All You Need is Love

The role of Joshua has been both empathetically easy and emotionally arduous for me. I’ve mentioned to people that I feel type-cast because it is easy for me to love people, to see good in everyone and to rage when cruelty in others surfaces. Moving through this play, I feel a fragment of what the living Man felt in His life’s journey. Sometimes after a five-minute scene is rehearsed, I am emotionally exhausted and physically drained. Yet this story is told with such love by these players that I have felt no apologies for doing this role.

Theater teaches me compassion for people: more so than churches do. Even “Come as You Are” churches often seem to mean “Come as You Are… and We’ll Tolerate You for a While… But You’d Better Change Your Fallen and Sinful Ways Quick.” This mindset certainly includes homosexuality. Many well-meaning Christians believe that homosexuality is part of a brokenness.  If it doesn’t get fixed, those individuals aren’t tolerated, or are at least treated as sick patients by the slightly more compassionate. Continually regarding people’s homosexuality as a disease, as destructive as alcoholism or pedophilia, only widens the gap of misunderstanding that stops us from loving one another. Heterosexual church leaders who are guilty of other “imperfections” are not accountable to equal consequences. This double standard has always made it hard for me to respect religious institutions. I say this as a woman who went to the same church from middle school to college, who volunteered as a worship music leader for several years, who worked two years in Japan through a church-run English program and whose mother is a minister.

Photo by PeaSea Photography

Back to theater.

In this production of Corpus Christi, each cast member plays many parts. There are so many gender and sexual reversals that to try to keep up with “who is who” and “who is what” and decide whether someone’s sexual orientation is appropriate gets in the way of feeling the heartbeat of the story. Mary is played by a man, Joseph by a woman and many of the disciples are women playing men. Looking back at Shakespearean times, women were not allowed to act in plays.  The passionate love scenes and cross-dressing (men pretending to be women pretending to be men) were all done by men.  The audience willingly suspended their disbelief and the stories were free to stand on their own without the distraction of gender issues.

By the time you get to the end of the story, homosexuality melts from conscious thought and no longer matters. I could never believe the playwright intended to convince an audience that Jesus was homosexual, or that any strangeness that happens as part of the surreal nature of this play is true. Comparably, if a story of Romeo and Juliet was set in 1920’s Chicago, Romeo and Juliet were cast as two men who meet at a speakeasy and their families were rivaling mafia families, would audience members stand up at the end of the performance and say, “This is not what Shakespeare intended!”?  Some inevitably would:  perhaps those who fought the performance from beginning to end, watching with their eyes shut and listening with their ears plugged. Those who were actually present in the audience might have a different experience; one in which new thoughts and perspectives about this (overdone) story can take shape in their hearts and minds. And those people may think about love, sacrifice and humanity a little differently. A little deeper.

In Corpus Christi we have what some see as a sacred story being tampered with. How many different translations of the Bible exist? The Message, a version of the Bible which rewords the its archaic text into something a twenty-first century audience can easily relate to, is an example of taking artistic license in order to transport the story across time.  I see Corpus Christi taking the same artistic license to transcend setting and sexuality to reach more people: those who have been done serious disservice by the church. They are finally accepted by the Love Story that was always intended for every race, every tongue, every tribe, every nation and every body.

It is my intention to do my part to help this Love Story be. By watching with open eyes, listening with uncovered ears and feeling with unguarded hearts, may each audience member do his, her, or transgendered’s part as well.

– Amy Spencer
Corpus Christi
Ensemble Member

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Comments

  1. Kim Woodworth says:

    Beautifully written. I love you, Amy Katherine Spencer.

  2. Jim Smoot says:

    I have held off posting a reply to all that I’ve been reading about this production because I didn’t want my comments to be seen as hateful. That is not my intent. However, there have been many things that were written here that I do take issue with.

    Amy, you commented that “well-meaning Christians believe that homosexuality is part of a brokenness. “ Well, yeah. If you believe that homosexuality is a sin, then it must be considered brokenness, as should all sin. The Bible does not distinguish degrees of sin. Whether you are talking about homosexuality, or stealing, or gossiping about your neighbor, any sinful act creates a separation from God, and that is brokenness.

