If you are not from these shores, or have been on a news blackout for the past couple of weeks, you may not have heard about the fuss around a play, based on the Bible, that has been playing in a theatre in Newtownabbey this week.
Originally cancelled by Newtownabbey Council’s Artistic Board, the play was reinstated and the first of its two performances took place yesterday evening.
I haven’t seen it (just a couple of clips) and I am not planning to, so I am in no position to provide any kind of detailed critique of it. However, here are a few random thoughts and questions around what has happened.
- I believe that the Bible is the word of God and it is given to us as a revelation of God, or ourselves and of Jesus. While the Bible is not intended as a dour rule-book – some of its stories are wonderfully moving – and while God is the author of joy, the Bible’s message is to be taken seriously.
- I don’t know the writer, producer or actors from the production, but I note the comment of one member of the company that this was intended as a celebration of the Bible: I guess it would be interesting to know if their goal is to get people interested in the Bible or if it is more to entertain.
- A Church of Ireland chaplain whom I follow on Twitter went to see the play: seemed to enjoy it and reckoned that the brouhaha had been a storm in a teacup.
- At the same time I understand the unease of a TV panellist at the portrayal of the last supper, which was indeed a solemn occasion as Jesus prepared to bear the sins of the world.
- I wonder (this, as I say, without having been to see the play) whether the general tone and humorous style is that much different from what might be on display in some of the skits that have been part of church services/evangelistic outreaches in recent times.
- It’s worth noting that at the time it was cancelled, advance bookings were at 150 out of 800 available. After the cancellation, the resulting stormy reaction and the eventual reinstatement of the play, it appears to have sold out. Perhaps protestors should notice that there are occasions when any kind of publicity is good publicity!
- When it comes to banning things, Christians need to be careful what they wish for. What happens when the tables turn? We ban the Bible play today, someone else bans the open air Bible preacher tomorrow.
- Did anyone use the opportunity to make Bibles available to theatre-goers? Not to wave it in their faces on a picket line, but to make it – or, say a Luke’s Gospel – available to anyone who wanted one. Would the theatre have been willing to have them available, free of charge, for people to take with them at the end of the evening?
So there you have it? What do you think? Anyone seen it and care to comment?