The philosophy of some churches who present drama is that the scripts should only introduce the day’s message – setting up a problem, then letting the pastor take it from there. They prefer to simply ask the questions, then let the teacher answer them. I acknowledge the value in that style, and we’ll talk more about it later, but the vast majority of the pieces I write and present are teaching dramas. This may be due to my own love for teaching. As the writer of many of our dramas I see it like this: I have eight minutes to educate them on the weekly subject in my unique way, then the pastor has 25 to do it with his, more traditional, approach.
THE EASTER BUNNY IN CHURCH?
The comedy The Easter Bunny Learns About Jesus is a teaching drama that was written as a way to reach those “twice yearly” visitors to church – the Christmas and Easter crowd. I wanted to impart to them the true meaning of Easter – as opposed to eggs, candy, and the Easter Bunny – without presenting a Biblical costume drama or getting too “religious” about it. The result was a hilarious sketch featuring a crusty Easter Bunny on the telephone with his theatrical agent, demanding more work. “After all,” he shouts in a voice gravely from smoking too many cigars, “I have an entire holiday based on me!” As the unseen, unheard agent patiently explains what Easter is really about, the congregation learns as E. Bunny does. Below is an excerpt from the script, picking up the telephone call midway through.
E. BUNNY – It sounds to me like this Jesus character is trying to move in on my holiday! No, no, no! Easter is my gig! Nobody slips into a house and leaves gifts like I do, nobody! Okay, maybe Santa Claus. (Suddenly suspicious) Hey! You think Nicky knows about this guy? I mean, next thing you know this Jesus’ll try and hone in on Christmas! WHAT? What’s he got to do with Christmas? His birthday! Holy moly! So, if Christmas is all about Jesus’ birth, then what’s Easter about? His re-birth. (Pause) I’m not sure I follow you on this one, Mort. When did he die? How? They did what? Whoa. That’s a little depressing. What do you mean there’s a happy ending? How’s that possible? Yeah . . . yeah . . . a tomb, yeah . . . the rock rolled away? Sorry, I was under the impression it was a really big rock. Oh yeah, I guess that is the point. Then what happened? Gone, huh. (He thinks) Ya know, Morty, that’s not really such a big deal. I got a cousin who works for this magician – gets in a black hat and poof … Not the same huh? No trap door? Then where did he go? (He looks heavenward) Whoa. (Pause) So, tell me this, then, where do the eggs come in? They represent the tomb breaking open and bringing forth new life. Why the colors? To represent the beauty of being reborn. How about the chocolate Mes? The sweetness of life. Wow. It’s all kind of symbolic, isn’t it, Mort? And you say it all goes back to this guy, Jesus, because he died on a cross and was resurrected so we could all be forgiven and reborn? Well, I guess that does beat marshmallow chicks.
This drama kept people talking for years at our church – one of the few we actually repeated by popular demand. The actor, in full bunny suit, was a hilarious visual, but the transformation he went through, from “I need a raise!” to “Maybe what I really need is to be raised,” was also deeply affecting.
Another piece that was used directly to teach about the Bible was a parody of the popular television show, The X-Files. I thought it was an interesting character trait that the lead character, FBI Agent Mulder, believed in alien abductions, witchcraft, ghosts, and all manner of supernatural and mythical beasties, but could not bring himself to believe in God or the Devil. This seemed like an interesting dynamic to explore within a church message. In this four-week series we explored the difference between popular folklore and biblical teachings on the subjects of angels, the Devil, Heaven and Hell, and the Holy Spirit.
In part one, ANGELS, a killer claims that an angel of God sent him on his murderous spree, and promises that Lucifer himself will soon show up. As Scully teaches Mulder everything she knows about angels, the congregation gets to listen in on the conversation.
In part two, THE DEVIL, a charming man named Bub convinces non-believer Mulder to sign away his soul in exchange for the murderer’s confession. Again, Scully explains what she knows about Satan, educating not only her skeptical partner, but our audience as well.
The story continues the third week in HEAVEN & HELL, as Mulder realizes that selling his soul might have been a serious mistake, and starts wondering about the consequences of his action. Is the devil real? Is there a heaven and hell? If so, what are the realms of eternity like?
The series concluded with, THE HOLY SPIRIT, an episode in which Mulder finally opens himself up to the Holy Spirit, has an epiphany, and reaches out to God.
MULDER – – Holy Spirit? I always thought of the Holy Spirit as a cheerleader for God. Yay God! Rah rah rah! That sort of thing.
SCULLY – It’s not that kind of spirit, Mulder. Although, in some ways, it kinda is.
MULDER – That clears it up very nicely. Thank you.
SCULLY – School spirit is a kind of feeling. And so is the Holy Spirit. It’s like that little voice that tells you when something is right or wrong.
MULDER – You mean your conscience?
SCULLY – Not exactly. Let’s say you’re walking in the park and you see an old woman sitting alone on a bench, and even though you don’t know her, something inside urges you to go over and talk to her. No reason, you just get the feeling you should. So you do, and you find out she’s lost and can’t find her way home. That’s the Holy Spirit that motivated you to help her.
MULDER – Kind of like her guardian angel?
SCULLY – No, more like yours. Because helping her might serve you even more.
MULDER – In what way?
SCULLY – In spiritual ways. In your advancement as a soul.
MULDER – So you think this Holy Spirit possessed me?
SCULLY – Not in the manner you’re thinking. It’s not a creature or an entity. It’s a feeling. Like love, wonder, compassion, or understanding.
MULDER – Yeah. I’m beginning to understand. What am I gonna do about this, Scully? (He holds up the contract he signed with the Devil) I know! Maybe I can play cards with the devil. I’m pretty good at poker, maybe I can win my soul back. Too bad I can’t play the fiddle.
SCULLY – The fiddle?
MULDER – Yeah, remember that country western song, The Devil Went Down to Georgia? They played fiddle for some guy’s soul.
SCULLY – Mulder, you can’t fiddle this away, and in Poker it’s hard to beat three sixes.
You can easily see the direct teaching in these dramas – as E. Bunny and Mulder get educated, so does the congregation.
This method of instructing the audience through one character counseling another is both simple and effective. We have used many variations: two friends talking, couples discussing problems in their relationship, parents dealing with children, business associates, teachers and students, and, yes, counselors and clients. Sometimes the characters get it, realize the folly of their ways, and decide to change; other times they don’t catch on… but the audience does.