‘The Christians’ is brilliantly thought-provoking

By Isaac Steward

When I talked with Rachel Richardson, the director of Cedarville’s most recent senior theater production, she was fairly open about what I should expect from her show. However, the show took me by surprise all the same, immersing the audience in its church setting before I even took my seat, starting the show with a time of worship. It was only after we’d finished singing and Pastor Paul (played by Timothy Anderson) came up to the pulpit when the show really started. 

The set, designed by Sophia Usyatinski, made it really feel like we were sitting in a modern church auditorium, complete with double projectors, dynamic lighting and a metalwork structure in the background, outlining a cross. And thanks to this set, it truly felt like I was listening to a bombshell of a sermon, which left everyone confused and a weird taste in my mouth. 

“There is no Hell.”

Things only got more uncomfortable after that. Associate Pastor Joshua (played by Ryan Geist) confronts the pastor in front of the church and ultimately leaves. From there, we watch as the church wrestles with the questions that Pastor Paul’s sermon has raised.

The performances given throughout this show are brilliant, to say the least. As each member of the church, from the Elder (played by Christopher Reed) to the Pastor’s wife, Elizabeth (played by Caroline Fleming), began to voice their concerns or reached for the right words to defend themselves, I could see and hear their struggle. The following Sunday, after worship, one of the singers, Jenny (played by Anna Brewer) confronts Pastor Paul about her own doubts, and her apprehension is clear even before the worship starts. Attention to details like this is what takes “The Christians” from a great show to a truly remarkable one. 

Believe it or not, the question that “The Christians” poses is deeper than whether or not there is judgment after death. 

“It’s the question of loyalty to leaders and teachers over loyalty to Scripture,” Richardson said. “If you have a question concerning your faith, do you lead that question off of your feelings or off of facts? Where do you find the facts? We can’t let our guard down in actually understanding our own theology.”

After talking a bit about the show itself, I asked Richardson about her experiences directing the show, and what she was most proud of.

“What I’m most proud of is that I don’t need to be seen. You never see me in the process. You just see the results of my work, but also in a practical, visible results sense, I’m really proud of things that we get to fix that are just not working. I feel like that’s something I can look back on and be like ‘We did this together. It is better because we got to work on it. I live on a high the whole day after a rehearsal where we have a problem.”

When I asked how Richardson’s faith impacted her work in theater, she said:

“God didn’t give us the arts to just let the world have it and turn it bad. We have the arts to enjoy and to make beautiful things and make encouraging stories. Arts encourage faith when they’re used well and they’re necessary for enlightening and encouraging our hearts in dark times.”

The final production is evidence of the hard work and passion put into it by Rachel and her crew, leaving the audience stunned as the lights went down on a soberly ambiguous ending, the questions that this show asked still hanging in the back of my mind even after I’d left Alford. 

It’s the questions like these that we often don’t want to hear. We can be tempted to shut out ideas that make us uncomfortable or cause our faith to waver. Still, “The Christians” shows us why it’s so important that we don’t shy away from theological challenges, because it is only through earnest searching for the answers to these questions that we find them, and become stronger in our faith than we were before.

Isaac Steward is a sophomore BDMJ student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys analyzing good stories and making cool things. Isaac has never been to the moon or enjoyed peanut butter. Most likely, he never will.

Image courtesy of Rachel Richardson.

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