I went to see a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar last night. There are many things that have informed my Catholicism — you know, the Bible. Church services. My priest. Saint Books. Those Catholic picture books. Mariology. Ornate Cathedrals.
But especially, Jesus Christ Superstar. I would ride my bike down the sidewalk singing “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” My sisters and I did beanie baby throw shoes (in which you dance while throwing the beanie babies up in the air). I did productions of Jesus Christ Superstar with my paper dolls in an all-girl cast. I’ve talked about this before, but it was one Lent, after listening to Jesus Christ Superstar, that I realized Jesus’ pain relating to his death, even if it was willing. “Gethsemane” gave me a soundtrack to experience Holy Thursday and become better involved in my Church services. I would spend countless hours arranging spools of thread like the angels in Heaven and practicing “Heaven on Their Minds.” Listen Jesus to the warning I give…. Imagining the 39 lashes given to Jesus, marring his body is embodied through song. (The scenes with Pilate and the crowd gave me a very real depiction of hurt and anger, more than what I was getting in my stale Catholic school. But it made me pay attention in Church. The rituals during Lent and Holy Week became alive for me.)
Now that I reflect on my Catholic beliefs: low-Christology, political, melodramatic, belief in the real resurrection as when people remember — came from my religion, but it also came from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Now, when I hear Judas sing, “We are occupied, have you forgotten how put down we are?” I imagine the situation in Palestine and I get goosebumps. People forget that during Jesus’ life, Palestine was occupied. And people were pissed. There were groups of messiahs, if you will, who came to try to pull Palestine out from the yoke of the Romans. Sound familiar? There were groups of violent reformers, who were sick of being oppressed, so they led violent insurrections against Rome. There were groups of peaceful protesters. Most were killed. And Jesus, who was a Jew trying to reform his religion — Judaism — and who was a nonviolent reformer. This ticked people off because he didn’t take enouh direct action against Rome. As I’ve said before, Jesus was only able to be nonviolent because of the protection of the Romans. The people who tried violent uprisings were killed. It’s a different situation than Palestine today. At least, in Palestine back then, they were able to stay in their homes. It’s not exactly the protection of Israel that keeps people nonviolent. So it’s important to take notice of the violent uprising happening in Palestine today. If your water, food, and electricity had been cut off for months, what would you do? If you had been uprooted from your home, and memories of your life in Palestine had been erased, what would you do? If dogs were chowing down on corpses on Palestine, as my friend Amal Eqieq said, and here in the U.S. you can buy shi-shi food for your dog….. “We are occupied, have you forgotten how put down we are?”
The production of Jesus Christ Superstar last night was very Pacific Northwest. Judas was a white guy with a kilt and dreadlocks (imitating local anarchists, I’m thinking). (I didn’t really dig it, although he had a GREAT voice). What startled me was that two of the High Priest’s guards were wearing keffiyahs wrapped around their face. That means that WHO was holding Jesus at gunpoint but keffiyah-wearing so-called terrorists. Clash of Civilizations and blatant orientalism at its best. With the occupation of Palestine as real as Judas’ singing — and with the show’s penchant (and my town’s penchant) for revolutionary flavor, one would think that…maybe Judas, Jesus, and the apostles would wear the keffiyah? I would sign up to see that show.
(I still could close my eyes and just listen to the music).