craig, have a seat. In fact, I think I will sit down, too.

I am just maximum awestruck. Those legal eagles laughed out loud as Mr. Greenhough explained how Western culture has divided spiritual from psychological problems. How churches assign pastors and nice Christian people to deal with the first sort: "Here, memorize these Bible verses; pray more; stop doing this or that; oh, and don’t miss church." (Craig laughs) Yeah, they laughed too! But if the problem proves to be too psychologically tough that prayer and biblical exhortation can’t touch it, then trained therapists are called in.

He suggested that JJ spiritual community does everything assumed only be can done with psychotherapy. Rather than with Bible verse-prescriptive counseling, or with secular therapies, JJ's communitarian counseling probes the darkness of deceived and defensive hearts. The Lower Room, he called that place. Moreover, spiritual community pours the actual life of Christ into people's souls. This Upper Room provides opportunities to relate in ways that heal and stimulate good works and loving deeds. He gave examples from JJ’s orphan care ministry: low-key, but high impact, hmmh? Finally, he made the case that no animosity exists between spiritual direction and psychotherapy. It is rather a choice between independence and community; between trying to make sense of life all alone, or journeying toward God in a group, bolstered with love from spiritual friends.

CRAIG
And just how did those Old World jurists react to all of this?

ELI
Mr. Greenhough brought the house down with his answer to whether he is a spiritual director or a pastor. It was double A, double A battery!

EDWARD
(smiles) Yeah, Top, wish you could have been there. By the way, I learned that “double A” means something that is awfully awesome and “double A battery” is that and more, even energizing---like the old Energizer battery. Anyway, I described a pastor as someone you see and hear from only occasionally, at baptisms and Christmas---and a little more often if you are in the hospital! (all laugh)

ELI
Craig, (pause) the charges have been dropped!

CRAIG
What, all the charges?

ELI
No, don’t we wish. The charges of slander and libel against state mental health therapists!

CRAIG
Are you kidding me? (pause) (shakes hands with Eli, embraces Edward) Blessed be the name of the Lord. Wait until Patrice finds out! She’ll certainly agree that the divine mantle you wear for JJ, Old Man, should be redeployed to another front. Can we have her paged or something?

ELI
The staff left me a message that Patrice isn't feeling well today. She has a dispensary appointment.

EDWARD
I saw a dispensary sign in one of the adjacent buildings. How about if I go check on her? Craig, Eli mentioned that he wants to hear more about the Upper and Lower Rooms. No one is better than you at explaining the difference! So don’t give him a digested version. Take your time; I don’t walk so fast anymore. (exits)

CRAIG
Eli, are you genuinely interested in hearing more, or are you pressed for time?

ELI
I am sure it will be time well spent, and will even help in crafting a defense, hmmh?

CRAIG
Good, have seat. You may recall that I described JJ as a safe place to explore our desires, our human longings, and to learn how they are already met in Christ. C.S. Lewis once said that if we discover desires within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, then shouldn’t we wonder if we were designed for another world. That place is the Upper Room. At JJ, we long to be caught up in things bigger than living in the Lower Room can ever provide.

ELI
So, what’s the Lower Room, then? The spiritual condition or place for non-Christian, I mean, pre-Christians?

CRAIG
In a word, the Lower Room is a place where God isn’t. For pre-Christians, it is a life into which Christ has not been invited. For believers, the Lower Room is still a place where they look after themselves. Every human being would agree that life frustrates and satisfies us in varying degrees. We quickly learn what we like about this world and go after it. Believers typically ask God to bless their pursuits of happiness.

Christ-worshippers who find Upper Room contentment are not obsessed with pursuits of happiness or even figuring life out. They prefer to live life rather than to analyze it and have no compelling urge to “find themselves.” They have been found! With the pantry full of the Bread of Life, their strongest desire is to set another place at the heavenly banquet and invite others to enjoy the feast.

ELI
It sounds rather mystical, like one must join JJ to find this Upper Room, hmmh? There are still plenty of evangelical churches where new life in Christ is preached.

CRAIG
And I thank God for them. Yet sermons that tell us how to make life work, or how to discover fulfillment by doing this or that, speak to the Lower Room. Fellow Christians in the Lower Room sometimes live there quite happily for a long time. The brokenness and radical trust needed for Upper Room living have no value for people in the Lower Room because their own resources keep life together for them quite nicely. They have no desire to leave unspiritual community, only perhaps to repair it. Because they have not come to grips with their own wretchedness, they are not captivated by the beauty of its opposite. They are reluctant to abandon the old Lower Room and chase after the new Upper Room with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength!

