The Caleb Foundation is a lobby group which seeks to represent the views of Evangelical Christians across Northern Ireland.
We welcomed the cancellation of the production ‘The Bible: the Complete Word of God’ by the Reduced Shakespeare Company, in response to concerns expressed by and to Councillors in Newtownabbey, and are greatly disappointed that this decision has now been reversed.
From reports in the press and information on the RSC’s own website, it seems clear that much of the material in the play could very well cause offence to Christians, both in Newtownabbey and across Northern Ireland. We feel sure that other religions and their holy books would not be treated with ridicule in this way, nor indeed would other groups on grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability etc, but Christians and the Bible appear to be fair game in today’s “tolerant” society.
Billed as a ‘Celebration of the Bible’, the play seems intended rather to make fun of the Bible and could have the effect of undermining the seriousness with which its message might be treated. Christians are certainly not without an appropriate sense of humour, for we can often smile at some of our own eccentricities or even those associated with churches. But poking fun at God, the Bible or Christ Himself is of an entirely different order, and should surely be avoided as a matter of simple respect.
Some saw the original decision of Newtownabbey Borough Council as censorship, but since in the world of cinema we have the rulings if the BBFC, and even the BBC has a ‘watershed’, why should it be thought strange that a line should also be drawn as far as productions in the theatre are concerned? Christians are not opposed to culture, but to treat the Christian faith with disrespect – as this production seems to do – would do the Arts inNorthern Irelandno credit whatsoever.
Philip Campbell (Rev)