The only Christian work is good work done well. Let the Church see to it that the workers are Christian people and do their work well, as to God: then all the work will be Christian work, whether it is Church embroidery, or sewage-farming. As Jacques Maritain says: 'If you want to produce Christian work, be a Christian, and try to make a work of beauty into which you have put your heart; do not adopt a Christian pose.' He is right. And let the Chruch remember that the beauty of the work will be judged by its own, and not by ecclesiastical standards. Let me give you an illustration of what I mean. When my play The Zeal of Thy House was produced in London, a dear old pious lady was much struck by the beauty of the four great archangels who stood throughout the play in their heavy, gold robes, eleven feet high from wing-tip to sandal-tip. She asked with great innocence 'whether I selected the actors who played the angels for the excellence of their moral character?' I replied that the angels were selected, to begin with, not by me but by the producer, who had the technical qualifications for selecting suitable actors - for that was part of his vocation. And that he selected, in the first place, young men who were six feet tall, so that they would match properly together. Secondly, angels had to be of good physique, so as to be able to stand stiff on the stage for two and a half hours, carrying the weight of their wings and costumes, without wobbling, or fidgeting, or fainting. Thirdly, they must be able speak verse well, in an agreeable voice and audibly. Fourthly, they must be reasonably good actors. When all these technical conditions were fulfilled, we might come to the moral qualities, of which the first would be the ability to arrive on the stage punctually and in a sober condition, since the curtain must go up on time, and a drunken angel would indecorous. After that, and only after that, one might take character into consideration, but that - provided his behaviour was not so scandalous as to cause dissension among the company - the right kind of actor with no morals would give a far more reverent and seemly performance than a saintly actor with the wrong technical qualifications. The worst religious films I ever saw were produced by a company which chose its staff exclusively for their piety. Bad photography, bad acting, and bad dialogue produced a result so grotesquely irreverent that the pictures could not have been shown in churches without bringing Christianity into contempt. God is not served by technical incompetence; and incompetence and untruth always result when the secular vocation is treated as a thing alien to religion.
Monday, 3 September 2007
Dorothy L. Sayers from 'Why work?' in Creed or Chaos: