State Department Report on Religious Freedom: Kettle, Pot; Pot, Kettle

The State Department has released its newest report on religious freedom around the world and it is “sobering.”

This from the same administration that has mandated religious organizations provide for medical treatments and procedures that violate their beliefs.

This from the nation that condemns the CEO of Chick-Fil-A for expressing the traditional Christian beliefs about homosexuality, marriage, and morality.

This from the same country that criticizes the church of Rome for appointing a bishop over San Francisco who is staunchly against the homosexual agenda.

Is it any wonder why the rest of the world increasingly hates America? Is it any wonder why many Americans increasingly detest America?

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Athens and Jerusalem: Why drama is morally wrong i.e. sinful. Part one- The Actor

Premise: Acting is an immoral profession.

 What is the talent of the actor? It is the art of counterfeiting himself, of putting on another character than his own, of appearing different than he is, of becoming passionate in cold blood, of saying what he does not think as naturally as if he really did think it, and, finally, of forgetting his own place by dint of taking another’s. What is the profession of the actor? It is a trade in which he performs for money, submits himself to the disgrace and affronts that others buy the rights to give him, and puts his person publicly on sale. I beg every sincere man to tell me if he does not feel in the depths of his soul that there is something servile and base in this traffic of oneself. You philosophers, who have the pretention of being so far above prejudices, would you not all die of shame if, ignominiously gotten up as kings, you had to take on in the eyes of the public a different role than your own and expose your majesties to the jeers of the populace? What, then, is the spirit that the actor receives from his estate? A mixture of abjectness, duplicity, ridiculous conceit, and disgraceful abasement which renders him fit for all sorts of roles except for the most noble of all, that of man, which he abandons.[1]

Without doubt the most precious thing any man possesses is his individuated being; that by which he is himself and not someone else; that which cannot be finally voided by the man himself nor shared with another. Each one of us, however humble our place in the social scheme, is unique in creation. Each is a new whole man possessing his own separate “I-ness” which makes him forever something apart, an individual human being. It is this quality of uniqueness which permits a man to enjoy every reward of virtue and makes him responsible for every sin. It is his selfness, which will persist forever, and which distinguishes him from every creature which has been or ever will be created.
Because man is such a being as this all moral teachers, and especially Christ and His apostles, make sincerity to be basic in the good life. The word, as the New Testament uses it, refers to the practice of holding fine pottery up to the sun to test it for purity. In the white light of the sun all foreign substances were instantly exposed. So the test of sincerity is basic in human character. The sincere man is one in whom is found nothing foreign; he is all of one piece; he has preserved his individuality unviolated.
Sincerity for each man means staying in character with himself. Christ’s controversy with the Pharisees centered around their incurable habit of moral play acting. The Pharisee constantly pretended to be what he was not. He attempted to vacate his own “I-ness” and appear in that of another and better man. He assumed a false character and played it for effect. Christ said he was a hypocrite.
It is more than an etymological accident that the word “hypocrite” comes from the stage. It means actor. With that instinct for fitness which usually marks word origins, it has been used to signify one who has violated his sincerity and is playing a false part. An actor is one who assumes a character other than his own and plays it for effect. The more fully he can become possessed by another personality the better he is as an actor.[2]

 Result: Those continuing to engage in said activity are not to be considered in fellowship with the church and in fact barred from it.

 From our mutual love and your reverence for me you have thought that I should be consulted, dearest brother, as to my opinion concerning a certain actor, who, being settled among you, still persists in the discredit of the same art of his; and as a master and teacher, not for the instruction, but for the destruction of boys, that which he has unfortunately learnt he also imparts to others: you ask whether such a one ought to communicate with us. This, I think, neither befits the divine majesty nor the discipline of the Gospel, that the modesty and credit of the Church should be polluted by so disgraceful and infamous a contagion. For since, in the law, men are forbidden to put on a woman’s garment, and those that offend in this manner are judged accursed, how much greater is the crime, not only to take women’s garments, but also to express base and effeminate and luxurious gestures, by the teaching of an immodest art.[3]

If a harlot come, let her leave off whoredom, or else let her be rejected. If a maker of idols come, let him either leave off his employment, or let him be rejected. If one belonging to the theatre come, whether it be man or woman, or charioteer, or dueller, or racer, or player of prizes, or Olympic gamester, or one that plays on the pipe, on the lute, or on the harp at those games, or a dancing-master or an huckster, either let them leave off their employments, or let them be rejected.[4]

 


[1] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Politics and the Arts: Letter to M. d’Alembert on the Theater,trans. Allan Bloom (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973), 79-80.

[2] A.W. Tozer, “The Menace of the Religious Movie,” Tozer on Worship and Entertainment (Camp Hill, PA: Christian Publications, 1997), 193-194.

[3] Cyprian, Epistle LX, ANF 5.356

[4] Apostolic Constitutions, ANF 7.495

The Virginia Tech Shootings and Aurora Colorado

(The following is something I wrote for the church I was attending when the 2007 Virgina Tech shootings occurred. There are several important points of contact with the recent tragedy in Aurora Colorado.)

