Improv is not really my strength in regards to acting. Normally, I prefer prepared scripts and thought out monologues and I always figured I'm not fast enough on my feet to effectively do improv. Honestly, I'm not as quick as some of the folks in the troupe who seem to have minds that can spontaneously combust into quips and jokes and characters that are funny and entertaining. I will say that my strength lies in my character work. If I can conceive a character, I can make it come to life. I suppose it was all those years of doing monologues with weird characters.
Anyway, that's the background to something that happened that caught me and had me reflecting for the next couple of days. We had a rehearsal where we focused on a long form story and we took suggestions for a location to be used at some point and we went with "church".
What ensued was a story about a new priest who was trying to help out this town that had fallen into a terrible debauchery since the last priest left. There was a couple of brothers who wanted to sabotage the new priest because they feared their pickle empire would suffer (because when people are debaucherous, they eat pickles - improv is weird sometimes). The story was cartoonish as people would switch from bad to good at the mere reading of any phrase in the Bible (or "bibble" as it was called by the unknowing bad people). It was silly and fun and everything turns out well. It was a pretty standard improv story.
After the story, one of the actors felt really apprehensive about doing such a story involving religion. He was concerned that it may come off as offensive to Christians because of the way improv has a natural tendency to trivialize whatever topic is involved. It is true that improv tends to play fast and loose with topics because it has to. If you are stopping and editing yourself, it will lead to a stilted presentation. I could appreciate how he felt about the whole thing. You don't want to make light of someone else's beliefs or philosophies or culture.
Some of you may feel like it may have been inappropriate to take the suggestion of "church" in the first place because that is what would lead to such a potentially hurtful situation. Here's the thing. I was the one who accepted the suggestion of "church" from the crowd. It was one we hadn't done before and I figured that it might be interesting to do.
Now, I have no idea if any one else in the troupe would identify themselves as Christian as so I don't know if they would have taken offence at it. I haven't tried to do the secret handshake to discover the others and so we could conspire to turn the group into a troupe that only does Christian messages and quotes the Bible every scene. (To be clear to everyone, I don't plan on doing that. That would be stupid.)
Admittedly, the way the church and members of the clergy and were portrayed in the scenes were very inaccurate. No one would just turn from selfish ways at the mere mention of a line from Jesus. A town doesn't become a complete den of inequity because there's no priest around. The Bible is not magic in that way. (Funny enough to me, it could have been made into a movie and it would been celebrated as a wonderful Christian film celebrated by the church for it's positive portrayal of Christianity.)
I suppose I had the "right" to be offended. It had took a jokey approach to my faith and could have been construed as being dismissive to my beliefs. This is where I say I shouldn't be offended. It would be stupid of me to be offended. It would be immature of me to be offended. If I would be offended at someone making fun of my faith (especially one where the church were portrayed as the good guys. How often does that happen anymore?) then I would communicate something far more damaging about Christianity that anything joked about. I believe it would communicate that my faith and my God is not strong enough to overlook a joke. It seems to me that if you can't bear to hear a joke about your beliefs then you probably don't believe in that thing very much. Also, it shows that you either lack the intelligence or humility to differentiate when someone is joking and when someone is trying to harm you.
The more defensive you are about your beliefs, the more uncertain you are in those beliefs. If all you hear about my beliefs is how I'm offended at something, then I'm missing out on the opportunity to talk about what is good about my beliefs.
If you can't take a joke, then I can't take you seriously.
"Some people try to find the meaning in life but that's the craziest thing you can do,
Because the meaning behind something as f***ed up as life would have to be pretty f***ed up too.
Some people think a wizard lives up in the sky
And he looks after people after people die
And also there's a monster underneath the dirt
And his job is to trick us into being jerks
But other people think none of that exists
And if you try to argue they get really pissed
The only thing upon which they can all agree
Is at the end of the day there's nothing more crazy that Scientology
People's opinions are all stupid and bizarre
Believing in stuff is mostly crap"
- "Life" from the Success 5000 album "Laughcore"