    You also made the comparison between this production and making changes to works of Shakespeare. I understand the point you are making, but I think you and several of the other performers are missing the mark. Shakespeare created works of fiction. Christians believe the Bible is factual. You really can’t compare making changes to a work of fiction to making changes to historical fact. Whether or not you believe Christ is the Messiah, the historical fact of Jesus existence and his teachings is pretty well documented.

    You see, that is what I, and a lot of other Christians have a problem with regarding Corpus Christi. It isn’t the issue of homosexuality at all, though I do believe that homosexuality is sin. The bigger issue is that you are taking the life and teachings of the man Christians believe to be the Son of God and distorting his teachings to support something that he would have considered to be wrong. Although Jesus did not specifically speak about homosexuality, he was a Jew, and he often cited Jewish law in his teachings.

    There was a comment to an earlier post that stated that the Bible does not mention homosexuality or Satan. Part of that comment was a distortion of the truth, the second part was completely false. No, the Bible does not use the word “homosexuality,” but it does condemn the act of men lying with each other like a man lies with a women. As far as the mention of Satan, my search of the King James version mentions Satan 53 times, including being mentioned by name by Jesus himself. This isn’t a modern interpretation. It was taken from Greek and Hebrew transcripts.

    I am saddened by the number of performers who mention previous experiences in church as the catalyst that drove them from Christianity. It is shameful that a belief founded on love can be practiced in such an unloving manner That is a product of individuals, and not Christ. But do not confuse Christ’s love and acceptance of people with his condoning acts that are against the will of God. Christ hung with the sinners, not because he agreed with them, but because they were the ones that most needed to hear his call for repentance.

    I will continue to pray for the members of Heads Up Productions, not for your judgment or condemnation, but for a change of heart about who Christ is, and his message of salvation.

    • Benjamin Rexroad says:

      Jim,

      While I may not agree with everything you said, I honor your right to say it.

      I appreciate that you were articulate, well-spoken, approached your message from a place of love and weren’t afraid to sign your name.

      One of the reasons we are performing this show and writing these blogs is to be able to have this discussion in a way that is respectful of all parties.

      Thank you very much for your comment. I enjoyed reading it and it has given me something to think about.

      -Benjamin

    • Tyler Hodges says:

      Jim,

      Thank you for engaging us in polite discourse about this play. But let me correct a misconception.

      We are not “taking the life and teachings of the man Christians believe to be the Son of God and distorting his teachings to support something that he would have considered to be wrong” as you claim.

      “Corpus Christi” DOES NOT posit that Jesus was gay or that he supported homosexuality. The play simply introduces a thought experiment: “What if a Christ figure (named Joshua) was born in Corpus Christ, TX in the late 1930s as a gay man?” In his time Christ was ostracized and died as a result of being different. He challenged convention and was killed for it. If Christ was walking the streets of Akron, Ohio in 2011, would you recognize him? Or would you be one among the masses that stood idly by as he was executed?
      THAT it what this play is about.

      This play tries to get to the truth of Christ’s teachings. And even as a non-believer, I can identify with that. Nobody holds a monopoly on Christ’s teachings. Not fundamentalists, not atheists, not you, and not me. The Bible can be cited to suit any agenda.

      We are not doing “Corpus Christi” to shock and offend. We are doing “Corpus Christi” to foster the same kind of conversation that we are engaging in on this blog. We have 13 actors who run the gamut of religious philosophies, yet we have been able to work together to create this play with a sense of respect and understanding.

      I truly hope you will come see our production and take more away from it than the controversy that surrounds it.

      Best regards, brother.

    • sharon pritt says:

      i think i understand why you are upset if you think that the truth is being distorted. i would suggest you go see the play because i don’t think any teachings are distorted. you might even find the play uplifting. i feel that the true message of love is the most outstanding thing about this play. like amy said, the way it was written and the way the gender roles are switched up so much, the gay part becomes a non-issue, which i think might be more important than it being an issue.

      and don’t be sad for people’s experiences! they make us who they are ad challenge us to do something better than what we were taught.

