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"Book of Mormon" sweeps Tony Awards

Parody has always been part of the religious scene - I remember memorizing the words to "Vatican Rag" when it first came out, and thinking it terribly funny. Of course, at the time I was Catholic only by association and the good will of my Italian grandmother, who is reported to have baptized me in the sink because my parents had declined to have things done in the normal way. I suspect that many Catholics still feel uncomfortable with it.

Jews, on the other hand, have made an avocation of making fun of themselves and the challenges and foibles of their faith and history. Anti-Semitism, which is totally unacceptable, is not the same as Jewish Humor, of which there are countless volumes - on my shelf sit several compilations of Jewish folklore and humorous tales, including two lovely volumes of Röyte Pomerantsen in Yiddish.

Like unto the oak which is unable to bend with the winds, any religion that is too full of itself to be able to stand up to a bit of social pillorying is probably doomed to failure. That said, there is a fine line between parody for humor's sake and mean-spirited mockery. Everything I have read about this production by the creators of South Park leads me to believe that in look and feel, it's similar to the episode "All about Mormons." The takeaway is that it's not so much what you believe, but what religion leads you to do with your life that is important - and while I don't entirely agree with that viewpoint, it's not a bad message - it could be a lot worse. The South Park episode I mentioned ends with the following monologue by Gary:

"Maybe us Mormons do believe in crazy stories that make absolutely no sense, and maybe Joseph Smith did make it all up. But I have a great life and a great family, and I have the Book of Mormon to thank for that. The truth is, I don't care if Joseph Smith made it all up, because what the Church teaches now is loving your family, being nice and helping people. And even though people in this town might think that's stupid, I still choose to believe in it. All I ever did was try to be your friend, Stan, but you're so high and mighty you couldn't look past my religion and just be my friend back. You've got a lot of growing up to do, buddy. Suck my balls."

I think the musical would have been taken up a notch on the respect scale if they hadn't used so much gratuitous vulgarity. The critics are calling it "irreverent, profane and funny" - I think Parker and Stone could have done better by leaving out the profane part, which seems to add little to the overall mix - but that's just my two penn'orth.

As for the Church itself, the official response was short and to the point:

"The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."

Of this, Parker and Stone said, "We actually completely agree with [the statement]. The Mormon church's response to this musical is almost like our Q.E.D. at the end of it. That's a cool, American response to a ribbing — a big musical that's done in their name. Before the church responded, a lot of people would ask us, 'Are you afraid of what the church would say?' And Trey and I were like, 'They're going to be cool.' And they were like, 'No, they're not. There are going to be protests.' And we were like, 'Nope, they're going to be cool.' We weren't that surprised by the church's response. We had faith in them."

Like Gary, I'm grateful for the Church and the Book of Mormon. I've never read a volume that is full of more advice on how to live a good life and experience joy by raising the human condition, based on the example and teachings of Christ. It's made a huge difference in my life, and in the end that's more important than a few folks getting a laugh at our expense. Who knows, they might even learn something along the way.

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Jun. 14th, 2011 05:58 pm (UTC)
I just wish they'd given the musical a less confusing name.


The Old Wolf

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