Saturday, November 1, 2008

Dramatizing Christ: How it All Started

Dorothy L. Sayers. An enigmatic woman to say the least. Probably most famous for her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery series, Miss Sayers was also a writer of "religious" plays and other works with theological themes. In a time and place where representing any member of the Trinity on stage had been illegal, The Man Born to Be King was groundbreaking, to say the least.

Sayers' "Play-Cycle" was presented on BBC radio during World War Two from December 1941 through October 1942. The series was so popular that a book of the plays, including all the director's notes, was published in 1943. In the Foreword to that book, J. W. Welch, the Director of Religious Broadcasting of the B.B.C., commented (page 12)

The minimum duty of religious broadcasting to those outside the churches is to say: "Listen: This is the truth about the world, and life, and you". But how were we to say it so people would listen? Conventional church services and religious talks were of little avail. Obviously, something new was needed.

The archaic language of the Authorized King James version was a hindrance to people understanding the reality of which it speaks. While using the King James verbage in the introductory narratives, Sayers put the dialogue in the language of mid-20th-century England. Although criticized by much of the religious community for the "liberties" she took, she connected with the people.

Before there were books, Truth was spread by word of mouth. After the invention of writing, God instructed His followers to record his teachings in The Book. We are now in a time when communication had come to the point where video can be transported around the world in an instant by satellite and the Internet. Certainly God is using these means to reveal Himself to the world.

That is not to say that movies about the life of Christ have the same weight as the inspired scriptures. The Bible is the final authority. But the Truth of scripture is not dead dogma. It is "alive and powerful," and must be presented as such to the world. Christ came into the world (in a sense) as a dramatization of deity. As we seek to dramatize the deity through modern technology, we must remember to present Truth in love. Part of that love is conveying Christ in a language and manner that will resonate with the common man, woman and child.

The Man Born to be King was published as recently as 1990 by Ignatius Press. Used copies are available on and other online resources. It is said that C S Lewis read the book every Easter.


Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Good stuff Mark. I have seen this book but will now search it out for purchase.

Mark said...

Thanks, Mike. Sorry it took so long to moderate your post. For some reason I never got an e-mail notification about it. I'm glad I piqued your interest!