Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Various Passions

The presentation of “The Passion Narrative” has long had quite a hold on me. Wife and I have seen the traveling stage production of "Superstar" at least twice in Dallas as well as its 25th Anniversary revival performance in London. My son once sung the role of Caiphas for our local Civic Theatre. We have both film versions on DVD and have been privileged to see Oberammergau’s Passion Play on two separate occasions. Saw Mel Gibson’s Passion of The Christ within 2-3 days of its release on the first Friday of Lent. As a part of my personal Lenten “obligation”, I again rewatched Jesus Christ, Superstar by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. I’ve tried to do so annually, during Lent, for quite some years. And the purpose behind all this personal history is?

I recall the tremendous concern, bordering on fear, regarding anti-Semitism in Gibson’s "Passion", as well as worry of reprisals against the Jewish community. Likewise, several productions back, the Oberramergau Passion Play was toned down as a result of its perceived anti-Semitism. We don’t want the Jews to think we really believe “they killed Christ”, don’t you know.

Watching “Superstar” this year I was forced to ask myself, why did Jesus Christ, Superstar get a pass in this regard? From all that I’ve witnessed; the Jewish people, Christ’s own people, get a worse portrayal in “Superstar” than either of the other productions. Led by Caiphas and Annas, the Jews of Jerusalem (our designated “stand-ins”, by the way) appear much more vicious and mean spirited in “Superstar” than either other production. Let me add, the brutality of the Romans portrayed in “The Passion” is about as inhuman as can be imagined, but that’s not my point.

I am convinced that part of the reason for the vilification of Gibson’s film is that it spoke to a larger audience than did “Superstar” and with much greater conviction. “Superstar”, I surmise, was perceived as entertainment without message for most folks and consequently could be dismissed as not worthy of concern in moving people towards Christ, or maybe it was just from a different time. I would tend to argue the position that its only value is entertainment, but ...

It appears to my untrained eyes that our “mainstream” news/entertainment industry holds a bias against Christianity. Anything they see as possibly spreading the message of Christ is in need of suppression if not rejection, by whatever means available, First Amendment be damned. And that bothers me. You see, I believe that we are offered the freedom of religion, not freedom from religion and I’m becoming rather tired of conventional wisdom dismissing me because "I’m one of those lunatic Christians who trust and believe in the message of the Gospels." And thus endeth my rant.

Under any circumstance, I wish y’all a Holy week and a Happy Easter morning secure in the knowledge that “The Lord is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed.”

1 Comments:

At 7:39 PM, Blogger Marshall said...

Thanks for looking into my blog and commenting on my own reflections on Superstar. I appreciate your comments here.

My initial thought in answer to your question is a little different. There was certainly controversy about Superstar, but it wasn't that it was anti-Semitic; it was that it was anti-Christian. With all that reaction, I don't know that anyone asked the question about anti-Semitism, at least in Christian circles.

Perhaps Superstar was passed on that because the High Priest and his family weren't identified as Jews but as political leaders. Their decision isn't theological but political: better one man die than we all suffer civil oppression. In the time Superstar came out, in the days of Viet Nam, that was a message that would resonate with the target audience: those with political power are untrustworthy. Don't trust The Establishment! Those who wouldn't hear, much less buy, that message probably wouldn't have been in the audience anyway.

 

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