The Gospel as Public Drama | Sojourners

The Gospel as Public Drama

Jesus was a master of the public drama. At the time when word-of-mouth communication was primary, Jesus faced the awesome task of becoming seen and known and understood by great numbers of widely scattered people in a very short period of time. And public drama was the mode of communication by which he accomplished that monumental task. No matter where we look into the life of Jesus we find him creating and controlling a profound public drama. It was the public drama in which he engaged that made him a spontaneous public figure that people were forced to react to, that made him highly visible to all segments of the public, that caused the whole world, then and now, to see him.

Drama is anything that contains within it core elements of conflict and crisis; the element of human risk, and to a strong degree, elements such as mystery and even victimage. Orrin E. Klapp, in his fine book, Symbolic Leaders (Minerva Press), has summed it up very well: "The very essence of drama -- the high point of its most important scenes -- is usually a confrontation in which parties are thrown on their mettle, reveal and expose themselves, drop their defenses, call on their personal resources to meet a crisis. Spontaneity is maximized. On stage, a script takes care of this, but in real life spontaneity means unexpected behavior and consequences; no one knows quite what will happen; mistakes, contretemps or foolish roles are likely ... A dramatic crisis is a turning point, a point of unpredictability and emergence. The 'hero' is the one to whom we turn as a vehicle to carry us through the crisis."

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