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Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Offensive play at Mossley Mill

An offensive play is due to take at The Theatre at the Mill. It is entitled: "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)". See here

Here is the text of a letter sent to the Theatre Manager outlining our objections:
The Minister, Session and congregation of Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church wish to register in the strongest terms the grave offence that is caused to us by The Theatre at the Mill hosting the production entitled: "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)".

This particular production mocks the Bible which is the eternal Word of the living God. It also lifts up to ridicule, derision and scorn that which we hold in reverence. What makes this production even more offensive is that it is a parody of the truth contained in the Bible. To poke fun at that which we hold in high esteem and regard is grieving to us all and we believe also to many other evangelical Christians in other denominations. To mock that which others have respect and admiration for is the conduct of a playground bully or on this occasion the theatrical bully.


The trailer for this production, which you presently have up on your website, contains sketches from this production that openly mock the ten commandments generally, and in particular scorns the commandment which forbids adultery. It also makes mocking reference to the virgin birth of the Saviour and in particular makes Joseph, who was espoused to the virgin Mary, an object of ridicule for believing Mary's story. No doubt the fuller version is in the same vein. This is grossly offensive!

We believe in the uprightness of the ten commandments and necessity of the virgin birth of Christ. Without God's moral law society sinks into a moral quagmire. Without a virgin birth there would be no Saviour as He would have been tainted with sin, like us all and in need of being saved Himself.

This trailer on your website also slights those Christians who are of a fundamentalist persuasion. It contains the line: "The Reduced Shakespeare Company puts the fun into fundamentalism". This is patently derogatory to Christians who find their joy in the Lord and who, unlike others, do not mock and laugh at sin. The Bible reminds us that: "fools make a mock at sin", Proverbs 14:9. Those who have a part in this production may find in these things something to crudely laugh at but evangelical Christians find it extremely hurtful that such a production is put on by The Theatre in the Mill.

We request that you cancel this production so as not to cause any further offence to a sizable section of the residents of this Borough. We do believe that a similar production treating the Koran, or some other religion's holy book, in a similar way, would never be hosted by you as it would be so obviously offensive. Yet you think that the Bible can be treated in this disrespectful fashion and be uniquely singled out for special derogatory treatment.

This is not fair and equal treatment. We believe you have a duty to treat religious views with respect and not permit on your premises that which openly mock and ridicules the sincere and deeply held beliefs of a sizable number of Borough residents.

We intend making our opposition to this play known to Council members and asking them to justify permitting such an offensive production to be hosted on Council premises.


Yours Sincerely


Rev Brian McClung
Minister


The following email was also sent to all the Councillors on Newtownabbey Borough Council with the exception of the two Sinn Fein members.

Dear Mayor, Councillors & Chief Executive,

The Minister, Session and congregation of Newtownabbey Free Presbyterian Church wish to register in the strongest terms the grave offence that is caused to us by The Theatre at the Mill hosting the production entitled: "The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)" and by Newtownabbey Borough Council permitting this production to be staged on their premises. 

This particular production mocks the Bible and lifts up to ridicule, derision and scorn that which we hold in reverence. What makes this production even more offensive is that it is a parody of the truth contained in the Bible. To poke fun at that which we hold in high esteem and regard is grieving to us all and we believe also to many other evangelical Christians in other denominations in the wider Borough. To mock that which others have respect and admiration for is the conduct of a playground bully or on this occasion the theatrical bully. 

The trailer for this production, which is presently posted on The Theatre at the Mill's website, contains sketches from this production that mock the ten commandments generally and in particular scorns the commandment which forbids adultery. It also makes mocking reference to the virgin birth of the Saviour and in particular makes Joseph, who was espoused to the virgin Mary, an object of ridicule for 'believing Mary's story'. No doubt the fuller version is in the same vein. This is grossly offensive! 

We believe in the uprightness of the ten commandments and necessity of the virgin birth of Christ. Without God's moral law society sinks into a moral quagmire. Without a virgin birth there would be no Saviour as He would have been tainted with sin like us all and in need of being saved Himself.  

This trailer on the website also slights those Christians who are of a fundamentalist persuasion. It contains the line: "The Reduced Shakespeare Company puts the fun into fundamentalism". This is patently derogatory to Christians who find their joy in the Lord and who, unlike others, do not mock and laugh at sin. The Bible reminds us that: "fools make a mock at sin", Proverbs 14:9. Those who have a part in this production may find in these things something to crudely laugh at but evangelical Christians find it extremely hurtful that such a production is put on by The Theatre in the Mill and that the Council permits their facilities to be used to this end. 

