The occasion for this whine came yesterday when there was a front-page story about the local high school's selecting a young woman to play the part of Jesus in a production of "Godspell," a play I thoroughly enjoyed a hundred years ago when I saw it on Broadway or in Greenwich Village or wherever. So I wrote a letter which appears to have reached the dust bin once more. I kind of liked the letter, though, so here it is:
To the Editor:
It is a little hard to decipher why it should delight me so much, but I was tickled pink to think that Northampton High School had chosen a young woman for the role of Jesus in the upcoming theatrical reprise of the jolly "Godspell."
True, it rubs my fur the wrong way that religions through the centuries have been so unimaginatively and unremittingly patriarchal in composition. True, women have historically gotten the short end of the social stick. And true, I agree with comedian George Carlin's pointed observation that clearly God must be a man because no woman could ever have messed things up so badly.
But none of that or any of the other socially-righteous argumentation really factors into the delight I felt in the page one story that appeared March 11 in the Gazette. I loved "Godspell" when I saw it on Broadway a lot of years ago. It was a toe-tapper and a sing-along-er and, well, it was like a calliope -- who could vote against it?!
But more seriously, since I live in a Christian culture and feel it my responsibility to know something about the religious culture in which I live, my Zen Buddhist background has always made me feel somewhat sorry for the youthful insistences of the Christian religion. Why, for example, must Jesus be depicted as an impoverished 'white' man when, as the Los Angeles Times once reported, he was almost certainly a sinewy, brown, middle-class fellow who spoke three languages in order to pursue his business interests? Why must Jesus be boxed in in any way? Rich, poor; tall, short; male, female ... is the message changed by any of this when the adherent chooses a pay attention to it?
A female today, a male tomorrow ... ain't that "Godspell?"
You go girl!