One of my strange corners of musical interest is the musical, which horrifies Thers, but which connects me to a whole part of my life which I'm unwilling to give up. Recently, an old friend handed me a DVD of a play we did together in 1981 or so--Godspell. I had never actually seen the film, for various reasons, and was anxious to reconnect with the music. There was a road show in 2001, but they changed much of the instrumentation and some of the lyrics--obviously, useful for updating, but useless for nostalgia. They particularly fucked with my song, the torchy "Turn Back, O Man."
So the film was a treat, despite its obvious flaws. Victor Garber's Jew-fro is truly impressive, and the Chief from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? pops up as well. But it's dated--hoo boy! is it dated!--and I confess, it made me feel a little old (even though my Godspell was close to a decade later).
Around the same time, I encountered a film I'd heard a lot about, Jesus Camp. It's a genuinely disturbing film about "Kids on Fire," an evangelical camp for children in Nebraska. Ted Haggard makes a creepily prescient appearance--"I know what you did last night. Pay me five thousand dollars and I won't tell your wife."--but even creepier is when he slams this twelve year old preacher to the wall. "Do you think people listen to you because of your content, or because you're a kid? Maybe by the time you're thirty, you'll have good content." What a dick. I don't even think he realized what he said. And it's not disturbing to me because I fear the passion of these youngsters (as the lady preacher implies); it's disturbing because emotionally abusing children is disturbing. Making them weep and convincing them that they're going to hell because they read Harry Potter is no way to raise an informed populace.
A confession: I was one of these kids, for a while. In the late 1970's, Catholicism had a brief, uncomfortable marriage with evangelism. It was called the Charismatic Movement, and both Thers's folks and mine were involved in it. He doesn't discuss it much, but I know that I saw plenty of people speaking in tongues and "slain in the spirit" in those days. I've heard prophecies and seen them come true. Every Saturday night we went for about four hours of Mass and Fellowship and I got to see my cousins and run around and act stupid. I wore "Praise the Lord" t-shirts and performed liturgical dance.I went to a national conference at Notre Dame at which a guy named Larry Tomczak asked us (all kids) to give up our secular music for Jesus. He shuddered as he spoke to us about the dark days of his life, when he played in a British Invasion-style band and bought Jimi Hendrix records! I think that was about when they lost me.
Most Catholics involved in the Charismatic Movement either returned to the fold or went Protestant--we did the first, our cousins the second. My parents later became Catholic Workers and dropped out of society to build housing for the poor--they still encountered evangelicals, but they themselves were more interested in reforming the church.
But it got me thinking: do evangelicals like Godspell? I'll bet they don't. The Christ of the Counterculture is pretty different from the Lion of Judah. Compare:
Dig the WTC starting @ 3:48!
I tried to find a clip of the kids in desert camouflage singing for Jesus, but no one put that up.
Anyway, my point here is that there are all kinds of indoctrinations we can put our kids through, some more malignant than others. This Becky Fischer woman is clear that Christians need to do this, not because it's the right thing, but because Muslims do. It's a sick kind of one-downsman-ship. But Godspell, as goofy as it undoubtedly is, strikes me as pretty benign.