We're studying Daniel this year in my women's Bible Study. On September 10th we gathered together to discuss the first chapter of the book where we find a story about Daniel refusing to defy his conscience in regards to the foods he should eat. He was a Israelite captive of the Babylonian empire, a nation that worshiped other gods and did not revere Jehovah. One of the things that struck us about the passage was how Daniel showed concern for those who differed with him. He knew the servant's could be beheaded if they deviated from the King's prescribed diet for the captives, so he asked to be allowed to he eat what would glorify his God for a trial period. If he was noticeably malnourished after the completion of ten days, he would submit to eating the King's food.
How does this relate to theatre?
It got me thinking about my time as a theater major at Northampton Community College. I was constantly on guard, waiting to have to defend my standards and fight to preserve my convictions. I've known for awhile that I displayed a lack of faith and a lack of appreciation for grace during my years at NCC, but I've often clung to the thought that I had dared to be a Daniel (as the old hymn exhorts us to be). In studying that passage, I realized how far from the mark I was.
I'm not saying I shouldn't have held to my convictions. I'm saying I should have been more loving in the way I held them. During the Bible Study I shared this revelation with the group, and how I wished I had cared about the people around me. I didn't have to worry about anyone being beheaded if I refused to say or do something, but I should have cared about their dignity, about sharing my concerns with respect for their craft, and I should have taken care to have spoken without judgement or pride.
Looking back, I think a simple (but difficult) change in posture, tone and attitude would have made me more in line with Daniel's example and, more importantly, with God's command to speak the truth in love.
It's important that all actors know themselves well and know their standards. For those of us who are followers of Christ, we need to spend time examining are standards against scriptures, and then seek to stand by those convictions with grace, humility, and love. The easy course of action would be to stick to Christian theatre and avoid such conflict, but I dare us all to be Daniels who move in our culture, knowing that God loves the world and that we are wretched sinners saved by grace.