Contrasting Reflections on “The Christians”

In these very special guest posts, Professor Allison Coudert and The Reverend Dr. Raymond Hess reflect on their different perspectives of Lucas Hnath’s The Christians

The Christians runs January 11 – February 11, 2017. Reserve tickets online at or call the Box Office at 916-443-5300.

Professor Allison Coudert
Professor Allison Coudert received her B.A. from Vassar College and her PhD from the Warburg Institute, University of London. Her focus of interest is on the interaction between religion and science in the West, with a special emphasis on Jewish contributions to science and on issues dealing with race, class, and gender. Her most recent book Religion, Magic, and Science in Early Modern Europe and America was published by Praeger in October, 2011.

Spoiler Alert – this play reflection might reveal important plot points.

Reflections About The Christians by the Professor Allison Coudert.

The Christians raises all the questions that come up in Religious Studies classes–how should scriptures be interpreted and who interprets them; if the scriptures are so clear and transparent, why have Christian beliefs changed so radically over the centuries; why do bad things happen to good people; is the idea of an eternal hell consistent with the idea of a benevolent, omniscient God; can people lead good and moral lives without religion and the threat of hellfire and damnation; how do we explain divine justice in a world filled with such pain and suffering; why are there so many different denominations of Christianity, along with so many other religions, if there is one, valid truth; why do individuals hold the beliefs they do; does one have to be intolerant to be tolerant–I could go on and on.

All these  questions  are very difficult for many people as well as students with strong beliefs to deal with, but they are crucial in an increasingly multicultural and globalized world, in which different religious truth claims inevitably come into  conflict. I think many of my students claim to be “spiritual” but not “religious” precisely because these questions cut right to bone and raise the issue of how institutionalized religions are similar in many ways to other institutions that want to maintain their power and control over people. In addition, the play really strikes home with the discussion of church finances because it so clearly shows how entwined religion and capitalism have become in the US. There have been  many books written in the past 30 odd years about the way religion is sold in the market-place, essentially becoming just another commodity. This particular play give a clear picture of the negative side of religious beliefs, but there is another side that one can see not only in the mystics across the globe and ages but also in the actions of people who have done extraordinary things as a result of faith. I have come to the conclusion that a religion is only as good as the people who profess it.

Show Synopsis

The Reverend Dr. Raymond Hess
Dr. Hess has been an ordained priest in the Episcopal church since 1975, serving in churches in Missoula, Montana; Carmel, California; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; San Ramon, California; Santa Clara, California; Colorado Springs, Colorado, Elk Grove, California, and currently serves as the Priest-In-Charge at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Carmichael. He has a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, a Masters Degree from Church Divinity School in Berkeley, and has a Doctorate in Ministry from the Fuller Theological Seminary In Pasadena, CA.

Spoiler Alert – this play reflection might reveal important plot points.

Reflections About The Christians, by the Reverend Dr. Raymond Hess

This play is important for Christians and others in our time to consider because it raises significant questions about the character of God and about the nature of evil. The play uses the issue of the reality of hell to encourage us to think about the character of God. Is God’s character primarily centered in love? How does God’s love relate to God’s justice? The senior pastor in the play began to wonder about the reality of hell as he thought about God’s love. How could a God who is love condemn anyone to hell? What would hell be? Is it a place or a condition of being separated from God? In any case, it does not make sense that God would act to condemn anyone to be separated from God forever. Perhaps a person could choose to separate themselves from God’s love and place themselves in hell. But couldn’t God’s love eventually draw all people to God?  The play challenges us to consider the possibility that people can still grow and change after they physically die, and that God’s love might eventually break down any resistance to God.

Throughout scripture, God is presented as the source of justice as well as love. In the play, some of the members of the church cannot accept the idea that God would let people get away with doing bad things. In God’s justice, evil deeds need to be confronted and dealt with. The senior pastor in the play began to wonder if the bottom line is still God’s love. God wants to set things right because God loves all people and the whole created world. Love and justice are not opposites in God’s character; justice comes from love, and love will always have the last word.

The play also helps us to think about the nature of evil. Does Satan exist as a literal person, or does Satan symbolize the evil that can exist in humanity? The pastor in the play rejected the shallow idea of Satan as a being with a pitchfork. He was also concerned that too much focus on spiritual evil could keep people from confronting human evil in the world around them. The question still remains about the reality of evil. Is there spiritual evil which is greater and deeper than human evil? The scripture is clear that there is no such thing as pure evil. Any evil being, human or spiritual, is always perverted good. Because evil is perverted or corrupted good, there is always the possibility for someone who is evil to come back to God and to good.
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