  3. Demure comment using a half understood syllogism. Polite apology pertaining to my insistence that you might not understand the true spirit of the subject matter. Wrapping up with a witty quote of a nineteenth century author whose works I have not read.

  4. Christ was killed because He said He was God. He was killed because of mans ideas of what they thought God was supposed to be. He was killed because of misguided understanding of how he was supposed to come. Not because he was “different”. Christ’s teachings are all very basic, believe He is God, do the will of the Father and follow Him. Teach that in just as simple of a way. Simplify. There is no translation that distorts that message. What this production appears to be doing is distorting His message. The passion of Christ is done out of love, for love. Not believing in Christ because of mixed messages from His followers seems to be juvenile in its understanding of love. One cannot love without Christ. If there is love in your heart there is Christ. If there is a desire to shed the sexuality of Christ from His message that would be depicting simplicity yes but if the message robes Jesus in sin and acting in sin than He no longer can be Jesus. There seems to be a common axe to grind among fallen away believers, not with God but with churches. Do not through God out of your heart and intellect because of a group of people. Clothing Jesus in sin and brokeness will not bring you closer to Him only farther. Jesus is not the church, the church are people. I don’t go to church to hang out with people I go to sit and listen to Him, and as a Roman Catholic to become one with Him in eating His flesh. Ha, you thought you had the stage with making Him a female homosexual,try telling people you feed on His flesh and drink His blood everyday than.come and

    • sharon pritt says:

      i think you’re dead on about the ‘misguided understanding about how he was supposed to come’ part. that’s what the play is about! you’d love it. and it’s funy you say that clothing him in sin and brokenness won’t bring people closer because at the church i was raised in, we were taught that the whole being embodied thing was being clothed in sin sin and brokenness and that was exactly what brought us closer to “him.” so the play is actually more of a christ story than i thought it would be. now since i don’t have any firm standing on anything that happened 2000 or so years ago, i can say it doesn’t matter if it was or wasn’t a he she it or was or was attracted to people or whether or not being attracted to someone is a sin or what a sin is. i think there is a good story here that is all about how the world doesn’t know how to accept love, and the world is so scared of love that that stupid shit like this becomes more important to us than taking care of each other. maybe someday gender won’t matter and people won’t be terrified of their own genitals and we can move on to feeding each other and helping each other raise kids and celebrate stages of life.

      i don’t think the audience does know the message. if it did, we wouldn’t need churches/governments. i can say that i understand love in theory, but i’ve not stopped or hungry people, what about you?

  5. Than come and talk about hostile reactions.
    So if the sexual oeientation gets in the way of the message, as you stated, why put it in there? The audience already knows His message. But what is your message?

  6. Teresa, when did Jesus ever say he was God? I recall the texts say that he said he was SENT by God, but never actually saying, or alluding that you need to believe that he IS GOD.
    A more historically accurate description (not to minimize the Bible as a religious text) of why Jesus would have been crucified, would be that it was a politically tense climate, and that some sects of the Jews had been expecting a messiah (a political liberator) for some time. Those in Galilee especially. Were the Romans aware of this? That is a fact that we don’t know for sure, but it is rational and logical to assume they did. When this teacher became big enough for the local leaders to notice him, of course they had to get rid of him, else the people would rise up. A previous revolt against the Seleucid, led by the Maccabees happened less than 200 years prior(the real enemy was likely to be Hellenizing Jews), as recorded in Maccabees. Judea under Roman rule was starting to go the same direction it was prior to the Maccabean Revolt, any ruler would want to extinguish the flame of a small group that had a notorious army. In 66CE they actually did try to revolt against Rome, and failed miserably.
    Not to be mean, but transubstantiation isn’t shocking to anyone any more, it hasn’t been for centuries…
    This play is silly, nothing more. I hear more “blasphemous” things when walking down the street on any given day.

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