One of the things that we do as a local church is open our facilities to outside performing arts organizations. We believe that to be a part of the greater arts community in our area, we need to serve the greater arts community. So our church has hosted arts organizations like the city-wide philharmonic, the community symphony, private non-profit theater companies, and the local concert association, to name a few. We have an amazing group of technical artists at our church, and their volunteer service to these different organizations is in itself a testimony to these secular groups. Also, we have probably the best designed and equipped performing arts auditorium in town, which has not gone unnoticed to the larger arts community.
Lately, we have been host to the local community college's drama department. They've presented one other full-length play—Shakespeare's Henry V—on our campus so far, and our relationship with them has gone extremely well. Their last foray was "The Putnam County Spelling Bee," a Tony Award-winning musical about six pre-teen youth thrown together in the competitive subculture of the spelling bee. The production was inventive, the acting was excellent, the music was more than credible. And one other thing. The script was, well, bawdy.
Now the production was selected after the college booked our facility. And we frankly didn't know about the content of the play until after it was in production. But it still put us in a quirky and uncomfortable position—how do we respond to the inappropriateness of this play, and to the people putting it on?
So this is what we did: Nothing. I internally braced myself for the outcry of criticisms from our congregation, but frankly, it never came. The play ran it's course without incident. I think it's because our people generally understood that the content of the play had little to do with what we believe as a church. Interestingly, the only ones who voiced objections to the content of the play were the non-Christians who were involved in the play, not our church fellowship. And our technical artists used those conversations as a springboard for sharing their faith, as they interacted with them during the production.
Ultimately, the issue is not whether or not there are inappropriate words. I think the real issue is how do we respond in a relationship with those who may not share our faith. If I invite my neighbor to dinner, and he swears when he talks, do I still try to be his friend?
Of course, there are lines that must be drawn. I certainly wouldn't want my neighbor swearing in front of my young children. And I wouldn't have him taking the Lord's name in vain. But if Jesus really was a Friend to Sinners—a title He wore proudly—then whatever we do, be it host a performing arts organization or simply go out to coffee with the director, I must do it with love as my primary motivation.