The Associated Press recently announced that “The Book of Mormon,” a new Broadway production, took home nine Tony Awards. What interested me the most about this was their admission that it was “designed to gently mock Mormons….”
Imagine a script designed to “gently mock” Islam or their sacred book the Koran, or Christianity or their sacred book the Bible. The Middle East would be in flames, al-Qaida would grow, and President Barack Obama would travel abroad on bended knee delivering speeches of apology. How could Americans produce or support mocking them as entertainment and be so insensitive? Muslim factions, of which there are many, just like Christianity, would bind together to block and oppose the production. They would view such as an attack on all. Hopefully, Christians will do the same for their sister faith known more precisely as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Broadway production should bother all. The three authors are openly promoted for being crude, profane, and blasphemous. In fact, the lyrics of one song have to be constantly beeped for non-adult audiences and they take pride in “breaking barriers.” Apparently, “one of those bleeps now has the distinction of having been uttered from a Broadway stage for the first time in history.” This certainly makes me want to line-up as one of the first viewers as has Hillary Clinton (‘Book of Mormon’ Creators Now Pushing the Edge on Broadway, The Associated Press, 11June 2011, Mlive.com).
Not one of my many Christian Pastor friends emphasizes crudity, profanity, and blasphemy, emphasized in this production, as virtues. None believe that “every religion is rooted in myths” as do the authors. Not one of them advocates giving into humanly passions, as does this production, because they are hard to resist and it is unrealistic to ask people to just say no to them. Failure to do so is why we have pregnancy at 15.
The fact that one of the “Mormon Elders” is gay, and that a highlight of the play is the song “I Believe,” full of perversions of Mormon theology for hilarity, should be offensive to all. That this can be done to one denomination or religion shows that it can be done to all. The authors excuse themselves by saying. “We just try to keep it in the context of how we can treat each other right and laugh about it without being too offended about it.” But none of them are the least bit religious, as implied by their own admissions, and how can targeting a religion be seen as “treating each other right?” For them there is nothing sacred (Ibid). Upon acceptance of the awards Trey Parker said that he would be “remiss if he didn’t thank his late book co-writer—Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon religion. ‘You did it, Joseph! You got the Tony!’ Looking skyward and holding up his award (‘Book of Mormon’ Shines at Annual Tony Awards, Mark Kennedy AP Writer, The Bakersfield Californian, 13 June 2011 p.16).” Again, what if that name had been Mohammad or Christ?
The biggest irony of all, however, is that the people who create this kind of satirical expression who defend, trumpet or advocate diversity, inclusion and acceptance—largely the entertainment and intellectual industries—often show none of these qualities in their own productions. Instead, they demonstrate quite the opposite, and in this case, profit off the mockery of the sacred beliefs of others to fatten their bank accounts oblivious to who or what they may offend. They also, hypocritically, condemn capitalism and the free market while they do so.
Pease teaches history and political science at Taft College