I was raised going to church. I used to love hearing my grandfather, a Presbyterian minister, preach about the connections between Christianity and social justice. It did so much to shape the way I move through the world and interact with those around me. That said, while those memories are very precious to me, and while I still carry with me the values and messages I was taught, I no longer consider myself to be a religious person. I appreciate the good it brings to many lives and the comfort it is often able to provide, but it is not something that is necessary for me to live my life in a way that would make my grandfather proud. So what, then, draws me to this play?
One of the dangers I see in organized religion is the tendency to accept information unquestioningly. Blind faith in whichever theism or mythology to which you may subscribe can easily lead to cultural misunderstanding and righteous violence. Rather than take this well-known story at face value, Stephen Adly Guirgis puts it, quite literally, on trial. He examines these people not as concrete, unchanging, historical figures, but as characters in a story told by unreliable narrators. He examines and challenges possible motives, regional politics, the roles of mental illness and manipulation, diverse religious philosophies, and the contradiction of having a God that is at once all-forgiving and unmercifully righteous. And what I appreciate most about this play is that it does all of this while still leaving room for hope.
In Guirgis’s own words, “It’s not about joining a team or a church or choosing sides or learning a prayer. It’s not about man-made concepts of good and evil. It’s not about doing ‘enough’ or ‘too little.’ It’s not about shame and guilt. It’s about You. It’s about the collective Us. Thomas Merton said, ‘To be a saint is to be myself.’ What if that were true? What is it that we need to overcome in order to truly be ‘Ourselves’? I won’t pretend at all that this play answers that question, but if it provokes the question in you, then please let it. Ponder it. Because we need you.”
Leslie Halverson, Director