My friend Gillian linked to this engrossing story of the Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, “a stunning musical recreation of the life of Christ told in epic proportion”. Check out the video, this thing is a seriously epic show (and, like so much of Americana, ripe for parody). Speaking as somebody who’s directed the (very) occasional play, I think it’s tacky to have Jesus sing on the cross, particularly in a post-Life of Brian world.
The folks at the Miracle Theatre have a mighty beef with comedian and actress Kathy Griffin, for something she said while accepting an award at this year’s Emmys:
That beef is apparently worth US $90,000 of the theatre’s money, which they used to take out a full page ad (PDF) in USA Today arguing that “Enough is Enough” and scolding Kathy Griffin for her outburst. Griffin was also criticized by the Catholic League, to which she replied “am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humour?”
Before I proceed with the main point of this meandering post, I should observe that this has been a win-win for everybody involved. The Miracle Theatre blows some money on a big ad, but gets a bunch of spin-off attention in the mainstream press. Kathy Griffin, a self-professed ‘D-list celebrity’ gets attention reserved for, well, B-list stars, and plenty of pictures in the paper with her clutching an Emmy.
A Thoughtful, Moderate Response
Here’s what I really wanted to reference: Phil Cooke’s elegant, thoughtful, moderate response to the whole affair. According to his bio, Cooke is “a working producer in Hollywood with a Ph.D. in Theology.” He needs a Wikipedia entry.
In our media culture, the extremists get all the air time. The media rarely wants to hear from the moderates, they like their sound bites O’Reilly and Garofalo-style. The church figures we see on TV and in the newspaper tend to be radically conservative. Based on his response, Cooke doesn’t seem to fit that mold. Go read the whole thing, but here are a couple of bits I like:
Does standing on a street corner holding posters of bloody, aborted fetuses, change the minds of people considering abortions? Or does it make the protestors look like radical fundamentalists?
Does Pastor Fred Phelps, who created the God Hates Fags website, actually draw homosexuals to the faith, or does he make all Christians look like intolerant jerks? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m sure heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a sincere guy wanting to reach the gay community, but does that make it OK?
Er, I haven’t read enough of Cooke’s material to know whether this is sarcasm or not. I hope it is.
Some responses from people have sited [sic] Jesus turning over the tables in the temple as an example that we should be confrontational with the culture. But we often forget that the money changers Jesus tossed out were the religious people. There’s no record to my knowledge of Jesus confronting the non-believing culture. He didn’t go into a Roman guardhouse and turn over the tables.
But for me, the scripture that drives my thinking on the issue is Paul’s note in I Corinthians 5:12 – “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”
My favourite ammunition for confronting religious nutters and extremists of all creeds is their own text. I’ll keep that last quote handy.