Theatre and Theology, Part IV: Prophanity
"...all we have left is a limp, unthreatening "Buddy Christ," who can offer us nothing offensive -- and nothing meaningful."
(A brief note, since somebody raised the question -- when I refer to "The Church", I'm referring specifically to the organized, political body -- particularly the self-identified one true Catholic and Apostolic Church -- not the broader sense encompassing all Christians. If it's not obvious, I have little love for the former -- after all, there's a reason Dante put most of the popes in Hell.)
When I found that my chances of getting into the Fringe this year via the lottery were so low as to be practically subterranean, I began fishing around for other ways to sneak in. Spirituality being a matter of deep interest to me, I had a number of scripts lying around that I thought would be appropriate for the Spiritual Fringe. So I e-mailed 'em, and among the requirements listed in their response was the following:
"That the content of your show not be anti-church or include guns, language, explicit sexual references or violence that would be clearly inappropriate in a sacred space. Our performance space is after all a sanctuary. If you have questions, please feel free to ask. We are as non- censoring as possible."
Whoof. Uh, that edits out pretty much ninety percent of everything I've ever written.
The more I thought about it, the more it made me realize that not only do I have no personal objection to the intermingling of faith and blasphemy -- on some weird level, I can't imagine an honest expression of faith that isn't blasphemous.
First of all, I object to the very concept of profanity. Words are very abstract tools, and I don't believe that they can be divided into "the Sacred" and "the Profane." Either all words are sacred, or none of them are. (This is also part of the reason I question the validity of living your life in accord with a text, but that's a separate issue.) I'm reminded of the following exchange, from Paul Krassner's acid trip with an aging Groucho Marx:
"I'm really getting quite a kick out of this notion of playing God like a dirty old man in Skidoo. You wanna know why? Do you realize that irreverence and reverence are the same thing?"
"If they're not, then it's a misuse of your power to make people laugh."
Surely the Book of Job suggests that there's a role for the questioning of divine authority. And wasn't Jesus executed -- at least in part -- for the crime of blasphemy? It's when you can't find laughter in your own belief structures that you start to get things like crucifixions and holocausts and crusades and inquisitions.
Maximum Verbosity's maiden voyage was an ode to Loki, the Norse god of mischief and blasphemy. This is a god whose idea of a funny, funny joke, was to tie his own scrotum to a nanny goat's beard and play tug-of-war. Yet he was invited into the halls of the gods, and shared his blood with the All-Father: so no one could sacrifice to the highest of divine beings without also sacrificing to his ridiculous opposite.
And it's all over. In China, the Great Monkey Sage, equal of Heaven, couldn't pass up the opportunity to take a piss on the Buddha's hand. India gave us such delightful moral fables as "Uncle Tompa Sells Penises in a Nunnery." And in Egypt, that wacky frat boy Horus slipped some of his own semen into evil brother Set's lettuce, to make it look like he'd just fucked him in the ass. That's not a deleted scene from American Pie, that's a four-thousand-year old religious parable. I'm proposing we need to get back to that.
Today is the feast day of Saint Symeon the Holy Fool, who flung nuts into the faces of the clergy and blew out the candles -- who danced naked in the streets and dragged himself around on his ass, to ridicule the folly of mankind. But perhaps there's no room for him in today's churches -- nor is there room left for the "bleeding stinking mad shadow of Jesus", as Flannery O'Connor put it, who claimed
"Think not that I come to bring peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."
And all we have left is a limp, unthreatening "Buddy Christ," who can offer us nothing offensive -- and nothing meaningful. And I'm saddened, because I know that there's no room for them, either in our churches -- or on our stages.
I know that I'm being unfair. After all, their position is a totally reasonable one -- it is a sacred space, meant to be inclusive to all and sundry. It's unreasonable for me to want them to start overturning tables.
So I know that I'm being unfair, because my anger is personal -- because, you see, there's nowhere I belong -- because if there's no place for them, there's no place for me. Either in our churches -- or on our stages.
But that's personal. I'll still definitely be at the Spiritual Fringe, and I'll still be a vocal supporter of what they're trying to do. After all, it's hardly fair for me to criticize them for not being what I want them to be.
But I can't help feeling a little sad.
"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise..."