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Ancient heathen authors (e.g., Xenophon, Plato, Plutarch, Ovid, Seneca, Tacitus) pointed out dangers of the theater. Early Christian leaders (e.g., Ambrose, Chrysostom, Clement of Rome, Cyril of Jerusalem, F. Lactantius, Salvianus, Tertullian) opposed the theater of their day as incompatible with Christianity. Classical drama was crushed for ca. 1,000 yrs.

On the theater in the Middle Ages see Religious Drama, 2.

M. Luther was interested in tragedies and comedies (St. L. ed. 22, 1826). He felt that comedies, despite their obscenity, should be read by youths in order that they might learn Lat. and because comedies urged youth to marry and taught the duties of various stations in life (WA-T 3, 278 and 690). Though opposed to their immorality, idolatry, and other anti-Scriptural thought, Luther quoted ancient dramatists to illustrate or elucidate (e.g., WA 20, 122–123; 28, 523; 31 I, 440; 42, 511 and 534; 51, 228). He opposed theatrical (Ger. schauspielerartig) religious dramas as presented by RCs, but encouraged drama used for spreading the Word, pointing out that when preaching of the Word was forbidden in the Neth., many were converted through religious plays (St. L. ed. 21b, 2856). See also Religious Drama, 3.

Luth. theologians in Ger. (e.g., J. K. Dannhauer, J. F. Buddeus) included comedies among plays objectionable because they arouse evil desires. Luths. in Am. (e.g., C. F. W. Walther, A. L. and T. C. Graebner, C. C. Schmidt, L. Fuerbringer) continued to warn against the evils of the theater of their day.

1935 NLC resolutions include: “Motion-pictures might be at all times, and often are, legitimate entertainment as well as an important educational factor. … But at the present time many pictures stand charged with serious offenses against decency and morality. … We appeal to our Lutheran people to withhold their patronage from all motion-pictures which have a degrading influence and are a menace to home, church, and country. We call upon them to make their influence felt in creating a public opinion which will demand the suppression of that which corrupts and distorts life. We hold that as citizens they must bring pressure to bear to secure legislation which will deal with the evil at its source, that is, where the pictures are made.”

The 1940s witnessed improvement in the type of pictures shown in response to aroused pub. opinion. There were indications that movies and theaters were at times being used for cultural and educ. purposes. EM

C. F. W. Walther, Tanz und Theaterbesuch (St. Louis, 1887), pp. 59–118, and “Etwas, den Theaterbesuch betreffend,” Der Lutheraner, XXV 1868–69), 92–94; A. L. Graebner, “Das heutige Theater,” Der Lutheraner, LVI (1900), 17–20; C. C. S[chmidt], “Das Theater im Gegensatz zum Christenthum,” Der Lutheraner, XLVIII (1892), 72; L. Fuerbringer, “Das heutige Theater,” Der Lutheraner, LX (1904), 18–19; T. C. Graebner, “Das heutige Theater,” Der Lutheraner, LXX (1914), 154–157; “The National Lutheran Council Holds Its Election and Issues Pronouncements on War and Movies,” CTM, VI (1935), 305–308.

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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