Thursday, April 02, 2009

"Oh Crap!" Moments

I've said "Oh crap" out loud in a live, darkened theatre twice in my life. The first time, I said it in the middle of Act 3, Scene 5 of August: Osage County. The second time I said it was yesterday, in the middle of the new production, Irena's Vow. (Others exclaimed in shock in both moments, as well, so I was not being totally disruptive). They were the plot twists that separate the great from the mediocre in the craft of theatrical storytelling.

Too often, Christians tell stories that are at flat, two-dimensional, and appropriate for all audiences. We've removed the "oh crap" moments in return for material that earns positive entertainment ratings from Focus on the Family. And we've therefore removed ourselves from the frontlines of cultural influence.

I've got to give two thumbs way up for Irena's Vow. Based on the real-life story of Irena Gut Opdyke, the play tells the story of a Polish Catholic who daringly hid 13 Jews in the house of her employer, a prominent German officer in occupied Poland. It is the story of goodness that is told well.

Here are just a few things I loved about it.

First, there is a deeply religious leading character on Broadway. And deeply religious in the best of ways. That is amazing in and of itself.

Second, this is the story of real life; not the story of whitewashed situations. The characters are forced to make decisions that are not entirely black and white, and the audience is left to decide for themselves how God might judge their actions...or whether or not that's a judgment we should even be making.

Third, there is a strong pro-life message that comes from deep faith in God but doesn't sound preachy.

Fourth, the leading character believes with all her heart that it is possible to hear clearly the voice of God. And that we should act on what we hear.

After the curtain call, the audience was surprised to see the the real-life daughter of Irena Updike walk on the stage to take questions from audience members. For whatever its worth, she told more stories of redemption and hope that could not fit into the 90 minutes of a Broadway show. But those 90 minutes were a window that allowed people to catch a glimpse of the heart of God.

What are we doing with our 90 minutes every Sunday? What views of God are our windows showing? Where are the "oh crap" moments? Scripture is full of them and we must expose them. Once we do, we might actually become the salt and light in a broken culture that Jesus challenged us to be.


At 10:00 PM, Blogger shuttergrace said...

I am so glad that I got to share this particular "Oh Crap" moment with you...oh yeah and the last one too ;-) You have a way of putting things into words that I struggle to, especially lately...and I thank you for that...and for writing this...and for standing against mediocrity...and for being you...

At 9:50 AM, Blogger The Black Sheep said...

Great post. I was at a dinner party recently joking about a "very special episode" of Adventures in Odyssey in which a 12-year-old gets pregnant. You probably had to be there to get the full funniness. But it speaks to my point and yours about how far removed Christian media can be from reality. From the lives of quiet and not so quiet desparation that are being lived by the people next door, one cubicle over, or on the church pew beside us.

I'm all for the entertainment value in things like the Left Behind series, but the fact of the matter is the battle is here and it's now and it's not that complicated. We can't afford to lure "saints and ain'ts" into the false sense of security or insecurity that the life-or-death fight for their souls and the glory of the Kingdom of God is somewhere off in the future. People are fighting and dying and winning and suffering every second of every day. And we need to know what that looks like.

We overcome by the "word of our testimony." And life-changing testimonies are not family-friendly.

Darnit! You've got me ranting.


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