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Its a Set Up!

All of our scripts have a beginning, middle, and end but not all have a conflict, lesson, and resolution.

The second style of script we use does not teach a lesson, it simply introduces the subject of the day.  This leaves the pastor free to suggest a variety of ways to deal with the problem.

Why present a conflict without resolution?  Well, while it seems on network television that no family problem is too great it cannot be resolved in a half-hour, the truth is, life is not a sitcom and some issues are simply too intense and complicated to solve in thirty minutes – much less eight minutes of church drama.  Infidelity, tragic loss of a child, sexual abuse, terrorist actions, bigotry, and many other subjects are truly too complex to present fast, pat answers to; and to do so would be a disservice to our congregations.  So when we present characters that are battling with the psychological demons these traumatic experiences create (thereby allowing the audience to directly relate to them), then we must leave it up to the pastor to try to help those in the congregation who are in similar distress.

Infidelity was one such drama.  It consisted of four monologues, two men and two women discussing how infidelity had ruined their lives.  There were no solutions, simply confessions.  The piece was aimed at making the audience feel the deep regret and pain this sin can cause, even if they hadn’t experienced it themselves.  This helped them to focus them on the message, which hopefully helped them never to have to go through such pain.

Guard Your Art was a comic sketch in which an artist, having misunderstood Biblical scripture, was guarding his art against hatred, pride, envy, etc.  The actual scripture lesson was that he was meant to be guarding his heart against them.  It was simply an off-the-wall way to introduce the week’s subject.

Another fun intro was a take-off of The Waltons television show.  The lights revealed a completely exhausted looking couple sitting on a couch, center stage.  Then it began with voices filling the night.

“Goodnight, Mama.”  “Goodnight, Mary Ellen.”  “Goodnight Daddy.”  “Goodnight Mary Ellen.”  “Good night Mama.”  “Goodnight John-Boy.”  “Goodnight, Daddy.”  “Goodnight, John-Boy.”  “Goodnight, Mama.”  “Goodnight Erin.”  Goodnight, Daddy.”  “Goodnight Erin.”  “Goodnight, Mama.”  “Goodnight Ben.”

And on, and on, and on, and on it went, as the parents sank lower and lower into the couch.  After four or five minutes it got quite ridiculous!  The sermon of the day?  The Importance of Rest.

A very powerful introduction of a subject was Dear Mister Terrorist. In this intense drama, the mother of a child killed in a terrorist bombing addresses the guilty party at his sentencing trial, showing that there were much more than just 168 victims that fateful day.  She is torn apart because, although a Christian, she finds it impossible to forgive him.  It concluded like this:

Sir, I am a Christian.  And I wish that I could say that I’m praying for you, but I can’t.  I just can’t.  So, instead, today I pray that God will heal me… and my husband… and all the thousands of other secondary victims.  Like a rock dropped in water sends ripples ever outwards, your explosion continues to send out shock waves.  It continues to shatter lives.  I pray that God’s hand can still those waves.  Maybe… maybe after we are healed… maybe then we’ll pray for you.  But today… honestly… I’m sorry, but I honestly hope they send you to God’s judgment before those prayers get there.

The lights faded out then, leaving the audience stunned and without answers.  But how many of them were in that exact same place in their lives: feeling hurt or betrayed and unable to forgive?  In this intense dramatic moment they were assured that they were not alone; that we understood and we were not being judgmental.  This allowed them to be less defensive as the pastor spent the next 25 minutes addressing the emotional labyrinth that is forgiveness.

Another script, Big Questions, was used to set-up a five-week series of the same name.  In it, two men meet on the street in front of a Nativity scene that has been blown over by the wind after a big storm.  The scattered crèche initiates a rant by one of them, a nonbeliever, who questions many of Christianity’s basic beliefs. The drama concluded as follows:

THOMAS – You can use the Bible to make almost any point!  Revenge: an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth!   Forgiveness: turn the other cheek.  Everything about me was written in his book before I was born… but I have free will. And why does the nature of God seem to change along with the sociological, political mood that was prevalent during the period each chapter was written? Is he the Old Testament jealous, vengeful God full of wrath if you disobey him or is he the New Testament loving, forgiving God?  Why did he change?  Did he go to therapy?  The Bible was hand-copied by hundreds of different men (He picks up a King statue) with hundreds of different political agendas (picks up the second king) over hundreds of years!  (He picks up the third king) Don’t you think the words might have warped out just a little?  (He sets them down, in proper place.)  I mean, come on!  You ever play “Telephone,” that game where you whisper a single sentence from person to person?  You can’t get around a circle of twelve people without the message changing completely!

BARRY – It’s man’s nature—

THOMAS – Aw, don’t even start on man’s nature!  Man’s nature is to act like an animal.  No, that’s not fair to the animals!  (He picks up the donkey and sheep)  Animals aren’t evil.  Animals aren’t full of greed and anger and hatred for their fellow creatures.  (He sets them gently into place.)  Man is.  If there is a God and man is made in God’s image, why is there so much evil in the world? Answer me that!  Santa, on the other hand… even hanging there by his electric cord, it’s easier to believe in him. Children all around the world do.  They revere him. And parents everywhere do his work.  They deliver the goods.  How many people do Jesus’ work, even once a year?

BARRY – Those are all very good questions.

THOMAS – You bet your life they are.

BARRY – More than your life.  (Pause)  Hey, thanks for helping straighten things out here.

THOMAS – Huh?

He looks around and realizes he has reset the entire Nativity scene.  Slightly embarrassed, he shrugs.

BARRY – Now maybe I can help you straighten things out.

Thomas looks across the street at his house and sighs.

THOMAS – It’s gonna take weeks.

Barry just smiles and nods.

We FADE OUT on them and FADE IN on the Pastor.

PASTOR – Five weeks.  Over the next five weeks we’re going to try and help you straighten things out.  To answer some of those very hard questions.

And so began the series.

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