by Lena Fields-Arnold
Mindless Entertainment or Christ Honoring Ministry?
What we are seeing today is pantomime finding its way into Christian churches of all denominations. (Patton 2008) Many churches, particularly those rooted in Pentecostalism, have embraced mime as a “way” to win souls (without preaching) and provide ministry opportunities for youth. But the Bible declares that it is the Word of God the saves and “he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)
It is worth noting that no other religion whose roots are based on the Abrahamic covenant uses mime in their worship ceremonies; and never before in the history of Christianity was this practice a part of worship services until today’s modern era. What did the early church founders know then that is not known now?
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.” (1 Timothy 4:1-3King James Version)
On the surface, it might seem that this scripture warns Christians not to be quick to “reject” the idolatrous meat offered to idols; and indeed, many Christian mime artists use it to affirm the practice of “Christian” pantomime. Christopher Montgomery, author of Mime the Next Dimension: A Guide to Ministry in Mime equates mime to the same thing as raising your hands in reverence to God, pointing the finger upwards to be excused from service, swaying with the choir with mime stating that they are “subsets of mime.” (Montgomery 2012, p 13 , p 3).
But in truth, this scripture is warning Christians against engaging in idolatrous acts and false religious practices designed to place them in bondage. This liberty was never designed to give Christians free reign to practice Baal worship in its myriad forms. Patton declares, “Israel, the source of Christian beliefs and practices, did not participate in the ways of the heathens whose use of pantomime can be traced all the way back to Egypt and Babylon. Pantomime performances were not accepted among the first Christians even as this Hellenistic debauchery had been rejected previously by the Jews.” (2008)
In his book Montgomery further states that both Jeremiah and Ezekiel were “two old testament prophets who performed pantomime in the Bible by “painting” their faces with ash or clay. (Montgomery 2012 p 15 p2).
He quotes Jeremiah 13 to defend his positions stating:
God cleaved Jeremiah’s tongue to the roof of his mouth and he was only able to speak when he said ‘thus saith the Lord’ and then he conveyed exactly God had said. Jeremiah bound himself. He lay on his side for seven days, then on his other side for seven days. He repeated this routine for 40 days as a nonverbal sign that Israel was going into bondage. Montgomery 2012, p 15)
There are a few things wrong with his argument. First, he equates an Old Testament practice of an open show of repentance with the pagan practice of pantomime. Secondly he quotes a scripture that makes no reference whatsoever to his argument. It may be that Jeremiah did what Montgomery claims, but it is not found in Jeremiah, Chapter 13. Even if it was, it is not a valid proof of his claim that Jeremiah performed pantomime. A prophetic act, orchestrated by God for the purpose of bringing a word of warning cannot be equated with the current practice of pantomime in the Christian church.