I grew up on "Godspell." I was introduced to the play in 1973 by my "cousin", who took me to see it at Ford's Theater in Washington, DC. This was the first and only time I ever attended a play in which people were invited to the stage to receive bread and wine at intermission. That alone sealed the play in my heart.
As a young adolescent I listened to the soundtrack over and over, and the songs became the language of my faith.
I actually went around, briefly, with a pebble in my shoe.
Now, "Godspell" has reappeared in my life in two ways.
First, Petra is in a production at her high school. Yay! Petra! And also, I am jealous. I never got to be in a production of "Godspell," and now I am officially too old. It is a play of youth and vitality and childlike wonder. The wonder I got; the vitality, not as much as I'd like.
Second, we are having a Lenten series at my church, beginning tonight. "Jesus Christ, Movie Star!" No copyright infringement intended . Tonight we begin the series with, you guessed it, "Godspell." I'll be using the call of the disciples to talk about how Jesus calls us.
So, in preparation, yesterday Petra and I watched the whole film. And I was overwhelmed, for the first time, with a conviction about something.
The gayness of Jesus in this film.
Now, I don't know if it's something Victor Garber intended to bring to the role or not. I have only just learned (last evening, after our screening) that Victor Garber is, in fact gay. Who'd a thunk? But I just felt my gaydar activated, and every scene confirmed it.
Now, do I mean by that, that Jesus sashayed around in some absurd, stereotypically "gay" fashion? I do not.
It was, instead, a vulnerability I saw in his portrayal of Jesus. A willingness to be who he was despite the fact that not everyone would be ok with it. And, yes, it was the tenderness in the moments between him and Judas/John.
I know there have been various works of art and theater that have depicted Jesus as gay. I studied queer theology as part of my seminary education. (I understand Sir Elton also has some thoughts on the idea.) But I have never needed Jesus to be gay in order to be absolutely confident that he embraces me (any more than I needed him to be a woman). But... I am just so struck by what I saw in that film, and how deeply it moved me.
I just wanted to share with the class.