The Christian Myth

Growing up, every Sunday my neighbors took me to an Apostolic church.  To be a member of this church and to get into Heaven you had to live a specific lifestyle—women weren’t allowed to cut their hair and had to wear skirts, men had to wear pants and you had to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (i.e. speaking in tongues).  Somewhere around 11 years old, I realized something wasn’t quite right.  God, I thought, didn’t care if women cut their hair or wore pants.  He didn’t care if I wore shorts.  And while speaking in tongues might be cool, God wouldn’t send you to Hell for NOT rolling around on the floor and reciting gibberish.

I told my grandma about my thoughts and she asked me if I wanted to keep going to that church or if I wanted to find a different one.  I decided to explore other options.  She took me to between 7-10 churches of numerous Christian denominations.  Most of the churches taught a variation of the fire and brimstone spiel.  I still wasn’t comfortable with thinking of God as vengeful and full of hate.

Finally, I settled on a Methodist church.  They had a cool youth program.  Around 13 my body began to change.  This older boy in the youth group—Adam—began to look attractive to me.  However, as the youth pastor told us, these feelings were a sin punishable by eternal damnation.  Pastor Dave explained that homosexual acts were the worst sin you could ever commit.  He only preached that strongly against being gay.

Photo by PeaSea Photography

I couldn’t help feeling like God didn’t love me because of feelings I couldn’t control.  I stayed with the church for a while longer, but if self-hatred and hatred of others was what it meant to be Christian, I wanted to no part of it.  I had always thought that Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)  It felt like a lot of stones were flying my way.

After that church, I left the Christian faith to experience other traditions.  I was Wiccan for a while then Buddhist.  I tried reading the Koran.  Gnosticism replaced my reading of the Koran.  Eventually I discovered Unitarian Universalism—a place that allowed people to be themselves and hold their own beliefs without any sort of religious dogma.  It was open, accepting and loving—everything I thought a good Christian should be.

But I couldn’t completely escape Christianity.  From my Christian entrenched upbringing to the popularity of Christmas, to school breaks aligning themselves with Christian holidays, to our forefathers who founded this country on Christian principles and values, Christianity is a myth that permeates American society.  When speaking of myth in this context, I don’t mean a fictitious story, only a “popular belief or story, especially one considered to illustrate a cultural ideal” (thefreedictionary.com).

These days it seems theatre is my religion.  This statement seems fitting because the roots of Western theatre are grounded in religious ritual.  Greek theatre was born out of a festival to honor the god Dionysus.  In the middle ages, theatre, more or less, functioned through the church in the form of mystery and passion plays.  During the Elizabethan era theatre became a popular form of entertainment but was still seeped in the supernatural and references to God were incredibly common.

Theatre functioned as way for people to identify with and understand the myths that defined their culture.

However, inside a society that caters to every person’s individual whims, identification with myth is practically impossible.  We need a different approach to the material if we are to understand our relationship with it.  In an interview with Margret Croyden printed in the Grotowski Sourcebook, Grotowski (one of the most influential theatre practicioners and directors of the 20th century) says:

“We don’t want to illustrate these dramas on stage.  We want to confront the text, which is an entirely different matter.  To confront the text means to test it, to struggle with it, to come to grips with its meaning in terms of our own modern experiences, and then give it our own answers. … If we really want to be creative, each of us must be a bridge between the past and the present, between our own individual roots and the archetypal roots of the past.”

It is in this spirit of confrontation that Heads Up is tackling Corpus Christi or- as its reputation proceeds it- “the gay Jesus play.”

We want to struggle with our personal definitions of Christianity.  What are “Christian” values?  Do those values fit inside our context?  How do we live a Christian life in modern society?  What are our personal hang-ups when encountered with Christianity or homosexuality?

We know that there are no easy answers ahead of us.  We know we might lose friends and supporters along the way.  Several of our company members refused to take part on the show because of their personal beliefs or the beliefs of their families.  But this is exactly why we’re doing this show—to help bridge the gap.

-Benjamin Rexroad
Artistic Director

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