The Philosophical Difference Between Christian Drama and Secular Drama
Part One: Why Christian Drama is viewed with distrust by the World.
Christian drama which uses humor or comedy is not some new invention or derivation of a secular form of entertainment. It is an artistic creation that endeavours to bring out a Gospel truth using the medium of humor the same way that a Christian painter endeavors to depict Christ or His handiwork on his canvas. So in it’s truest form, Christian drama is an art form. Placed in this perspective, it can be perceived a little more clearly for the sake of this philosophical discussion. This article has been divided into three examinations of the artist: the Secular, the Sacred, and the Profane.
The fundamental difference between sacred art and secular art goes much deeper than a simple matter of theme. This is because the difference lies in the core reason for doing it.
Secular art is most often “art for art’s sake.” The focus is not the object pictured or theme portrayed but rather the style in which it is depicted or portrayed. However, in sacred art, the focus is Christ, and the style is merely an expression of the individual artist.
The success of secular art is measured by the intellectual appreciation of the higher critic and popular acceptance. The success of Christian art is measured by the degree of increased awareness in the viewer of some aspect of God.
The secular artist is gratified when their artistic talent is recognized, their artwork purchased and their name glorified: the Christian artist is gratified when, through their talent, God is recognized, His Son accepted, and His name glorified.
This is the reason that Christian art, in all its various forms, is subject to immediate suspicion by the secular mind. When viewing art where Christ is the theme, it is recognized immediately that there is an ulterior motive behind it other than the artists’ desire for pure personal expression (which is tantamount, in their thinking, in the creation of pure art). Whether a painting, Christian film, play, piece of music or song, drama or comedy performance, the art critic (professional or self-appointed) must always mentally subtract the message and attempt to judge the art for its own sake. However, the art will always be judged as lacking since its theme and the artist is insulting to their intelligence and ego.
This illogical thinking would have been condemned if a recognized art critic had denigrated Andy Warhol’s famous painting of the Campbell’s soup can simply because he disliked that brand of soup. But secular criticism of Christian art is shared by most of their peers because they feel that the Christian artist has betrayed the artistic ideal by putting it in submission to or in a secondary position behind the subject.
Sadly, too, the secular man’s rejection of Christ causes not only the art but the artist to be illogically hated and berated, whereas if the same artist had performed or created the same artistic piece without the Christian message they and their art would be hailed and praised. At the very least, where the artistic talent is less than fully developed, they would be defended for their expression and interpretation, which is the one sacred thing in the secular mind.
Even in the mind of the average man who has given little or no thought as to why the various expressions of Christian art are distasteful to him, is the subconscious awareness that everything done by the Christian artist is suspect because they are “trying to get somebody saved.” This often unconscious distrust is a reaction of his fallen (and spiritually dead) inner man against the gospel message.
It all boils down to the statement made by Jesus: “The servant is not greater than his master; if they have hated Me, they will also hate you.”
The Christian artist understands that everything he does must reflect the Person that is his master. Art, like work, play, relationships, our lives or anything else that we share in common with all of humanity, must shine forth the message of the Gospel and glorify God. This is the reason that comedy, like any other form of art or communication, may be used of God; it is the saving power of Christ, brought by the Word and the Spirit, within the art that is responsible for the life-changing results. So, to those that the Spirit is calling, your message is powerful and effective. To those rejecting this call, it can be distasteful.
Art is a tool, and a talent is a God-given ability to use certain tools, whatever they may be. When a tool is given more emphasis than the job it is created for, the natural order of things has been perverted. Thus, the fundamental philosophical difference between the secular and sacred perception of the role of art.
Another perception worth mentioning concerning the role of art is the view of art by the profane artist. The secular artist creates to express self. The sacred artist creates to express faith in God. The profane artist creates to denigrate God, mock Christianity, and destroy faith. The profane artist perceives art as a tool as well, to express his own detestation of the belief in the God of the Scriptures, and in some extreme cases, to glorify God’s enemy, Satan. This view mirrors that held by the Christian, except that the message is in stark opposition. Although the message is one of hatred and defilement of the sacred, the view of art is the same as the sacred artist: that art is a powerful tool for expressing the belief one holds. Ironically, although at opposite ends of the pole, both views more accurately grasp the true potential and power of art for affecting the minds and hearts of the viewer than that held by the secular artist.