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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bishops oppose opening in Manila of ‘Corpus Christi’, a play depicting Jesus Christ as gay

The latest outrage fad in the Philippines currently being stirred up by self-described champions of freedom and secularism is a campaign being mounted by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) against the showing of the American stage play Corpus Christi in the Philippines.
Corpus Christi is a passion play by Terrence McNally dramatizing the story of Jesus and the Apostles. Written in 1997 and first staged in New York in 1998, it depicts Jesus and the Apostles as gay men living in modern-day Texas. It utilizes modern devices like television with anachronisms like Roman occupation. Judas betrays Jesus because of sexual jealousy. Jesus administers gay marriage between two apostles.
Playwright Terrence McNally, a gay man, received death threats when it was played in the U.S. Its production in New York City was canceled then reinstated, finally opening on 13 October 1998, directed by Joe Mantello. It received its British premiere in 2000, produced by Theatre 28 and directed by Stephen Henry. When it was produced as part of the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, Anglican bishop Robert Forsyth considered the play to be offensive and historically incorrect.
A condensed version of the play was performed without incident in 2001 as part of a student directing class at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. The play returned briefly to a small New York theatre in 2008, gaining a sympathetic review by the New York Times, which also published an article linking the uproar in 1998 to the death of gay student Matthew Shepard. In 2009, the play was performed at the Church of the Foothills in California.
The Sydney production of the play opened in 2008 as part of the Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras in February of that year and reportedly also attracted indignation from various conservative groups in Australia including the country’s Anglican Church…
The Anglican Bishop of South Sydney, Robert Forsyth, questioned the integrity of Corpus Christi and expressed his outrage at the “unhistorical and untrue” depiction of the son of God and some of his disciples as homosexual.
“It is deliberately, not innocently, offensive and they’re obviously having a laugh about it,” he said.
“It’s historical nonsense and I wouldn’t want to go and see it. Life’s too short.”
Under the “freedoms” guaranteed by the Philippine Constitution, Jesus Christ himself is fair game for any kind of artistic interpretation in any medium, as much as any individual can exercise his or her freedom to experience the interpretation or not. So what’s the problem? In principle, there is none. Filipinos can easily shut the whole production down simply by not watching it just as a mass boycott of the products of even the biggest corporation can bring it to its knees.
The questions that comes to mind, however, are quite simple:
To the producers of shows like these: Out of a theoretically infinite creative space to explore, why this seeming need among so-called artists to use the Prince of Peace as a subject in a theatre production with a let’s-not-go-there premise? I mean, hey, depicting Jesus Christ as a gay person is just, well,too easy.
To those who play the “freedom of expression” card to put up Corpus Christias yet another rallying issue against the Philippines’ Roman Catholic Taliban: Why give this Catholic crusade the time of day? Will Philippine society lose anything if deprived of the experience of seeing Jesus Christ depicted as a gay man?
And to the CBCP: What’s the big fuss? If you think your officers had done their job well, then you should rest easy, assured that your flock has enough spiritual tools to keep the faith in the face of the wealth of artistic content and information at their fingertips, as one does in a modern 21st Century society.
Me, personally, I think there are just too many things being sacrificed at the altar of the “gay” cause. I have nothing against gay people. I just think the whole idea that gay people are necessarily “victims” is getting old, specially when the community is emerging as an over-represented and increasingly noisy sector in the otherwise noble causes of freedom of expression, reproductive health, and secularism.
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