This post has been brewing since I visited New York at the beginning of August and saw the hit musical “Book of Mormon” on Broadway. The theater was packed, the music and dancing were great, and I laughed at the raunchy irreverent humor.
But I didn’t tweet or blog about seeing this musical because something bothered me. Since when is it polite to make fun of someone’s religion? I told several friends that if this play had been about the Jews or the Blacks, it would have been protested out of town. And can you imagine if it had been about the Muslims? Oh vey!!
I was embarrassed to have been entertained at the expense of someone else’s religion. I thought about my Mormon friends, and just couldn’t put my thoughts and feelings into words. Until now. Two things help me come to grips with my discomfort. First, I learned of the ads that the LDS Church is putting into the Playbill for the Los Angeles run of Book of Mormon. “You’ve seen the play,” says one, “now read the book.” Another says, “The book is always better.” What a great way to take the high road, and to show off their sense of humor.
Second, was Bret Stephens’ opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal titled “Muslims, Mormons, and Liberals.” Hopefully that link will work. I know the WSJ has a pay wall, but I think everyone can read a few of the editorials without paying.
Mr. Stephen’s point is that the current state of political correctness makes it okay to make fun of one religion (i.e. Mormonism) but not another (i.e. Islam.) I won’t belabor the political points Mr. Stephens makes, but here in America we have freedom of speech that allows all of us to be insensitive and rude about any topic we choose. To curb those rights is downright un-American. And the response of the LDS Church to the raunchy Book of Mormon musical is a fine example of how civilized people behave.
Bottom line is, yes, I support freedom of speech. Yes, I’m embarrassed to have been entertained at the expense of others. And yes, I think that blaming the anti-American violence on a 15-minute YouTube video is incredibly naive. Maybe we should blame the perpetrators of the violence instead.
Mari Passananti says
You got tickets while at blogher?! So jealous!
Theater is art, and I see no reason to be squeamish about art that also works as religious (or political, for that matter) commentary. I love that modern playwrights can still, in our somewhat squeamish society, push the envelope and enjoy commercial success.
Yes, Mari, I bought the tickets in February! I had really missed seeing a show when I went to BlogHer ’10 in NYC, so I made sure I didn’t make the same mistake twice. Thanks for reminder that art is art, and not “real life.”