Performance is not a dirty word: part 1

Over the years I've seen a reluctant renaissance taking place within the community of faith. Some of the most gifted, innovative and creative people I've ever met are those whose work is fueled by a drive to share their core beliefs through their work. I can truly say without any hint of bias, that those friends whose creative work is considered an act of worship, are leading the way in skill, content and originality. However, much of the "reluctance" I've seen is over a misunderstanding or a misapplication of the role of performance in the arts.

Many times, in my experience, when performance is mentioned (within the community of faith) it is usually in contrast to worship (as if the two are inherently opposed). The tone, of course favors that which is immediately recognized as worship and subtly frowns upon the lesser. I believe this is largely due to a failure to distinguish performance as an art and performance as a spiritual condition.

Performance as a spiritual condition does have negative connotations that aren't advisable and should be overcome especially in the role of worship arts. I would describe it like this. Performance stands in opposition to authenticity. Performance is going through the motions, an imitation of accepted actions in order to gain praise and approval. It is equated with striving. If someone is "performing", they are putting on an act. They are lacking in heart. The problem is this. Much effort has been placed on debunking these negative connotations of performance but no one (that I've heard) has been a proponent of true, God inspired performance art.

I read a biography on L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Before he was a writer, he was a playwright. He grew up with a Christian background but became convinced that there was no place for his craft within the Church. Performance was a mockery. Theater was the Devil's sermon. It was falsehood, not a proper channel to convey truth. (Sadly, I've heard similar views on fiction writing even by theologians whose brilliance in other subjects I admire greatly.) Later in Frank's life, he left his Christian roots for a form of Universalism. The lesson: Performance is not a dirty word. Even the Prophets of old were instructed by God to theatrically express prophetic acts.

(End of Part 1. I'll be revisiting this subject probably quite a bit. There's a lot to say and unpack here. But I'm sleepy. Goodnight.)