Nontraditional Perceptions of Jesus Christ and Reactions

By Maryott, Beth | et Cetera, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Nontraditional Perceptions of Jesus Christ and Reactions


Maryott, Beth, et Cetera


There have been interesting reactions to nontraditional portrayals of Jesus. One of these took place in Union City, New Jersey. The Park Theater Performing Arts Center was about to begin their production of "The Passion Play" and they had chosen an African American actor to play the leading role of Jesus.

The theater thought that they were breaking new ground. Unfortunately there were many people who were very upset by the racial change from the former white actor portraying Jesus. The African American actor began to receive death threats, the theater received harassing phone calls, and it was reported that a patron even called in to the theater shouting that she did not want to see "that black thing." The theater lost an incredible amount of sales in tickets as many people and groups, including church organizations, began to cancel their ticket orders. This was the first time in the theater's 82 year history that they had to deal with a racial issue. Interestingly, the African American actor had played other roles in religious performances in the theater in the past. Past roles included Herod, the king who tried to have Jesus killed, and Lucifer. No one seemed to be upset with an African American actor playing these roles. It seems that people can accept an African American in a negative role more easily than in a positive sacred one ("Black Jesus" p. 12).

A second startling reaction to a nontraditional portrayal of Jesus Christ occurred in Manhattan in a theater production. The production, "Corpus Christi," involved a homosexual Jesus Christ. As one can imagine, this production caused a mix of emotions, hatred, and anger. Heated responses evolved as rumors began spreading that it was the story of a homosexual Jesus having sex with the Apostles. This production does involve Jesus having sexual relations with judas and officiating a homosexual wedding. After the theater began receiving death and bomb threats they had to install metal detectors and hire security guards ("Protesting" p. …

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