We request that you use your influence and position to cancel this production so as not to cause any further offence to a sizable section of the residents of this Borough. We do believe that a similar production treating the Koran, or some other religion's holy book, in a similar way, would never be hosted by you, as it would be so obviously offensive. Yet some evidently think that the Bible can be treated in this disrespectful fashion and be uniquely singled out for special derogatory treatment. 

This is not fair and equal treatment. We believe the Council have a duty to treat residents of the Borough with equal respect and not to permit that on their premises that which openly mock and ridicules the sincere and deeply held beliefs of a sizable number of Borough residents.  

We have also corresponded with Mr Bernard Clarkson, Theatre Manager, outlining our objections to him.

Yours Sincerely
Brian McClung

10 comments:

Jim Kirk said...

According to the bible God gave us free will and part of that allow us to "blaspheme" as you put it. What is more offensive, taking the piss out of the Ten Commandments as they were interpreted in a mistranslated book or trying to remove peoples free will a gift from your so called god, perhaps his greatest gift? Clearly, you pick and choose that which suits your agenda.

Anonymous said...

I see you "Comment can be made on all articles uploaded. I believe in civil free speech." Yet you do not afford this luxury to others.

If you are so offended then don't go to the show instead of imposing your wish on the rest of society.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Reply to Jim Kirk and the Anonymous individual who have posted comments

You both fail to place any emphasis upon the word 'civil' in the phrase 'civil free speech' included as part of the statement some of you quote regarding commenting on this site. There are limits to what can be said on this Blog and there are limits to what can be said on Google Blogs generally.

This illustrates the points that I wish to make very well. There are limits/boundaries to all of human conduct, be that speech or actions. No one has a license to do as they please. Free speech is never a license to say what you want. For example you cannot slander or libel someone as was illustrated a little while ago with regards to Twitter. To argue that free speech gives you license is just plain silly! That is an argument for chaos and anarchy in society and is not characteristic of a civilised society. Even in today's society, which is quickly throwing off God's law and replacing it with man's law, there are still considerable limits to what a person can say or do. That is why we have the 'rule of law'. The whole concept of 'government' be it civil or church government comes from the Bible. That is why nations who embraced Protestantism in the past because renown as nations where the rule of law was practiced.

When I use the term 'civil free speech' I mean the 'right of reply'. But as I go on to say this right of reply has its limits as well. The comment section has the following words included: Needless to say inappropriate comments of any kind will not be tolerated. I reserve the right to refuse to upload comments I believe are inappropriate or off topic. I believe that someone has the right to disagree and there are welcome to do so but in a civilised manner. I don't accept that anyone has the right to mock and ridicule in the fashion this production does with Bible truth.

There are therefore limits to all that we have liberty do. That may greatly annoy some people but that is the mark of civilised society. Hence there are slander and libel laws and still in Northern Ireland a blasphemy law that governs what we are permitted to say.

I would imagine that if a fundamentalist preacher had booked the Theatre at the Mill and was going to denounce sodomy you would be the first to be up in arms at such a proposition. Yet it's okay to mock the Bible. Why is this? It comes down to the age old vociferous hatred that there is in the heart of man for Bible truth. As Romans 8:7 teaches: Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. The natural heart would rather mock the Bible than believe the Bible!

The question is whether we want society to be governed by God's law or man's law? I make no apology for wanting God's law to be reflected in civil law. This was how it had been some centuries ago from the time of the Protestant Reformation. Sadly many present day legislators want to throw off God's law and replace it man's law. This we will discover, to our cost, is not profitable. Those who hold public office most definitely have a duty to uphold public morals.

Neither is man's free will a license to blaspheme as one of you foolishly assert. While it is true that man has a free will, in that he is free to act according to the disposition of his nature, God has commanded what we can and cannot do as outlined for us in the summary of the Moral law known as the ten commandments.

Therefore I am exceeding glad that this offensive play has been cancelled and I see no conflict in lobbying for to be cancelled while maintaining a commitment to 'civilised free speech'

Brian McClung

Fergal Pettigrew said...

And Rev McClung, you do NOT have the right to do as YOU please even when you are acting within your own powers. As an elected representative you are to be a wise custodian of the ratepayers' money not a moral guardian. If you and a small number of fellow councillors have appointed yourselves to this imagined position then this is an abuse of power. The economic issue of costing the Borough money by cancelling this show is a further abuse of power. As for your claim that this show is offensive to the word of God then what has taken offence? A book? Or is it that you are so insecure in your own faith that any challenge to it no matter how harmless or good spirited presents you with questions that you cannot answer? Due to your efforts to address the points made by other posters I would never go to you for any reliable spiritual guidance. Furthermore, I would never pander to your overblown sensitivities. In fact I find them fatuous. I look forward to your response.