Like many of you, I spent a portion of Monday night watching news coverage of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. My attention was arrested by a particular comment from one of the anchormen. As he interviewed two students who witnessed the carnage he commented that the shooter seemed to act “methodically, like in the movies like you see people reload in the movies and on television.” To which, one student replied, “Yeah he was… he looked to be trained in how fast he loaded the gun.”[1] My thoughts immediately turned to statements of the church fathers concerning theater. For centuries, a primary argument made against the theater was that it taught people how to commit sin. What could motivate a person to savagely slay 32 souls? Could television and the movies really be the source of his training? Consider the following testimony:

 …on what ground is it right to hear what we must not speak? For all licentiousness of speech, nay, every idle word, is condemned by God. Why, in the same way, is it right to look on what it is disgraceful to do? How is it that the things which defile a man in going out of his mouth, are not regarded as doing so when they go in at his eyes and ears—when eyes and ears are the immediate attendants on the spirit—and that can never be pure whose servants-in-waiting are impure?…What you reject in deed, you are not to bid welcome to in word.[2]

Each generation is reminded by what it hears, that whatever has once been done may be done again. Crimes never die out by the lapse of ages; wickedness is never abolished by process of time; impiety is never buried in oblivion. Things which have now ceased to be actual deeds of vice become examples. In the mimes, moreover, by the teaching of infamies, the spectator is attracted either to reconsider what he may have done in secret, or to hear what he may do. Adultery is learnt while it is seen…[3]

I am ashamed to tell what things are said; I am even ashamed to denounce the things that are done—the tricks of arguments, the cheatings of adulterers, the immodesties of women, the scurrile jokes, the sordid parasites, even the toga’d fathers of families themselves, sometimes stupid, sometimes obscene, but in all cases dull, in all cases immodest…People flock thither to the public disgrace of the brothel for the teaching of obscenity, that nothing less may be done in secret than what is learnt in public; and in the midst of the laws themselves is taught everything that the laws forbid. What does a faithful Christian do among these things, since he may not even think upon wickedness? Why does he find pleasure in the representations of lust, so as among them to lay aside his modesty and become more daring in crimes? He is learning to do, while he is becoming accustomed to see. [4]

Why should I speak of the actors of mimes, who hold forth instruction in corrupting influences, who teach adulteries while they feign them, and by pretended actions train to those which are true? What can young men or virgins do, when they see that these things are practiced without shame, and willingly beheld by all? They are plainly admonished of what they can do, and are inflamed with lust, which is especially excited by seeing… And they approve of these things, while they laugh at them, and with vices clinging to them, they return more corrupted to their apartments… [5]

The suggestion almost seems too fantastic. Who would be naive enough to believe that TV or movies would cause a person to kill 32 people and then take his own life? For centuries, the church made such an assertion, and its accuracy is once again demonstrated. On Wednesday, New York Times reporter Mike Nizza, in commenting on the materials the killer mailed to NBC, wrote, “The inspiration for perhaps the most inexplicable image in the set that Cho Seung-Hui mailed to NBC news on Monday may be a movie from South Korea that won the Gran Prix prize at Cannes Film Festival in 2004.”[6] The next day, SKY news reported on the same material, “In the chilling video Cho also appears to re-enact scenes from a film detectives say he had repeatedly watched in the days leading up to the massacre.”[7] So where did this young man receive his training? Not in the military. Not a secret jihadi war camp. He learned it in his room…sitting in front of his television.

For centuries, wise leaders of the church railed against all forms of the dramatic arts as inherently sinful. The world continues to demonstrate the fruit of witnessing, learning, and nurturing unrestrained passions. The sinfulness of the world is not the problem, however. If judgment indeed begins in the house of God, the problem is with us.

Consider your weekly TV and movie viewing habits. What blasphemy, what deceit have you been taught? What murder, what adultery have you learned? What judgment, what condemnation have you earned? What grace, what mercy have you spurned? Marvel not at the destruction that is wrought: a person does as he is taught. Ask instead why you continue to teach yourself and your children such things.


[1]NBC Nightly News, April 16, 2007.

[2]Tertullian, De Spectaculis available online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.iv.v.xvii.html

[3]Cyprian, Epistle to Donatus available online at http://ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.iv.i.html

[4]Anonymous, On the Public Shows (attributed to Cyprian) available online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf05.iv.vii.ii.html

[5]Lactantius, Divine Institutes, available online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf07.iii.ii.vi.xx.html

Where was God during the Aurora Colorado shooting?

The same place he always has been: in heaven doing whatever he pleases. Laughing at all the fulminations of the wicked.

I wonder why it is acceptable in our society to have infants, toddlers, and 6 year-olds out until 2 a.m. watching 2 hours of slaughter and mayhem and then get up in arms when someone takes the rather natural and to-be-expected next step of actually perpetrating the violence that people spent nearly $200 million to see?