At our recent ADVANCE conference in Canton, Ohio, we spent part of a session talking about common mistakes made by gospel magicians. The purpose in this was not to be critical, it was to point out pitfalls to be avoided.
A comment that garnered special interest was this: “It is not better to beg forgiveness than ask permission.”
That comment was made in contrast to a common bit of down-home, countryfied wisdom, which suggests there are times when it is best to just go ahead and do what you want to do. It is encouragement to not bother with learning what the rules are, or if you do know what they are, pretend like you are not aware of them. By this, as the suggestion goes, you can keep yourself out of trouble. When someone says, “You weren’t supposed to do that!” You can say, “I’m sorry,” and do so knowing that you already got away with doing what you wanted to do.
In other words, the faulty advice claims there are occasions when it is worth it to break the rules. Having to ask for forgiveness may not be as bad as trying to get permission.
As an illustration of this, a person shared an experience from one of the recent annual conferences of the Fellowship Of Christian Magicians. The college where the conference was held had a strict “no fire or flames on stage” policy. It was based on the local fire code.
One performer wanted to use fire in his act. When he mentioned he planned to do so, another performer said, “It isn’t allowed.” The first performer said, “What?” as if he couldn’t hear it. When the other performer started to say it again, the first performer held up his hand and said, “I don’t hear you. I am going to use fire in the act. If I get in trouble for it afterwards, I’ll just say I did not know.” He did go ahead and use fire in his act.
What is wrong with that?
- In that context it meant the performer planned to lie. If he was confronted about breaking the rule, he was going to claim ignorance, when actually he knew the rule. Lying is a sin. Honesty should be a much higher priority for a gospel performer than that of having something impressive happen in the act.
- It was inconsiderate. The performer was a guest in a theater that belonged to others. In the New Testament book of I Corinthians, chapter thirteen describes Christian love as something that is not unseemly. This means it is not rude, nor is it self-centered. Failure to care about the expectations and desires of others is a contradiction to the most important virtue of the Christian life.
- It had consequence. If gospel performers insist on breaking the rules, and presenting themselves as too dense to know what the rules are in the first place, do you think they will continue to be welcome in a venue? Could it be that such a thing as performers using fire in a place where fire is not allowed, has something to do with whether or not such performers will continue to have a place in which to perform?
The key issues in the matter are the need for being respectful and to conduct ourselves with integrity. It is not honorable to plan defiance of regulations with the intention of getting off the hook later, because good people are likely to be forgiving. An honest and caring person finds out what mandates and expectations there are and abides by them, even if doing so is inconvenient or restrictive.
Frankly, I have several things in my act that involve fire. I love doing them. In my own theater, I can do them. However, when I go other places, even though the fire tricks are strong and exciting for audiences to see, if local codes say, “no fire,” I take the tricks out of the show. I have learned to travel with alternates to those tricks so that I will be prepared to abide by rules, even if I don’t like the rules.