ELI
It still sounds like you are comparing apples to oranges, Christians to non-Christians, hmmh?

CRAIG
No, I am speaking of believers who, despite sometimes adverse and maddening circumstances, proclaim that their redeemed souls are content in God’s love. They have put behind them the lure of the Lower Room that only helps them feel better about themselves. The vast majority of believers like to think that they are rather decent Christian folk, a few quirks here and there, but nothing really evil in them. All the while they channel their thoughts and energy into "the good life" of enjoying health, wealth, and relationships. Truth be told, if we cannot smell the cesspool within us, we won’t be bothered by it. We’re even likely to bathe in it, thinking that the water is reasonably clean.

ELI
But if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

CRAIG
1 John 1:9. That’s correct. But if we repent of first-floor sins without feeling disgust over our root cellar sins, then we’ll make little progress toward maturity. St. John's aim for his flock, to whom he wrote his epistles, was to empower them so that they could contribute to spiritual community. At JJ, we do the same by teaching that the Lower Room has Four Furnishings that are actually corrupted passions.

1. A corrupted image of God that fills us with a passion for self.

2. The corrupted resources we’ve been given as human beings that fill us with a passion for control.

3. Pleasurable and painful life experiences that we corrupt by responding to them with a passion to define life on our terms.

ELI
Wait, can you give some examples here? And I'm confused. You are still speaking of believers here, hmmh?

CRAIG
That’s right, I am. OK, #1: created in God’s image, we were made for relationship. When a natural longing for relationships becomes desperate, even an indignant demand, it is self-worship in disguise. Example: I need love! My natural inclination is to get others to give me what I need; to love me as I internally define love.

When it comes to making life work, our natural mantra is “I’ll make it happen.” An example for #2 is how we channel our resources: financial, social status, and personality, to prod others into giving us what we want relationally. In this false view of life we avoid having to bend the knee to God for a sense of connectedness. We are hell-bent to find ways to experience day-to-day life without Him.

For an example for #3, God sent His Son, the Bread of Life, to satisfy us. Yet, whatever gives us pleasure in this life becomes the food we feed our souls with. Whatever makes us feel bad or miserable, like losing one's job, spouse, child, or health, are to be avoided. Painful life experiences, rather than becoming reasons to depend more on Christ for life’s satisfaction, become instead the basis of our efforts to figure life out on our own.

4. And now to passion #4. It’s a corruption of God’s moral law into a passion to perform rather than letting His moral absolutes produce gratitude for grace and love, even when we fail. In other words, we say to God, "I’ll try to be good, but why can’t You just let me have what I want in life?" And if we suffer setbacks and disappointments, we think surely that our level of internal dissatisfaction or pain justifies whatever we must do to find relief.

Let me use you, Eli, as an example, a 25-year-old single male, hormones on legs, one might say. You have a girlfriend, and I trust you are not bedding her as that would violate God’s moral command. But hey, life is hard. So you might say: I’ve had a lot of rejection. And I have this mountain of sexual tension, and when in Europe, I can view pornography on TV and no one will know. It’s not like I’m paying for it. And it’s not outright fornication, which, (mocked smugness) as your servant, God, I would certainly not do. That’s an example of how we justify peccadilloes, sin nonetheless.

(Edward knocks, re-enters the room, sits)

Our post-modern culture encourages attitudes against longing for holiness. The rest of our culture has thrown off moral absolutes, and it looks like fun. So many believers reason: I’m going to just take a peek at what I might be missing out on. That corrupt passion in us, even as believers, is pervasive!

EDWARD
May I finish that thought about post-modernism, after all, I’m as old as its influences. I can say with certainty that post-modernism didn’t introduce the idea of abolishing absolute truth and law; it only dignified it, or tried to. So much so that it is now considered immoral by the intellectual elite to honor any authority outside of ourselves.

ELI
(Eli’s cell phone rings, he answers). Fitzgerald here. (pause) Really? Do you mean right now? Yes, put him on. (motions to Craig) It’s Mr. Aslan! from Iran! (gives phone to Craig)

CRAIG
Aslan, salaam a laikum. (pause) Wait, say that again. (pause) Yes, Patrice and I are detained; otherwise we are fine. (pause) No, no bail. (pause) How the hell would I know? Bro, the EU magistrate has the ass at you for skipping bail, that’s why!

