We (Don't) Get It

I like to think in analogies, for, as imperfect as they often are, sometimes an analogous situation can shed new light on our own questions. What I am proposing here is to use theatre as a means to discuss Christianity, and I know that some people might think that this is an outrage since theatre is not Serious like theology is Serious. My response is: you have not met Serious theatre people then – for there are those that take theatre as seriously as others take religion or organized sports. In that vein I want to present a couple of quotes from Robertson Davies’ collection of essays and speeches on theatre, Happy Alchemy where he discusses theatre. Here he is on presenting works from Shakespeare:

“Perhaps the biggest booby-trap of all those that lie in wait for the theatre artists of our day is the yearning for “relevance,” for the treatment that will reveal some supposed ‘message’ for our time in an acknowledged classic. Of course the play would not be a classic if its relevance did not extend to our time and its message was not plain.”

In the very next essay though Robertson Davies is going on about Greek tragedy and how misunderstood it is,

“[W]e must be aware of the mingling of our Christian-Judaic ideas about mankind and society with what we can discern of Greek attitudes […] The Greeks were not ourselves in fancy dress, and to discover who and what they were with greater precision requires careful, undeluded study of their underlying beliefs.”

There seems to be a contradiction here: in one case Davies seems to be saying, “Duh, it’s obvious why something like Othello is still relevant – don’t pander” and in the next he’s saying, “You, think you *get* Euripides but you really, really don’t.” It’s fairly easy to point to analogous positions in Christianity and also easy to see them lock horns over which statement is truer. I would argue though that the correct position is to accept that they are both correct – and the trick is negotiating between these two statements.