Hnath, Lucas. The Christians.

Publisher: Overlook, 2016.

Off-Broadway Premiere: Playwrights Horizons, 2015.


The platform, pulpit, and choir area of a mega church. All speeches are made directly into microphones as in a church service.


Characters: Pastor Paul; Elizabeth, Paul’s wife; Associate Pastor Joshua; Church Elder Jay; Jenny, a congregant. Non-speaking: choir director, organist, and choir


p. 19[1]              The Choir sings two songs (suggested titles in the script).

pp. 19-31       Pastor Paul offers a prayer and then preaches a sermon. The sermon celebrates this day, 20 years after the founding of this mega church, when the debt on the church’s building has been retired. But, says Paul, we have a crack in the foundation. It turns out that he has discovered that the crack is the false beliefs that Satan exists and that all who do not believe in Christ are headed for Hell. Hell, he says, does not exist.

pp. 32, 33       Associate Pastor Joshua offers a prayer on behalf of the sick in the congregation.

pp. 33-44       Joshua opposes the message, and he and Paul debate the point.

pp. 44-47       Joshua suggests taking a vote—who in the congregation is with him, and who is with Pastor Paul? The votes are counted and only 50 of the thousands in attendance are with Brother Joshua.

p. 47               The Choir sings song #3.

pp. 47-48       After a brief speech, Joshua leaves, apparently followed by his 50.

pp. 48-57       Elder Jay declares his and the Board’s support for Pastor Paul but also asks that Joshua be reinstated. Paul refuses.

p. 57               The Choir sings song #4.

pp. 57-70       Congregant Jenny steps up to read her testimonial. She tells how important the church has been for her through her divorce and in her poverty. But she questions Paul’s new beliefs and suggests that the timing of his sermon was manipulative, that he didn’t do it earlier because of his concern over the church’s debt, and the fear that congregants would leave and/or stop giving. She question’s Paul’s integrity. Jenny leaves followed by Elder Jay, the Choir Director, and the Choir.

pp. 70-83       Elizabeth, Paul’s wife, reveals that she disagrees with his stance and feels alienated from him because of their differences. She leaves.

pp. 83-91       Joshua tells Paul that the Board has asked him to come back as Head Pastor. He says he won’t do it, but he can’t give up his belief in Hell.

pp. 92-94       Paul and Elizabeth discuss the question how one knows if what one believes one hears God saying really comes from God. The play ends without resolving this question and without revealing whether or not Elizabeth will leave him.




The play poses questions that Christians and others who have any interest in religion ask themselves: How do we distinguish between God’s will and our own inclinations? How crucial to Christianity is a belief in Satan and Hell? If Christ died for all, are all (even Hitler) saved?


The play is written in free verse, an increasingly common mode of dramatic diction.


Inconclusive endings like this one are becoming more and more common.


The performance mode—at microphones in a public place like a church sanctuary—gives all the speeches (even the pastor and wife’s visit in bed) a kind of presentational, declarative impact.


[1] There are no scenic breaks indicated in the script. The page numbers refer to locations in the Overlook edition.