About a year ago or so, in the process of following links here and there from a comment made by a friend of mine on Facebook, I happened upon a blog post by someone who was either officially declared as, or was certainly self-confessedly on the road to being, a Former Mormon. The post was all about the events leading up to being summoned to a Church tribunal and the tribunal itself. There were descriptions of the process and suppositions about the motives and intentions of the men involved, but, laying those details and other forms of editorializing aside, the thing about the post that intrigued me the most was the anxiety suffered by the individual telling the story. Perhaps intrigued is the wrong word to use here because, truthfully, I was somewhat confused.
Now, it has been some time, as I said, since I read the post, so I can’t say for certain that the person actually claimed to be filled with trepidation, or fear or even any level of anxiety, but that is the feeling I came away with. Even before I started reading the comments from other Former Mormons who praised the individual for the bravery exhibited in telling those pompous old men to stick it where the sun don’t shine, I got the distinct impression that there were significant amounts of all three of those feelings present in the situation. One comment after another, after another remarked on the courage it takes to put those insufferable Mormons in their place. Many of the comments contained uncharitable if not downright vicious characterizations that kind of turned my stomach. It was not a pleasant place to hang out. Eventually, I just couldn’t bear the weight of all that anger and vitriol and I left. And here’s what I took with me: What bravery?
Here’s the thing; if you leave a community because you no longer feel any loyalty or consideration for its tenets or purpose, why should you care what those who remain followers might think of you and your feelings? If you think the puffed up self-important old men who are leading a self-important puffed up old institution are all a bunch of idiots, why should their opinions of your opinions hold any weight with you? Standing up to these people requires courage only if you fear them or what they can do to you. There’s no bravery in rejecting, castigating, reviling or condescending to persons or organizations you so clearly disdain. It’s not brave to walk into a dark room filled with ghosts if you are sure that ghosts do not exist.
And here’s what this has to do with art.
As previously mentioned, I’ve written two plays wherein divine figures appear on stage and speak outside the canon. The premier production of Brothers closed a couple months ago, and I just got back from a short run of Stones down in San Diego County. A friend, and fan of both plays, came up to me after our Provo preview of this latest version of Stones and said, “I’ve come to the conclusion that you are very brave.”
“I’ve seen Stones three times now, and it has just occurred to me what an outrageous thing it is to put Jesus on stage in a completely invented situation with completely invented dialogue.”
“Maybe I’m just stupid.”
He laughed. And graciously disagreed.
Creating art of any kind requires–I think–a kind of fearlessness. Being afraid of what might happen to me if I put Jesus on stage would only keep me from doing the right thing…as I see it. And I think putting Jesus on stage is the right thing to do. As a Latter-day Saint, I profess him to be at the center of my life. I think that means I have to put him in the center of my art as well…as often as I can.
And I don’t think that’s particularly brave.
The jury’s still out on stupid.