This was my first Lucas Hnath play at Actors Theater in Louisville, KY. I enjoyed his unique writing that left me leaving the auditorium with more questions than answers about belief and faith. The best part is that Lucas did not show his cards and did not force his opinion among the masses. He did the opposite, which left theater goers not knowing what he believes.
The in-grained effects of the Pamela Brown theater audience in “The Christians” were creepy. The audience was cast in this play as “churchgoers” listening to a pastor’s sermon that shook the doctrinal foundation and belief of the local church. The creepy part was when the pastor (played by Andrew Garman), and associate pastor (played by Larry Powell) asked to bow our heads and pray. Many of the audience members did just that, they bowed their heads. The actions of the audience, and the way the set was carved out to look like a rock concert stage, made you feel like you were actually attending any of the mega-church services today.
As the four-part sermon started, just like many other “here are the steps to be a better Christian” type sermon are, the cherry-picking of verses to prove a particular point was well done. When the pastor left the lectern, I was put off by the use of the wired microphones at first, because my focus jumped to the pastor playing with the wire when speaking. However, the dramatic use of the wired microphones as the play progressed was a stroke of genius added to the set. I think the microphones set an atmosphere of individualism, where each person had their own mic to speak into to let people know their opinion and their belief. The individual microphones show the invisible disease of individualism the church spreads by preaching, which takes away from the community church should be.
The sermon was a build-up to release information on what the pastor actually believed. After getting all the debt paid on building a mega-church that included a book store, coffee shops, and a lot of other consumerist type products that people buy with their tithe, the pastor used scripture to prove his doctrinal point that hell does not exist in the way many believe it does.
This leads to perspectives of how others believe. We listen to one of the elders in the church (played by Richard Henzel) talk about keeping the numbers of the church strong. We listen to a member of the church (played by Emily Donahue) spill her guts on what she believes, and asks a plethora of tough questions about her faith. One question she asked left the audience (the congregation) literally gasping with the answer the pastor gave. Finally we hear from the wife of the pastor (played by Linda Powell), who makes a complete turn-around to see some other interesting insights into the thoughts of women and the church.
Which person in the pastor married to, his wife, or his church?
What I “get” from this play is that each of us with our beliefs cannot build a church because we are all going to bring our opinions to the table. Individualism boils down to each of us building “The First Church of _____” (enter your name here). If Christ is love, we should drop all the individual indoctrination we push on others, and focus on just loving one another. That would be a church Christ would be proud of, one He has already created.
There is a danger for those pastors, or elders, or members who are part of the leadership of a church to start thinking of the church as theirs. When they start thinking like that, they start acting like that. They start trying to build their own church. If this is how Christianity is portrayed, Christianity needs to fade away like other religions.
What is your opinion on hell? Do you think it exists? … and if so, what does it look like?