I’m not a George W fan by any stretch, but I appreciate the humor of all three speakers in this video: Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Laura Bush.
Now we have a “friend” in Kansas, pastor Curtis Knapp of New Hope Baptist Church, who preached this past Sunday that the government should be killing all homosexuals. He defends his words using the infamous Leviticus 20:13: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act. They shall surely be put to death.”
OK. Now I know there are lots of other passages about lots of other things as well, but that’s beside the point.
After 23 years of practicing Catholicism, I do not know the Bible nearly as well as many of my friends who are affiliated with other Christian denominations. I also have a couple of friends who have really spent the necessary time with the Bible to make their own meanings of what the Book has to say. These are the people that I trust a bit more on the subject of biblical interpretation, as they have taken the agency to understand the message on their own terms.
So let’s be clear: I am not a Bible scholar, nor do I pretend to be one. But I listened to the Gospel enough times as a kid and a young adult to know that Jesus would not be dealing with these statements so well. If the teachings of Jesus are the foundation of Christianity, then some of these preachers and pastors are speaking from buildings that are about to sink into the ground.
And this strict interpretation of the Bible that people use raises another point for me. Jesus seemed to have a lot of gray Crayons in his Crayola box. He was not a “black and white” or “either or” kind of guy from what I can tell. I write that with all the respect in the world, and because I think I internalized some of that viewpoint as a kid listening to the stories of Jesus forgiving sinners, spending time with the disenfranchised, and sacrificing his life for the sins of the world. If this is what Christianity is about and we’re supposed to be living our lives based on the teachings of Jesus, as outlined by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, then these pastors and preachers who keep talking about deep sixing the gays are clearly not paying attention to the teachings of Jesus.
Now I may be missing something from the Book, and I’m not dealing with the Old Testament. But the preachings that have come to light in the last few weeks really call into question how people are choosing to ignore the gray in the world. For me, Jesus was all about embracing the moments of gray in the world. And isn’t having faith supposed to be about believing in and embracing the gray of the unknown?
Here’s Pastor Curtis Knapp:
Yesterday we learned that the North Carolina preacher Pastor Worley delivered a sermon in 1978 that included a line that goes something like this:
“Forty years ago [gays] would’ve hung, bless God, from a white oak tree!”
A friend of mine responded to my post yesterday with some excellent points, one of which was that Worley’s church in NC could not be a house of God. She knows the Book well, and I was really touched by the time she took to respond to the post.
I started thinking about how we live in a time when religion is under attack and how that might actually parallel how LGBTQ people are under attack. Of course, VERY DIFFERENT circumstances, but I think that in 21st century American society, religious practice could be viewed as non-normative by a lot of people. In fact, I have been privy to any number of inappropriate comments from so-called liberals condemning and/or dismissing religious practices and beliefs. This language often mirrors the language used by people going on a homophobic rant, and it gets to the heart of this post’s title. Practitioners of religion have been taking it to the chin because of people like Pastor Worley, and I think we all need to take stock here. Extreme practices and beliefs exist in all communities, but we have to be careful about how we respond to these moments when one person speaks for a larger community. Or let me rephrase that. The media holds up this person and insinuates that he speaks for an entire community. That’s part of the problem.
I’m writing this out because I know I need to be more accountable for my own thoughts and feelings about moments like this. Pastor Worley’s rhetoric frightens me, but I don’t believe that it’s a possibility. Maybe that’s naive of me, but I’d rather be optimistic about my fellow man. We need to be smart enough not to take the media’s or Pastor Worley’s bait. We also need to have more compassion. We can’t hate the “hateful.” If we do, we become Pastor Worley.
I don’t practice religion, and I’m not even sure how spiritual I feel at this point in my life. But I do understand that religious teachings are meant to help us see the humanity in each and every individual–so that we see the face of God in the people around us. Empathy, compassion, and humanity in a world where those three things are getting harder and harder to find.