Rev Brian McClung said...

Fergal

Are you one of the previous anonymous source of comments on this subject? You evidently don't live in Newtownabbey or maybe even in Northern Ireland. If you do then you certainly haven't been following the story very closely. I am not a councillor. I never have been and have no intentions of ever being. I am a minister of the Gospel which I count to be the highest calling of all!

You seem also to be an expert in the powers of councillors! However, your reasoning is flawed. Those who are elected to public office are most certainly moral guardians, from the Prime Minister downwards to the local councillor. They make moral judgments all the time, even when they are deciding what to spend public money on. These quite often involve moral judgments! Judgements which elected representatives make according to their 'moral compass', to employ a term used by the previous British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. There is certainly a sliding scale of importance in these matters. Whether it is the Prime Minister and cabinet deciding to take a nation to war or the lowly councillor deciding whether to allow or oppose a play in their area, these are most definitely moral judgements by our elected moral guardians. We all make moral judgments every day. To use Bible language: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he, Proverbs 23:7. It is the principles that we believe in that influence the choices in life we make. Have Bible principles and we will make God honouring choices. Have some other set of principles and we will chose that which is contrary to God.

There are many times when I disagree with the direction that elected representatives take the country. On this occasion I am absolutely delighted that they have listed to the views of Christians and cancelled this production. Not that it was very popular anyway. According to reports only 19% of tickets had been sold. It's not that people were queuing up to see it!

Restrictions exists in every walk of life. There are limits to what we can do and say in existence all the time. Whose rule do we follow? God's or man's? I believe we should follow God's law. Where do we draw the line? I believe that which, by this production company own admission, purports to make comedy out of serious subjects over steps the mark. Therefore I am perfectly within my rights to lobby against and make known my opposition to that which I and many others find offensive. Thankfully we still have in elected office those who have some regard for the Bible. Long may it continue!

Interestingly, it isn't only fundamentalist Christians who have expressed their annoyance at this production but Roman Catholics as well. I have had correspondence from two such individuals supporting what has been said in opposition to this. I know of other Roman Catholics who have also voiced their opposition to local councillors.

As to coming to me for spiritual guidance I wouldn't advise anyone to do that. I am just a foolish sinner like everyone else! My advice is to go to the Bible, which is the eternal Word of the Living God. In the Bible you will find all the advice you need. Here's some selections that come to mind for you to ponder:
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour, Proverbs 14:9.
Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 2 Peter 3:3.
How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts, Jude 18.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Romans 6:23.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil, Ecclesiastes 12:13,14.

Brian McClung

John Montgomery said...

I commend all those who have stood up against this disgraceful and highly offensive play which was created with the sole purpose of making a mockery of our Christian Faith.

I have openly stated my opposition to this play on various social network sites on the basis that I find it insulting, offensive, provocative and wholly insensitive to the feelings of Christians. In doing so I have been absolutely appalled at the response I have got in which I, along with others who oppose such blasphemy and ridicule, have been hounded with a torrent of abuse and labelled as being 'bigots' and such like, simply for voicing opposition.

As Rev McClung has stated, those who intend to show this play wouldn't dare direct such mockery towards other faiths, and so the same respect should be shown to the Christian faith.

I have also noted that the producers have openly stated recently that the play doesn't mock the Bible, but is a 'celebration' of the Bible. To openly state such a thing is both misleading and false when we look at the trailer for the play, in which it is clear to all that mockery and ridicule are the basis for this play, not 'celebration' as has been stated.

Again I would like to commend all, including Rev McClung, for standing up for Christians on this matter.

Finally, my Brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. - Ephesians 6;10

Johanne Brøsted said...

I'm wondering if you have actually seen the play, since you are so opposed to it?

I have - more than once - and can attest, that it does NOT mock Christianity, nor does it offend. It covers the best known stories/tales in both Testaments, and while humourous, never in a nasty way. It in no way upset me, but actually inspired me to pick up my Bible again, and study it.

I see no problem with introducing religion with a certain amount of humour, when it is done sensibly, which I certainly would say it is here.

In the word of the Danish poet Piet Hein:

Taking fun
as simply fun
and earnestness
in earnest
shows how thoroughly
thou none
of the two
discernest.


And before you ask: I am a practising Protestant Christian (Lutheran Evangelical - Church of Denmark, if you will), who has served two 4 year terms in my local parish council.

Yours sincerly

Johanne Brøsted

Rev Brian McClung said...

Johanne

No, I haven't seen the play nor do I intend to grieve my soul by sitting through it. I did force myself to watch the trailer that was to be found on the Theatre's website. That was sufficient to tell me the tone of this production. The old adage about not having to drink poison to know it's poison comes to mind. You only have to read the label! Well 'reading the label' of this production is sufficient to tell me that it is offensive.

