Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seeing It, Naming It

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.


Unknown said...

I love this.

Cynthia said...

I'm going to have to watch this again with a new perspective. Godspell was one of the first plays I ever saw. I went with one of my closest friends and her family. My family was opposed to my seeing it, and only let me go because her father was a music minister. Our fundamentalist church seriously disapproved of it, and I loved it. Still do.

Rock in the Grass (Pete Grassow) said...

I celebrate your experience of Jesus. May the love of God continue to hold you. Also please pray for my colleague Rev Ecclesia de Lange, who has been suspended from her ministry because she married a woman. This is an incredible painful time of rejection for her. Ecclesia is an ordained minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA). Ecclesia recently married her partner Amanda. After Ecclesia announced the news to her congregations she was charged by her Superintendent Minister for being in breach of the discipline of the MCSA.

While the MCSA affirms the place of homosexual people in its membership, leadership and ministry, the Church at this stage still only recognises marriage between heterosexuals.

You can follow the extended discussion on Facebook (search for Ecclesia de Lange support group)


jo(e) said...

Wow. I never thought about it that way before.

Mary Beth said...

I never thought of it this way, either. But I love it. I adore Godspell and Victor Garber. I first saw GS (the Movie) at church camp. It had a big impact on my life.

Jennifer said...

I am struck by the number of relatively popular, powerful Christian pieces brought forth by people who are GLBT--I'm thinking of the music of Ray Boltz, "For Those Tears I Died," and more. Perhaps that vulnerability is what people connected with--and what a loss for so many of our churches that we are not prepared to fully open the doors to people who have shown themselves vulnerable and to our own sense of authentic, fragile, resilient self.

Wendy said...

Godspell is the first play I remember seeing. I was 3 or 4 and it was the school play at my dad's high school. My older brother had to be taken out, but I was transfixed. I did get a little weirded out afterward when John the Baptist was talking to my dad.
The local UCC church is performing it next week and I'm contemplating whether we should take our 3-year-old. She sits through church every week, so I think she could sit through it, but I would want her to enjoy it.
I've spent the last several days reading your blog from the beginning like a book. I knew the ending, so I was anxiously waiting for the climax. I also thought your remarks on God's timing and praying after the fact were interesting, partly because it's something I've always kind of had in my head but never voiced and partly because while reading the blog I kept thinking, I wish I could pray about that, but it happened two years ago. Thanks for sharing your story.