ELI
(astonished, leans in to Edward) What’s with the bad language?

EDWARD
(bemused) When upset, Craig can let loose some zingers. (smiles) It’s become his most endearing trait to me.

CRAIG
(to Aslan on phone) I know, I know, that’s why we want you here. (pause) We have not seen Armando and don’t know who is caring for him. (pause) Well, hell yeah, you will have to answer for that, too! (pause) Even so, God is working here; we have a court-appointed Slovene attorney, a young gal. She can be a bit terse, but we think she’s a keeper.

Then we have Eli Fitzgerald, begotten by our old friend in Florida, Bryce Fitzgerald. Yes, (sarcastic, points to Eli) he’s from the government “and here to help.” (pause) Well, he was able to track you down, Bro! And next, (again points to Eli) he has to track down Primož. And we have Edward here, who just won our first legal battle. (points to Edward and gives thumbs up sign)(longer pause) Next week would be good, very, very good, Bro. OK, be very, very careful. Bye. (hands phone back to Eli, grateful) Thank you, Eli. How did you get through to Aslan?

ELI
(smiles) I may be young, but I have contacts in Iran that even veteran diplomats envy, hmmh? So, is Mr. Aslan coming back here to face the charges? He should know that the Iraqi embassy offered zero support.

CRAIG
Aslan is very apologetic that he caused our detention and expects to be here next week. He needs to get a copy of the Kurdish school curriculum at another location. He thinks he is being surveilled so he’s sending someone else for it. (smiles)

EDWARD
Top, I know that toothy grin of yours, that crocodile smile; it means you are up to something. (smiles)

ELI
Excuse me, I have to interrupt and ask about these names, Top and Old Man. I thought they might be military terms, hmmh?

EDWARD
Spot on, Eli. When a Commanding Officer, affectionately known as the Old Man, but who is usually the younger of the two, is not around, the top enlisted man is in charge. For 30 years, it’s been either Craig or me in charge of JJ’s spiritual communities. Craig used to be an Army sergeant, so he’s Top. Plus, as you just heard with that off-color language, (smiles) he’s the crustier of us two. (to Craig) So, Top, do you have a battle plan?

CRAIG
Consider it a Warning Order. Don’t pack your duffle bags yet,
Old Man, you have one more tour of duty with JJ. I’ll need to first talk to Patrice. Did you see her? How is she feeling?

EDWARD
She’s better after a bout of nausea last night. In fact, she is in her room, er, cell, talking now with Ms. Dmovšek, whom I just met.

ELI
(surprised) Ms. Dmovšek is here? She told me just yesterday that she has today off. I’ll have to tell her that Mr. Aslan is coming, and that the slander and libel charges have been dropped! This news is a game-changer, hmmh?

EDWARD
Let’s not disturb the ladies just yet. Come, Eli, let’s get some coffee. You looked a little flustered by Craig’s explanation of the Upper Room. (smiles) We’ll leave Craig to rot in his cell.

CRAIG
(embraces Edward) (Eli & Edward start to exit) Note the gallows humor from the Old Man, Eli. And don’t forget to find Primož. (triumphantly) Aslan is on the move, which means that the ops tempo around here is picking up.

ELI
(outside in hallway) Mr. Greenhough, you had me expecting a beatitude or something double A for Craig’s Upper Room/Lower Room explanation. To use his words, ”what the hell was he talking about, hmmh?”

EDWARD
Hmmh, he’s talking about why cats and dogs don’t go to hell, that’s all. (smiles) I’ll explain that one over coffee. Shall we?


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

Read more articles by douglas batson or search for articles on the same topic or others.


Read More - Free Reprints, Main Site Articles, Most Read Articles or highly acclaimed Challenge Articles. Read Great New Release Christian Books for FREE in our Free Reads for Reviews Program. Christian writers can JOIN US at FaithWriters for Free. Grow as a Writer and help spread the Gospel.


The opinions expressed by authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.

Hire a Christian Writer, Christian Writer Wanted, Christian Writer Needed, Christian Content Needed
Find a Christian Editor, Hire a Christian Editor, Christian Editor, Find a Christian Writer
 
corner
Corner
This article has been read 316 times     < Previous | Next >


Member Comments
Member Date




TRUST JESUS TODAY











Free Audio Bible
500 Plus Languages
Faith Comes By Hearing.com