Monday, March 05, 2007

The Pope and the Witch

The first I'm hearing of this production (by a Nobel prize winning playwright, Daniel Fo), and the stir it's causing at the University of Minnesota.

The story is something along the lines of the Pope being really ill and only being able to be cured by a voodoo-practicing witch, and something else about how evil the Church's teachings on birth control and abortion are. That "Tomb of Christ" stuff is mild compared to this. At least there's a long history of disputing the central claim of Christianity, the Resurrection. This is different ... it just seems vile.

Now I haven't read the play or seen the production (that would involve being in freezing Minnesota!). I've read summaries of it online, mainly from Catholic voices critical of it. I am, it would seem, supposed to keep an open mind about stuff that is not just satirical, or critical, but downright slanderous to the faith. Being seen to be open minded is one of the highest virtues, it would seem. God forbid that one is thought of as having a closed mind! (Unless it be a mind closed to Christ and his Church) But anyway, it really doesn't seem to be something that I would be inclined to see or read. If I were at UMN I probably would have, just to see what it was about.

(Incidentally the CSPs are in charge of the Newman Center at UMN. Cant find anything on their website about this)

What's really been fascinating is the nature of the Catholic protest. Amy has a great roundup, and I encourage y'all to go read all the links.

What Catholics have been doing is praying. And singing. That's it. No screaming or jeering or threats of violence (well, that just doesn't happen in American Catholicism. Or in Indian Catholicism as well, from what I've seen.) -- just chanting and singing. (Generally I never feel comfortable with the, "oh this is offensive to me" course of action. Offensive is such a subjective word. And, puh-lease, one can't go through life without being offended by something or someone. There's a whole separate issue about whether taxpayers' dollars should support this or not. I tend to be on the side of freedom of expression, no matter how offensive it might be to some. As long, of course, as everyone is fair game. Which is never the case. Any plays out there casting the Prophet as a pedophile? Anyway.) Here's Mary at Veritatis Splendor (formerly the Roaming Roman!)
So, that's almost more scary to me - what we saw was the typical cultural hatred and condescension towards any show of Christian belief. What we saw was the typical cultural openness to anything that criticizes the same belief, and therefore sees productions like the "Pope and the Witch" as perfectly acceptable ways to broaden our cultural vision and understanding. What we saw was a lot of people who were like sheep going to the wolves, ready and willing in the name of "freedom" to be formed in whatever truths their entertainers saw fit to present to them.
And Amy, as always, nails it.
Aside from the public funding issue and the policy of respect towards various views or positions including "religion" (which is central here)...all of that aside, people have the right to write, produce and go view what they want. But those who feel that the piece is damaging in some way also have the right to make their views known, and the various bloggers cited above seem to be putting it exactly right, saying in essence, we are here to let you know that this is not who we are. This is a misrepresentation. Satirize away, but know that the Catholic faith is not about this, and we're here to show you what it is about. It seems to me a sounder and more productive, evangelistic, love and other-centered angle than simply saying "that's offensive to me. So stop it."
(Oh, and do read this excellent post - a review of the play -and the comments that follow! Wow, people actually do believe such things about Catholics! I find it hard to believe that anyone would talk like this about, say, African animists, or the beliefs of Hindus, at least not openly. It proves the point all too well.)


Renegade Eye said...

Catholic spokespeople have refused dialog. A forum was planned for that reason.

I agree the catholic reaction wasn't the same as the Islamists, still the right to satirize religion without repercusion, must be protected.

Gashwin said...

Thanks for stopping by Renegade.

Without repurcussion? One should be able to slander someone else's beliefs (not the same as actual debate or discussion or dialogue) and those whose religion is being slandered should grin and bear it?

If by repurcussion you meant "violence" then yes. But surely in a free society, those who feel they are being misrepresented have a right to air that view, or organize a prayer vigil, or streak through the square or what have you, as long as it doesn't result in a disturbance of the peace and harm to persons or property!

In this case, in spite of protests by UMN alumni and others, the play went ahead --- that's a free society for you!

Freedom, it would seem, sometimes might mean, "We can criticize Christianity, because it is so patenly absurd/evil/backward/in the way of progress and Christians should shut up. If they don't, it's just another sign of their Fascist Theocracy."

I have no idea about the forum you mentioned. I'm too far from the scene to really comment on that.

But someone's freedom to criticize me or my religion or anything else definitely does not mean that I do not have the freedom to respond.

And we're not even talking about the wholse separate issue of the use of public funds.