Superstar

Mom and I went to see Jesus Christ Superstar back in November. I love the music from this show. I remember back in Middle School, when I got my first iPod, this Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtrack was the first one I downloaded.

The history of the show is interesting. It was Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s second biblical adaptation (the first being Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.) They were inspired by the Bob Dylan song “With God on Our Side,” in which Dylan asks, “You’ll have to decide/Whether Judas Iscariot/Had God on his side.” The famed song writing duo set out to write a series of songs about Judas Iscariot’s perspective on the crucifixion of Christ. They released it as a concept album. The popularity of the recording, however, propelled it to the stage, with churches producing it as a play long before it made its Broadway debut. When it did arrive in New York, it was an absolute disaster, which Lloyd Webber described to the Washington Post as “The worst night of [his] life.” Religious groups and denominations tore the story apart. Some objected to the sympathy for Judas. Others objected to the implications Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus. But the loudest critics were angered at the fact that the play ends with Christ’s death and not the resurrection. (You can read more of the shows history here.)

Despite it’s storied history, the play has endured. NBC produced a televised version for Easter in 2018, and the Broadway cast just finished the shows 40thanniversary tour. And this anniversary production was really well done.

But the most curious observation came to me after the show was over. After the curtain call, the Buell theater erupted into chaos. As soon as the play ended, people grabbed their things and started pushing and shoving their way out of the theater.

I turned to Mom and said, “It’s amazing how people can watch a 90 minute show about Jesus, and then elbow their neighbor to get out of the row first.”

Perhaps the controversy surrounding Jesus Christ Superstar reveals the real problem with religion in modern times: we are so caught up arguing over the details—What happened to Judas? Was Mary in love with Jesus? Did the resurrection really happen?—that we miss the entire message of the gospel.

Christ repeatedly challenged his followers to accept the outcasts, free the captives, feed the hungry, serve the poor, challenge the societal limitations, and put others first. When we strip the gospels down, it’s a challenge for those who accept it to live differently. Yet sometimes we leave Christ at church. When the show is over and the lights come up, it’s easy to think church is just one specific story told one specific way, instead of taking those lessons out with us every day.

So may that be the challenge to us as Christians everyday: to internalize the story and live like Christ. May we not squabble with or criticize others, but may we be the ones who accept outcasts, free captives, feed the hungry, serve the poor, challenge the societal norms, and put others first. May the world know what we believe, because we live differently.

Zach Herzog

*Join us in praying the Daily Texts.

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