Other Wind
04 / February04 / February04 / February

Anti

I picked up a Daily Beacon yesterday while waiting for David on campus and read these articles:

Controversial play sparks protests
Powerful play earns praise

Of course I’m not surprised that “church-goers” don’t like the play, but what kind of effect did they want their protest to have? The people going to this play are probably not the kind of people who will stop doing something just because some people they perceive as street preachers tell them to. Most people on campus and in Knoxville probably fit into one of the following camps on this issue:

1. We hate homosexuality and deplore the portrayal of Jesus and his disciples as gay men. Such trash is an abomination. (Or, as one of the protesters stated, “I don’t wanna see nothin’ that says God’s gay.”)

2. We welcome all unorthodox viewpoints and seek out events that are “outside the box.”

3. We are gay and/or have gay friends and would like to see the Gospel story told through a homosexual lens that is relevant to us.

4. We aren’t interested in seeing the play but understand that people have a right to create, perform, and/or watch it.

So, I don’t think that the protesters changed anyone’s mind about the play. They just added fuel to the notion that conservative Knoxville “church-goers” are fearful reactionaries who want to control (by shouting “sin” or by banning) the types of experiences that other Knoxvillians (i.e. potential “church-goers”) are able to access.*

I think that claiming the play is not really about homosexuality, however, is a cop out. That’s like saying “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” is not really about race. From the description, the play sounds to me like a reworking of the story or “cultural myth” of the Gospel—a reworking that aims to explore barriers that gays face today by casting them in the already familiar and beloved light of the trials Christ faced in his own time. That’s probably what really irks the protesters—that people dare to treat the Gospel as “material” that can be reworked. The fact that this reworking is homosexually themed just gives them even more to worry about.

*In my opinion, many protests have similar off-putting effects. For instance, I often wonder what type of success the protesters of the World Trade Organization seek. Perhaps they only seek to rally themselves and those likely to agree with their cause, but I think they may actually turn many people off with their aggressiveness and push their cause even further into the fringe. Some people perceive them as idealist hooligan hippies who judge and want to radically change the way our cozy lives work. While I agree that we should make changes, I don’t think presenting the cause in a light that radicalizes it and passes judgment on our entire culture and all who benefit from our culture’s wealth will advance any large scale change.

During the Civil Rights Movement, protesters didn’t act belligerent. (At least, the early ones didn’t, or at least I don’t think they did.) They used the power of their peaceful and often joyful presence (singing spirituals, etc.) to shine a light on their cause. They came across as brave ones, people removing shackles, trying to right a wrong without hate and violence (on their part, at least). Eventually, many who were formerly apathetic began to agree with them and even support their cause. The protests during the Civil Rights Movement actually changed the way (non-protesting) people thought. I think this claim is true even if I take into account that a large shift in the country’s attitude didn’t really begin until sympathetic white college students began experiencing the dangers associated with the cause.

Protests against the Vietnam War didn’t “work” until large numbers of Americans began to grow tired and fearful of the War for other reasons. Before that (and probably after), many people saw the War protesters as lazy cowards. The “anti” attitude caused mainstream Americans to shut ears to whatever sense the protesters may have been making. Also, protesters who attack fur-wearers with cans of red paint accomplish nothing but acts of aggression and hate. If they really want to stop people from wearing fur, they should try to show people why loving animals for more than just the warmth and status of fur is worthwhile. I don’t think they really want to change these people. They are comfortable disliking these people just like the Corpus Christi protesters are comfortable disliking gays. They have formed a club and work hard to shout out so all will know which club that is.

I don’t think protest is useless. I just think its main value comes from the consolidation and energy it gives to its participants, who may go on to bring about change through other means. There are women who stand outside one of the Federal buildings downtown everyday. They wear black and hold signs. They don’t yell. They stand for peace in Israel. I think they exemplify what protest does accomplish. Many passersby don’t give them second looks, but these women still stand every day. They stand. Doing so has made them solid and has probably given people suffering in Israel a small hope—some small reinforcement—in the knowledge that friends are out there standing for them.