Would anything be more diabolical than picturing Mitt Romney starring in an episode of South Park? No disrespect – honestly – but there is no greater irony than labeling The Book of Mormon a religious satire.
Religion and I are old chums. I understand, get the point, was raised in it and agree with a number – though certainly not all — of the core philosophical principles. Thou shalt not kill makes sense, though after 9/11, 13 years of Iraq and Afghani war, televised beheadings, school massacres, gang-related shootings, police-versus-criminal face offs, too many burgers and chicken tenders, perhaps I have become naive. Lying, stealing, swearing, selfishness, gluttony, venial sins and mortal sins – generally, I understand the roles these play, too. I would add hypocrisy, selfishness and duplicity to a faith-based pleasedon’t- do-docket, but nevertheless, people, including so-called pious people, make a mockery of religion every day.
The Book of Mormon, playing at our beloved Adrienne Arsht Center from Dec. 2- 14, elevates contempt to sort of a summit, somewhere close to heaven. This is surely what Trey Parker and Matt Stone must have been dreaming about when, along with Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, they immaculately conceived this musical. Honing in on specifically peculiar and admirable American traits which we all recognize and love – enthusiasm, determination and cheesy salesmanship – the authors show how men on a mission may be a bit oblivious when it comes to reality. But never mind — it’s just a lightweight Broadway musical that gently pokes fun at divine human behavior. Gently!
Deep down inside, everyone knows how goodhearted, white religious people help Africa. It’s some sort of bottomless, selfless DNA that only missionaries possess. If you want proof, just ask them! But, just as Carly Simon sang Nobody Does It Better, anyone who has ever watched South Park knows that nobody does it better, more crudely, more sarcastically, more sardonically or more profanely than Parker and Stone. It is their special gift.
The utter lunacy that plagues 21st Century humans with increasing frequency may seem to make no sense. Neither does much of what we believe at our core. Historically, we had to suspend belief to imagine Charlton Heston parting the sea as Moses in The Ten Commandments. Then Jesus Christ Superstar features a rock opera, Archie Bunker is born, South Park comes along, President Bush is called a moron, President Obama christened a Communist with no mercy and now The Book of Mormon. Obviously, irreverence is the new reverence.
The Book of Mormon is not Things Fall Apart. It is not really real.
But given the reality that exists these days, if we want the planet to become paradise, we sorely need the kind of miracles only a Broadway musical can provide. The 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey victory over the Soviet Union made famous the quote, “Do you believe in miracles?” To me, the creation, existence and flourishing of the Adrienne Arsht Center is a miracle. Evangelicals as a source of mirth on Broadway – what could be a more appropriate symbol of a miracle today. Joseph Smith was the Mormon Prophet of God. For us, a plastic surgeon is a prophet. Irony? Same thing, different day.
Carl Rachelson is a teacher at Palmer Trinity School and a regular contributor to the Pinecrest Tribune. He may be contacted by addressing email to email@example.com.