If this play doesn't mock Christianity as you assert, can you then explain why it pokes fun at the ten commandments and particularly at the commandment forbidding adultery? Why would this particular commandment be singled out for special attention. Is adultery a funny subject? When marriage vows are violated; a husband or wife treated most wickedly; a home riven with guilt and recrimination and children distraught, is this funny? Is this something to laugh at? When there is a wilful disobeying of God and a pulling apart that which God has joined together [Mark 10:9] and a breaking of solemnly made wedding vows is this something to laugh at and find funny? Is unfaithfulness something to find funny?

If you find this type of thing acceptable and an object for laughter then you are a different type of a Christian to what I am. I don't find anything funny about any of the issues surrounding adultery.

Nor do I think does God finds it funny. He sent his Son to die on the cross for the sins of adultery among His people so that He might save them from eternal destruction. I don't find that funny.

We can have a good guess as to why the commandment on adultery is singled out. It appeals to the baser sinfully depraved instincts of human nature. It will certainly be sure to get a laugh from the audience. However, the Bible has a name for people who find this type of subject something to laugh at. In the book of Jude they are called 'filthy dreamers'.

Do you also find it acceptable that aspersions are cast upon Joseph suggesting that he was a little gullible to 'believe Mary's story'. Joseph was a most honourable man in the Scriptures. I don't find casting aspersions on someone's character like him a subject for laughter. Again if you do then you are a different type of a Christian to what I am. I find the Bible says that fools mock at sin and I don't want either to be a fool or to be in the company of fools.

Brian McClung

Johanne Brøsted said...

Dear Rev. McClung.

I think you are very right in your assement, that we are VERY different types of Christians. You seem to be of the 'Hellfire and Brimstone' persuasion, whereas I consider God my fair and forgiving Father, who knows I am but human.

As for condemning a play you haven't seen but two tiny bits of, I can only compare it to a child saying 'I don't like vegetables', when all they've tasted is Brussel sprouts.

What you don't know, when you haven't seen the play, is that any satirisation of religion has NOTHING to do with the faith, but EVERYTHING to do with what mankind has twisted that faith into. It brings up valid points about ALL the faiths that base themselves in the Old and New Testaments.

While I agree that marriage as an institution should be taken seriously, I will also always say, that the day we no longer have the ability to laugh at ourselves is the day we should shuffle off the mortal coil. And that is really the whole point of the show: to laugh at ourselves, and what we at times have made of the Great Book, not at the Book itself.

I respect that you don't feel the same way - Faith is a personal and subjective thing - but do hope that you at some point will challenge yourself to try new things. In the meantime, please have faith that your congregation can make up their own minds about what they want to see. (I do realise that it wasn't you personally, who took the play off, but the letter you wrote must have influenced the council).

Yours sincerly

Johanne Brøsted



Rev Brian McClung said...

Johanne

The difference between the taste of vegetables and this offensive play is that all vegetables don't taste the same and this play is all about turning the Bible into a comedy. There's no comparison!

By their own admission The Reduced Shakespeare Company takes "long, serious subjects and reduce them to short, sharp comedies". The dictionary's definition of a 'comedy' is something that "consists of jokes and satirical sketches, intended to make an audience laugh". The same dictionary's definition of a satire is: the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticise people's stupidity or vices. I think we have good reason to oppose it and call for it to be cancelled.

Furthermore I note that you haven't answered the questions I posed about why you personally, as a professing christian and one who has attended this production, finds the topic of adultery a suitable and acceptable subject for comedy. I'll repeat the questions again for you:
If this play doesn't mock Christianity as you assert, can you then explain why it pokes fun at the ten commandments and particularly at the commandment forbidding adultery? Why would this particular commandment be singled out for special attention. Is adultery a funny subject? When marriage vows are violated; a husband or wife treated most wickedly; a home riven with guilt and recrimination and children distraught, is this funny? Is this something to laugh at? When there is a wilful disobeying of God and a pulling apart that which God has joined together [Mark 10:9] and a breaking of solemnly made wedding vows is this something to laugh at and find funny? Is unfaithfulness something to find funny?

The issue has nothing to do with personal faith. It is not a subjective issue merely down to personal choice. The Bible clearly states that fools make a mock at sin, Proverbs 14:9. Now what should we do? Act the fool and/or condone the fool? Or point out that the Scriptures and subjects like adultery and the virgin birth are not suitable topics for comedy and mockery. The BIble alone is our standard for faith and practice. I believe the Bible requires us to do the later irrespective of personal faith or opinion.

Brian McClung