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Topic: Acceptance (01/12/04)
TITLE: THE CHRISTIANS ARE COMING! THE CHRISTIANS ARE COMING!
By David Ian
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(C) 2004 David Ian
In November of 2002 I was making a guest spot appearance at a downtown Portland radio station (if one makes an “appearance” on radio) with Tapestry Theatre’s Judy Straalsund and Pat Tellinghusen. We were there to flog the 1943 Christmas From Home show which was opening soon and we had gotten a radio slot for a live interview and to give away some tickets for the show. Upon entrance to the station it took only one glance around at the event posters and slogans that decorated the walls that the overall emphasis of the station was what might be generally categorized as “very Liberal” in political and social agendas, and to some degree “anti-Evil Conservative” by some other public postings as well.
Undaunted I went up to what I assumed was a front desk and introduced myself. Now, to set the scene, it was a cold November morning with the usual Oregon drizzle, so I was donning an unusually styled leather jacket, fingerless leather gloves, four or five earrings and ear cuffs with thin-lensed dark glasses at the end of my nose – the usual stuff, actually. I’ve previously worn the same outfit to church numerous times. The lady smiled at me, accepting me as one of “her own” and asked my business. I told her I was with Tapestry Theatre and I was there for our morning interview slot.
“Well,” she replied, taken a little aback, “you’re a leather jacket toting, earring wearing young man. We were all afraid we were going to have to yell, “Here come the Christians! Here come the Christians! Run! Hide!” She laughed a little bit, welcomed me and showed me where to wait.
I resisted a great temptation to say, “Well, I can see you were prepared to celebrate MY diversity, weren’t you…?” Instead, I just smiled graciously and laughed with her.
As Christians in general, there is a great advantage to be accepted as “one of their own” when mixing it up with those outside the church. Jesus advised his disciples that they needed to be as innocent as lambs, but wise or as clever as wolves. There is also great merit in what Paul says about becoming “all things to all people”. Missionaries are most successful when they learn, adapt and assimilate themselves into the culture of their particular mission field.
As Christians in art or the writing field, there is also a great advantage to gaining acceptance by using point of view or production values that are familiar to those that haven’t been baptized in the Christian arena. Instead of creating something that demands the audience to view things on “our” terms, creating something that provides something palatable to the Unchurched ear and give a message that speaks to them on their terms.
I’m not saying we lower standards, or present anything other than Christian based truths, but in the packaging and presentation, we should speak in a language that is easy to the ear of those who are by nature prejudiced against Christian art or prose. Good art in general has a way of getting past prejudicial barriers and speaking to the intuitive, so we should use this medium to its utmost to get past ears that have been stopped up to reach a cold or hurting heart.
Very often Christian art and prose by-pass the medium of Art in favor of Message, preferring substance of content over form, trusting that the Spirit will move through the inherent truths contained in the subject matter and often the artistic values suffer because of this. In short, we don’t need to present real characters with real problems, we can put up quick and easy caricatures to introduce some topic or another and rely upon the acceptance of the audience of this convention to avoid really challenging them. Unfortunately, it is exactly the opposite that the Unchurched audience is looking for: a well told story and interesting characters, with theme and moral meaning secondary.
We need to intrigue them and get them sympathetic with our protagonist or speak with their point of view in mind in order for them to accept the work on its face value before we ask them to accept the Christian Truths that become inherent to our piece. Easier said than done, but ultimately much more effective in spreading the Word of the Lord.