Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Long-Awaited Response

This fall I was honored to participate in Spencer Community Theatre's production of Jesus Christ Superstar.  I was even more honored to be cast in the role of Judas, which was very challenging vocally, theatrically, artistically, emotionally, and spiritually.  I found the production to be very profound and engaging.  Despite the controversy the rock opera has generated throughout the years, it continues to draw crowds wherever it is performed, and for good reason.  Every night we performed this show people walked out deeply touched, many crying. Even the actors would shed tears (real ones, not stage tears) as Jesus' body was carried down from the cross. 

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. 


Marc B. said...

Well thought out and right to the point! science, ideologies, etc....that cannot face questioning are the product of insecure people. Thanks for representing Christianity as I know it!

Marc B.

Kathryn Moore said...

I was an apostle in this production. I shed Real tears! I am not a church goer but believe nontheless. Dan, your response is on the money. Thank you for standing up for our production and all of us involved.

Tom Van Tassell said...

Thank you Dan. You have given words to what I believe any of the Christians involved in the production would profess. I certainly say "Amen" and as Marc said, for representing Christianity as I know it!
Tom Van Tassell

Momma Skye said...

As a complete non believer prior to being an apostle in Jesus Christ Superstar. I have found my faith again after the show made me really think about things. I have to say I honestly don't think I would still be on this earth right now had I not been cast in this wonderful show!

Jeremy said...


Well said and well thought out. There will always be those around us who want to tear things down, regardless who wonderful they can be. I have read some of this guys stuff and he is a little out there. I hope things don't turn to fisticuffs. :)