Theatre and Theology, Part I
"...supposedly our disciplines, theatre and religion, were one being at their conception. But somewhere along the line, not only did they drift apart, but they became mortal enemies. And I'm among those who believes that both have suffered terribly from the division."
(First part of an informal, multi-part series of musings about theatre and theology, focusing (eventually) on the Spiritual Fringe.)
Being the pathetic, wretchedly lonely excuse for a human being that I am, I have a number of profiles floating around on singles sites that have led to all manner of comically disastrous encounters. Anyway, these things really bilk you for information -- although I'm annoyed to note that most of them offer "High School Diploma" as the lowest level of education attainable -- and offer a wide range of religious denominations to choose from.
Of all of them, though, the one that really raises my hackles is "Spiritual but not Religious." I mean, c'mon -- just pick something. Even an atheist is making a confident hypothesis regarding something or another. The kinds of people who choose this option are invariably the kind of wishy-washy, indecisive, intellectually lazy folk who I can't stand, and the only thing that irritates me more than the fact of the option's existence is the fact that I'm one of those people who consistently chooses it.
Not that I'm indecisive -- I have some very specific ideas about how the universe works (although I'm always open to new information), and I suppose that I'd rather be identified as a syncreticist than anything else. Although that's not really an accurate label, either, because it implies a regard for all religious beliefs as equal -- and, to pick an extreme example, I don't view a religious cult that, say, mandates clitoridectomies as being morally equivalent to one that accepts the intrinsic worth of half the human race.
Anyway, I was raised Catholic -- which probably accounts for a good number of my neuroses -- and eventually drifted away from the Church. But I do drift back, occasionally -- every couple of months I find myself in the back row of a church or a synagogue or something, looking for something I can't really identify.
A few months back, I was dating a girl who was the child of two Lutheran pastors, and I found myself regularly attending services at their church. The services were extraordinarily relaxed and informal, and the strange thing is, I found myself missing the Catholic services from my youth, for some of the very reasons that I'd initially criticized them for. Mainly, I missed the ritual -- kneel here, stand here, genuflect, sing, recite response, recite latin, perform these gestures ad nauseam.
And it's one thing that struck me -- one of the great strengths of the Catholic Church is the fact that they have an incredible sense of drama. They cloak themselves in so much mystery and ritual that every one of their services becomes a kind of bravura performance.
It's not all that new a revelation -- after all, supposedly our disciplines, theatre and religion, were one being at their conception. But somewhere along the line, not only did they drift apart, but they became mortal enemies. And I'm among those who believes that both have suffered terribly from the division. After all -- as is probably no surprise to anyone who's seen my plays -- theatre and theology are my two deepest passions.
Which is probably why I'm so deeply enamored of the concept of the Spiritual Fringe.