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.Eep!
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.