Monday, February 13, 2017

Book of Mormon...a review

Last night, Pam and I attended a Broadway show written by the same crew that gives us South Park. So, when you read what follows, it is entirely fair for you to make the observation, "So, what did you expect, Rogers and Hammerstein??" 

Before launching into my review of Book of Mormon, I should say that I'm the sort of guy who gives comedians and satirists a wide berth in the pursuit of their craft. After all, I'm a huge fan of Mel Brooks, and as such am accustomed to foul language, heeping portions of crudeness, sexual innuendo and irreverent humor. And further more, as a Christian, I am used to Hollywood types vilifying my faith. So, why did I find Book of Mormon so disturbing? That's another fair question.

First of all, I should say that I did enjoy parts of the show. In places, the writing was clever and witty. The music was good and the singing was nice too. Some of the dance numbers were beautifully done. The plot centers around a couple of fresh from the missionary training center 19 year old elders who have just been given their two year mission assignment...to Uganda. Of course, they are ill-prepared for such an undertaking, since the star elder wanted Orlando instead! We are treated to a funny summary of Mormon theology, and introduced to the obligatory latent gay elder all in the first ten minutes. So far, so good. Then our heros land in their Ugandan village, and it's time for the writers to shock us with a rousing number which features the repeated phrase, "F**K you, God!!", complete with the locals giving the Almighty the finger.

Ok, I believe it safe to say that this is essentially the textbook definition of blasphemy, so as a Christian, it placed me in an uncomfortable position. All in good fun, I'm sure, but several thoughts began swimming around in my head. One of them was, ummm, why am I here? But then I scolded myself, "lighten up dude...it's Hollywood."

From there it only got worse. The sacrament of Baptism was sent up as a sex act, to very nervous laughter from the crowd. By the time the natives put on their summary of Mormon theology, complete with giant Phallic symbols and simulated sex acts, all put to a snappy tune, it had gotten sort of ridiculous.

Along the way, my Lord and Savior made a couple appearances, and although he was dressed in a super cool electric robe, whenever he opened his mouth to speak, he did so with a sissified lisp. Injury? Meet insult. I remember thinking how I will probably never live to see the day when the Prophet Muhammad gets this sort of blasphemous treatment. Hollywood types do this to Christians because they know that the most grief they will catch is a tepid review from some insignificant blogger like me, while some angered Muslims might respond with a wellplaced suicide bomb.

So, back to the excellent question of Why was I there? Well, Pam got a Groupon with a sweet discount, for one thing. Secondly, we love shows! It's Valentines Day week. We thought it would be different...fun. My son had seen it and thought  it was hilarious and well done, although he warned me that it was highly offensive in places. I saw pictures of friends on Facebook who had just seen it and had proclaimed it funny but crude etc...

Here's the thing. If I was forced to use just one word to describe this show it would be...vulgar. Since that word isn't used much anymore, let me offer the Webster definition..."making explicit and offensive references to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude; characteristic of the masses." While I'm at it, perhaps a quick refresher on the word blasphemy is in order..."the act or offense of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; profane talk."

Christianity is a religion that doesn't require a lot from its practitioners, with all that grace and forgiveness business. But, I'm old fashioned enough to believe that there are some things I shouldn't do. I probably shouldn't be a drug dealer for example, probably shouldn't make my living running guns or selling women into the sex trade, or become a Yankees fan. And maybe, just maybe, I probably shouldn't pay money to see shows like Book of Mormon. As I sat there in my cramped seat, with six other human beings within two feet of my face, I couldn't help think about the many missionaries I know and love. I thought about the sacrifices they all made to attempt to enrich the lives of people in Africa, Asia, and South America. They didn't just go there to notch converts on their belt, but to help bring clean drinking water to communities who had none, to provide medical care to people hundreds of miles from a doctor. They worked for decades in brutal conditions without complaint because of a calling to serve the least of these. To see their life's work denigrated for cheap laughs was a bit painful. But so was the essential message of Book of Mormon which was, religion is merely a collection of metaphors that offers nothing of value to hurting people, and what's wrong with making stuff up as long as it makes people feel good about themselves?

So, my opinion of Book of Mormon is this...if you are not a person of faith, you will probably enjoy it. If you are, I'm not sure how it is possible that you could.