So a pastor in North Carolina decided that the way to rid the world of lesbians and “queers” was to put us all inside electrified fences and stop feeding us. Then we would inevitably “die out.”
If you watch the video below from AC360 last evening, you’ll see sections of the preacher’s video, which was taken down yesterday from YouTube after it received over 25,000 hits.
I try not to be surprised by people’s hatred. I also try to forgive people’s insanity. I’m struggling with this video, mostly because of the repeated choruses of “amen” in the background, each time this lone person talks about destroying people for being gay and lesbian. The “amens” or “I believe” mean that he’s clearly not alone in thinking that this proposed solution has merit.
I also find it nauseating that this speech happened in a so-called house of God. I stopped practicing religion a long time ago, but I still respect houses of worship and the teachings of Jesus. How those teachings lead this man and many others like him to putting other human beings inside electrified fences, I’ll never understand.
Ben Brantley of The New York Times did a great service last week when he called for an end to the automatic standing ovation on Broadway (the s.o.). I couldn’t agree more and highly recommend that we all work to end this very silly and now meaningless cultural phenomenon. Read Brantley’s take by clicking here.
So let me be frank.
I probably go to the theatre more than the average person because it’s what I do. I make theatre and I teach theatre; therefore, I also have to be a consumer of theatre. It’s how I stay current, and hopefully I see work that inspires me to create and teach in new and different ways.
As I’ve grown older and more experienced, that last piece about inspiration very rarely happens. Once I started studying theatre as a graduate student, it became harder and harder to feel inspired about anything. I find it difficult to shut off my internal critic, and as a result, I end up analyzing every choice up on stage, from acting to directing to design. Unfortunately this often makes going to the theatre a really unpleasant experience.
Case in point: I saw a certain show with a certain famous pop star the other night. Other than a beautiful design (costumes, scenic, and lighting), the production failed miserably. Even the pop star’s fame couldn’t make the show move along. While disappointing, I’ve come to expect this kind of experience. Broadway musical productions rarely satisfy beyond showcasing the newest visual innovation. Or we get some movie or television star attempting to act in real time without stopping and starting for multiple takes. If these actors make it through the performance without a major screw up, we think that they’re suddenly “gifted stage actors.” Granted, there are excellent crossover actors who can go both ways, but that should never be assumed.
This afternoon I had the absolute pleasure and privilege to see the new musical Once on Broadway, based on the movie of the same name. This show is by far one of the best new pieces of theatre that I’ve seen in at least 15 years, maybe longer. I haven’t felt this connected to a musical since seeing Rent for the first time in 1996, and ironically, Once also originated at New York Theatre Workshop, the original off-Broadway home of Rent.
Once features outstanding performances by the two lead actors, Steve Kazee and Cristin Milioti, both of whom have been nominated for Tony Awards. Beyond these two leads, the entire ensemble turns out fantastic performances, full of energy, focus, and nuance. Not to mention that every single one of them plays an instrument in the performance. So the entire experience feels filled with artistry, musicianship, and sensitivity that moved me at various points throughout the show.
I could go on and on and on about this show, but instead, I’m going to make a few very clear points:
#1. Once knows exactly what it is. It doesn’t try to be anything other than what it is, and the entire cast and production team understand that. Hallelujah! This so rarely happens anymore, so when it does, it should be acknowledged. The Tonys got it right this time with 11 nominations for this show.
#2. The Irishness of Once is apparent from start to finish, and having spent a fair amount of time in Dublin, the authenticity of the storytelling is striking.
#3. The production team has created a theatrical experience for this adaptation, not a simple replication of the movie. But this understanding of the theatrical experience has made this production incredibly moving. Enda Walsh (book), John Tiffany (director), and Steven Hoggett (movement) have made that translation to the stage happen in a way that I found inspiring. The simplicity and specificity of the storytelling makes for an actor-driven event that has moments of magic that I will not soon forget.
I’m still processing the experience of seeing this performance. My advice is to get a ticket as soon as you can. It’s one of those moments that rarely comes around anymore.
Do not miss Once.