Friday, January 19, 2007

Dancing Christians Everywhere!

Yesterday there was an opinion piece in the Sentinel about the Christian Performing Arts Center (CPAC) that's moved onto Main St.

Reading it I felt a twinge of concern. A performing arts center is a fantastic thing to move into downtown Fitchburg, but what's with all the Christianity?

After all, we already have a Christian coffeehouse* right next door to the new CPAC. Despite being exactly the type of person to whom a coffeehouse should appeal, I've never gone in. Why? Because I'm quite openly an atheist and just don't feel like I'd be particularly welcome in such a place. Or if welcome, that I'd have to put up with a lot of pointless proselytizing. A well-run coffeehouse on Main Street would be a fantastic thing, but a Christian coffeehouse inherently limits its clientele.

Now, the argument could be made that Christians tend to stick together, so by being a "Christian coffeehouse" they guaranteed themselves a core group of religious folk. But it's coffee, people! I can't imagine someone opening a "Christian bar" or a "Christian pizza place". Why a Christian coffeehouse?

But that's the past. Now the Christian Performing Arts Center is opening. Plenty of great art has been been based on religious themes, and certainly I have nothing against people expressing their beliefs with artistic expression. My one concern was is this going to be something else that (like the coffeehouse) fractures people rather than bringing them together?

To try to figure this out I emailed Jen Potts of the CPAC and asked a couple of questions. First, are non-Christians allowed to participate (Jews, Muslims, atheists, etc)? Second, is the focus primarily on art or religion?

The answers were encouraging. Anyone can participate, and Jen explicitly stated she's not looking to "segregate our society" in any way. Now, their focus will clearly be Christian-themed (or at least Christian "worldview") performance, so it's debatable how many non-Christians would be interested in joining. But it's good to know that they're welcome anyway.

As for the focus, apparently it's really on the arts. The religious aspect can be used as a tool towards that end, and the material chosen needs to stick to the "Christian worldview". You're probalby not going to see them performing "The Vagina Monologues" any time soon, but frankly why the hell would you want to? Regardless, the focus seems to be on the art itself, with the performances (and possibly the instruction to some degree) having clear Christian overtones. Not my cup of tea, but not necessarily something that would prevent a non-Christian from getting involved for the love of the art itself.

Would I prefer a secular performing arts center? Yes, of course. But I have to give CPAC credit for doing what they believe in, so the best of luck to them.

So there you have it, possibly the first time I've ever agreed with an editorial in the Sentinel. Except for the end part about wanting to see a Barnes & Noble downtown. How about a nice independent bookstore that will actually give a shit about the community? Sheesh!

* As a friend pointed out to me, the local coffee house's name, "Common Ground", is shared by a chain operated by the Twelve Tribes cult. I assume this is coincidental. I certainly hope so, because the Twelve Tribes are a bit scary. In a nutshell:
The Twelve Tribes await the coming of the Messiah. Children play an integral part in the preparation for the Messiah and the Last Day. Freeing children from guilt and keeping their minds pure is a critical necessity. For this reason, teachings instruct that children not play with toys, play imaginary or fantasy games, have candy, or watch television or movies.
If a child disobeys these rules, does not respond on first command to an adult, or commits any other sinful act, he or she is spanked by his or her parent with a wooden rod which is an "eighteen inch, thin, flexible balloon stick meant to sting but not injure." When punished, the child is supposed to refrain from crying and thank the punisher, the reproof and instruction having built his character.
Members, upon entering the Community, renounce all possessions, in the spirit of living together communally and sharing all goods.


1970s Abraham Lincoln said...

The name of the coffee house is almost certainly a coincidence, however amusing. Members of the Twelve Tribes tend to dress like they're extras on Little House on the Prairie, and I haven't seen anyone fitting that description downtown.

Anonymous said...

I have a similar dilemma. I found this artist's website, and I love her work, but even though she painta only abstracts, they all have names like "Morning Devotional." And her artists's statement, oy. I don't know if I could enjoy a picture I love knowing it's called "Ten O'Clock Mass at St. Catherine's."

tara @ common ground said...

Everyone is welcome at Common Ground Christian Coffeehouse.

There is no "in your face, shove religion down your throat" proselytizing. If you want to ask questions, we'll try our best to answer them. If you just want to drink your beverage or shoot some pool, that's cool too.
Yeah, we love and serve Jesus, but He never forced anyone to believe in Him. We don't either. We're here to give people from all walks of life a safe, enjoyable place to hang out.
We've seen friendships made between people whose paths would have never crossed otherwise...both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Sure, we're hoping people will see that God wants a relationship with them, and what kind of amazing relationship that really is. He has literally taken our lives from mediocrity (and in some cases catastrophe) to unbelievably awesome. Who wouldn't want to share that with others?
But noone is here, lying in wait, ready to thump someone on the head with a Bible or shove a tract in their face.

Come in and check it out for yourself.
You might be surprised to find out it's a clean, comfortable, fun place to grab a cup 'o' something hot or cold.

We've got coffee, tea, hot chocolate, smoothies, cappuccinos, frappaccinos, as well as a variety of yummy pastries.

We also have a game room with pool, ping-pong, fuseball, air hockey and a bunch of classic board games.

As of now, we're open
Thursday - Saturday 12-12.

Well, there you go Matt. We've told you all about us. But the one thing we want to know about you is...are you any good at fuseball?

Oh, and just so there aren't any misunderstandings, we have no affiliation with the "Twelve Tribes" cult.

matt said...

Yes actually, my foosball skills are quite good. Or were 10 years ago anyway.

Good to hear you don't go out of your way to proselytize, but there's still some trepidation associated with going into a place so overtly Christian as an atheist. It sounds like you have a nice setup, but I suspect a lot of people who might otherwise be eager customers are going to be turned off by the religious aspect.

As a vaguely-related aside, my girlfriend and I were in Texas around Xmas and went into what was for all appearances an average coffeehouse. By which I mean there was no indication of it being a Christian establishment.

While we was waiting for our orders a lot of people started coming in for some sort of event. In no time an actual church service broke out. Bible readings, hymns, testifyin', an overly-smiley preacher guy with a bad haircut, etc.

We finally got our drinks from the one overworked employee around the time they started passing around communion, and we hightailed it through the crowd (dodging plates of Host) to drink our beverages out in the rain.

I'm not saying such things necessarily go on at Common Ground. But perhaps it can illustrate a bit why a non-Christian would be reluctant to go into a "Christian coffeehouse".

Then again, if you get a good pinball machine I might just have to come in.

Regardless, thanks for the comment and good luck with the business.

tara @ common ground said...

If your ever looking for serious foosball competition, come in and ask for Ted. He's the house champion.
Pinball. Hmmm. That's a great idea! We'll see what we can do. : )
Thank-you for the kind sentiments.

In case you wanted to see the Christian Performing Arts Center in action, they will be dancing at Common Ground this Saturday night to a live band ( 7:30 or 8pm.
But don't worry, no communion. lol