Is Acting Sin?

I have really appreciated Barrett Gritters’ series on “Drama, Television, and Movies” (April 1, May 1, May 15, and August, 1993 issues of the Standard Bearer). I had much anticipation for the article on why drama in and of itself is not pleasing to God, and it finally appeared in the latest issue (Aug. 1993).

I thank God that there are people who are taking a stand for purity, even in the face of opposition from professing Christians. Drama, television, and movies (and I would add novels) are prolific sources of wickedness. The following comments are regarding Gritters’ latest article.

I agree that if someone acts out a sin, he is sinning by doing so. How can a Christian in good conscience act like someone who jovially mocked Christ on the cross, or someone who seduced Samson, or someone who expresses hatred or greed or lust? In doing so, he is actually glorifying the sin that he claims to decry. I would go further to say that, in most cases, “Christian” novels that portray sin are also glorifying that sin if the author does not make a definitive judgment about the wickedness of the sin. How can a writer describe the lust a man has for a woman without glorifying it?

I disagree that acting is evil because it is always a form of deception. As long as the audience knows that the person is acting, no one is deceived. If my son wants to pretend he is a fireman, everyone knows he is pretending; this is no sin. However, if my son wants to pretend he is a burglar or pretends he is shooting with a gun, this is sin – not because it is deception, but because he is acting the part of wickedness. Acting becomes deception when one of two things occur: 1) the audience does not know that the person is acting and is fooled into thinking that the person is someone he really is not. This is obviously deception. 2) the actor is portraying a historical figure. There is no way that a person can exactly replicate the words and actions of a historical figure; therefore, anything that the actor does or says that differs from what the historical figure actually did or said is bearing false witness. It follows that drama that includes biblical characters is deception.

The above paragraph also speaks to the article’s contention that “acting out the holy life of another is dreadful” (p. 448). I would submit that just acting out the life of another (someone who is actually living or has lived) is dreadful. Acting the part of the holy life of a fictitious person is neither deceptive nor reprehensible. It is akin to a preacher illustrating a point by using fictitious persons. However, acting out such things as “loving” one’s spouse can easily cross the border into lust and should be avoided.

In conclusion, you have made me think seriously about the subject and examine my own actions to see if they are pleasing to God. Oh that more Christians would be unafraid to challenge and admonish in these areas! I still have not come to a firm conclusion on all that is involved with media, but I realize that many things that Christians just accept unquestionably are not pleasing to a holy and righteous God. I would challenge everyone reading this seriously to consider what is being brought into your house and into the minds of you and your children, including seemingly harmless children’s books (both Christian and secular), “Christian” novels, and even books “based on historical facts.” Relevant examples of children’s books and movies that may seem “okay” are stories like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid that portray women in whorish clothing and give a worldly view of “romance”; or the popular where’s WaIdo? – a book that would disgust you if you took time to look at what is being portrayed in the pictures; or any of a number of cartoons that glorify male-female lust. Even the material you find in Christian bookstores is, for the most part, trash. Focus on the Family’s teen magazines, Brio and Breakaway, are prime examples, and the “Christian” romance novels are introducing churched youth to soft porn.

Thank you again for taking on the church’s status quo and making people think about purging the leaven from their homes and lives.

Marc D. Carpenter

Rutland, Vermont