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Wednesday, 6 August 2008

JC in Gitmo

The Welsh blogger the Cynical Dragon is being cynical with the South Wales Echo again, this time over a story about a new play called Iesu! in which a female Jesus is thrown into a Guantánamo-style prison camp.

The Cynical Dragon was one of a number of bloggers, including us, who were outraged by the Echo's grovelling apology recently to Christian fundamentalists after an opinion piece on what one such fundamentalist might have made of Jesus as told in the Gospels, and might even have concluded that he was gay. For this, the writer got his opinion piece butchered in its online version. Read our take on it here, and sign the petition we talk of there here.

The Cynical Dragon wonders if the Echo will apologise for reporting this, too. Will Stephen Green and his appalling Christian Voice outfit be out complaining about this, too? Well, I doubt the paper will censor this one. It's a straight news story, after all, as opposed to a comment piece, reporting on a playwright-priest, Aled Jones Williams, who, in a Welsh-language play at the Eisteddfod in Cardiff, has depicted Jesus as a woman who, instead of being crucified, is incarcerated in a Gitmo-style prison camp and brutalised.

However, it does no harm to keep our readers alert to the fact that this sort of censorship is going on, so all power to the Dragon's fiery breath.

Back to the play. The Dragon reckons it's bollocks to portray Jesus as a Gitmo prisoner.

[T]he drama sounds a right load of balls. Anyone who thinks that putting a fictional religious character in Guantanamo and equating his fictional trials with the imprisonment of dangerous religious terrorists who'd happily kill half the world is bonkers.

He has a point. From an artistic point of view, though, my take on it (and I've posted something along these lines in the comments section of his blog) is this.

I once saw Julius Caesar set in Mussolini's Italy: costumes, sets. It was still Julius Caesar, of course, with the Bard's words intact. For me this was a way of putting a historical (and in this case literary) picture against a different background, much as you might have your same photographic subject (your wife, boyfriend, butler) in ten different pictures, but all in different settings: same subject, different impression given.

Now to me this placing of a mythical (perhaps partly historical) figure, Jesus of Nazareth, in a different setting can only help Christians (and anyone else who happens to be interested) to understand the meaning of their chosen belief system. Or, for that matter, those who don't believe it in but have an interest in mythology and religion. It's an exercise. I think it's a good exercise. I wish I could see it (if I understood Welsh).

It's part of what we as human beings do when we're doing our cultural thing: writing, acting, making music, painting, dancing.

But, to return to my analogy of a photo for a moment, let's compare a plain, representative photograph with a painting. A painter can do more, because he can inject more of his own personality into the work, and with it allow the viewer to look at something in a new way. Sometimes an artist injects something at a psychological level that he may not be fully aware of himself, something that it's not possible to realise in logical thought and talk about – but you know something is there. That's art over and above photobooth photography.

And so it is with the performing arts. Provided an audience know that what they are seeing is not meant to be a literal rendering of a factual story, they can allow themselves to be taken in new directions.

Do the Stephen Green types of Christian not wish to explore their big pal in the sky in different ways, perhaps see nuances they haven't perceived before? Don't they even conjecture that it's part of the human way of doing things that allows us to explore in this way? Do they not even entertain the possibility that, within their belief system, God gave some human beings the arts and skills to do this, as a way of speaking to others, just as there are preachers who take the word to the flocks?

Ah, but I'm imbuing your average Christian fundamentalist with imagination in this picture, aren't I? Silly me! They don't do imagination. They want that straightforward photograph against a plain background, so they can see what they've got. They want the picture in the scriptures, with no artist's interpretation that might open up new meanings for them.

Their belief is sterile. They and their belief belong together.

I am not religious, but I share the vision of this priest who is looking at the object of his veneration in a different way, and probably bringing something fresh to the minds of his audience/flock, too.

1 comment:

David said...

"I am not religious, but I share the vision of this priest who is looking at the object of his veneration in a different way, and probably bringing something fresh to the minds of his audience/flock, too."

I'm equally supportive of people who try original ways of bringing something fresh to the discussion....however...after reading how he's tried to do it....I'm of the opinion it's a load of rubbish.

That's merely my interpretation of it.