Most importantly, the show engaged our theological thinking. Playing the different characters forced us to consider their motivations, their hearts, and their minds. Both Christians and non-Christians alike were openly discussing deep theological questions about Jesus. Some began thinking about Jesus for the first time years, others for the first time ever. I don't think a single cast or crew member would take exception if I said every single one walked away from the production much closer to Jesus.
This past Friday (Dec. 2) a Baptist pastor in our community published an article of condemnation upon all who participated in or even watched the production. I was granted the opportunity to publish a letter to the editor in the issue coming out on Dec. 6. It wasn't easy to keep my response to 250 words as they requested. In fact, it was impossible. Unfortunately, the online version of the article is not available without a subscription, but if you have a subscription you can find it here. But since I own the letter to the editor, I can publish it here.
Corrections for Josh Davenport
Last Friday Josh Davenport wrote an article harshly criticizing Jesus Christ Superstar. There were several falsehoods in his article. Davenport most blatantly erred attributing to Jesus the words, “I’ll never ever know why you chose me for your crime, your foul, bloody crime. You have murdered me! You have murdered me!” These words were actually sung by Judas. Davenport also criticized the opera for depicting Jesus as unwilling to go to the cross, which also is not true. In the opera Jesus sends a reluctant Judas to betray him, showing his willingness to go to the cross. Jesus’ only hesitation is in the Gethsemane scene, and is scripturally correct. Mark 14:36 is evidence that Jesus did not wish to undergo his human suffering but surrendered himself to God’s plan anyway. Davenport further misled readers by saying the opera depicts Jesus as “just a man.” Certain characters do doubt Jesus’ divinity: Judas, Herod, the Priests, and Pilate. This actually aligns with the biblical accounts.
Superstar was never intended as a historical depiction. It has always been billed as an artwork intended to provoke our thoughts about the deep theological issues surrounding Jesus. During the production Christians and non-Christians alike discussed questions about Jesus they may never have had the opportunity to ask otherwise. I personally witnessed several people draw closer to Jesus through their involvement in this production. For that there is no condemnation.
I must say that there are parts of Davenport’s article about which we agree, most importantly: Jesus is the Savior, the Risen Lord! However, I believe thoughtful consideration of other views is not anti-Christ-ian or blasphemous as Davenport asserts. Consideration of other views actually leads most to a stronger, deeper faith. A faith that cannot risk asking questions is a truly insecure faith.