By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The decision by a Texas college to stage a play portraying Jesus as the “King of Queens” a week before Easter has sparked a firestorm of outrage.
Fox News is reporting that Tartleton State University in Stephenville, Texas is allowing its students to perform Terrence McNally’s 1998 play, Corpus Christi, this Saturday. The play depicts Jesus as a homosexual who performs a same-sex wedding for two of his apostles and is riddled with blasphemies such as portraying St. Joseph as an alcoholic wife beater.
However, Stephenville residents were so furious when they learned the play was planned for the day before Passion Sunday, they pressured the university to call it off. As of this writing, school authorities have only agreed to move the play ahead by eight hours, giving it an 8:00 a.m. start time, in an effort to appease the public.
“It infuriates me that somebody would be given a platform to be able to demean and degrade the Son of God,” said David Harris, pastor of the town’s Hillcrest Church of Christ. “I’m angry about it and every Christian should be.”
Harris, a popular local radio host, said phones were ringing off the hook in objection to the play.
The student behind the production is John Jordan Otte, 26, who produced the play as a class project. In a written statement, Otte said he chose the play to “bring people together” and help gain acceptance for gay Christians, who he said often feel alienated from their churches.
“It is being said often that this play is a direct attack on Christians — their faith and their deity. It simply is not true,” said Otte, who claims to be a devout Christian.
“I am not attacking anyone in choosing this play. I want people to see and understand another side to faith. I want us all to know that unconditional love means just that – unconditional – and I believe tolerance is a key message in this play. None of us, not one of us, should ever feel alone or separated from God or whomever we believe in.”
Many of the students interviewed by Fox think the controversy is “ridiculous” and say it offers an important lesson in “tolerance.”
Not surprisingly, the university is framing it as a “free speech” issue. “Legally we have to protect the student’s First Amendment right,” said Liza Benedict, associate vice president of marketing and communications.
Catholic League president Bill Donohue sees it much differently.
“There are three things wrong about this event: (a) the play is hate speech directed at Christians and is far more than just a “gay Jesus” play (b) it is being shown at a state university, and (c) it is being performed on the eve of Palm Sunday,” he said in a recent statement.
He also pointed out that Tarleton is funded by the taxpayers, most of whom are Christians. “That they should have to underwrite hate speech against their religion, on the brink of Holy Week, is not an accident—it is a deliberate act of provocation. No doubt this same university would put aside free speech concerns if students wanted to erect a nativity scene on campus, or sing ‘Ave Maria’ at a university event. They only seem to invoke academic freedom when it suits their ideological agenda.
“It’s up to the employees and students at Tarleton State to register a protest. Texas taxpayers, and Texas lawmakers who appropriate funds to the university, also have a right to have their voice heard.”
Contact Tarleton president F. Dominic Dottavio at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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