Colson: I got confirmed (and not in a Catholic way)
My spousal unit and I just spent a quick weekend in San Francisco in honor of our wedding anniversary. (I won’t divulge which one — it’d be somewhat embarrassing, given our societal insistence on staying forever young.)
While there, we caught an evening at the theatre (that’s with an “re” at the end, meant to connote the stage rather than the big screen), where we saw the road show of “The Book of Mormon,” written by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, creator of the play “Avenue Q.”
What a hoot!
I can’t say enough in the way of superlatives (not to mention a few “expletives deleted” in keeping with the theme of the production), and I highly recommend it to any and all interested in gaining a further understanding of the human condition.
Or, lacking any such interest, anyone who wants a good laugh at the expense of organized religion of any kind definitely should see this one.
The story, in a nutshell (and that applies in many more ways than one), is that of a group of Mormon missionaries in Africa, where they are supposed to convert a village of hard-core, rather wacky natives who are all too aware of the ironies and inconsistencies inherent in missionary theology of any kind.
The villagers are beset by the suppressive tendencies of a local warlord and his vicious band of thugs and are highly motivated to join up with just about anyone who might protect the village from said warlord — with the possible exception of a bunch of know-nothing missionaries who clearly do not understand Africa or Africans.
Of course, there is a high potential for conflict between the “old” missionaries (who have been in-country for a while and have failed miserably to achieve a single baptism) and the newcomers, freshly minted from a training academy in Salt Lake City, full of idealistic fervor tinged with a not-inconsiderable internal load of skepticism and sarcastic wit.
Now, one of the pair of newcomers (missionaries always travel in pairs) is a gung-ho type who always has been at the top of the class in every endeavor.
The other, naturally, always has been typed as a bottom-rung kind of guy. He’s sharp as a tack and riotously funny in an inbred sort of way but is suffering from low self-esteem and a hero-worship for the gung-ho guy that borders on — well, let’s just say the feelings would not have been out of place in, say, the Castro District of San Francisco.
Given the play’s provenance, it can’t be surprising that there is almost nothing “normal” in how the story unfolds, and I won’t descend to the role of spoiler by admitting that my jaw hurt from laughing by the time it was over or to the philosophical hangover from the experience.
First of all, the play has solidified my already substantial opinion that organized religion has been a con game perpetrated throughout history by the sharpest Homo sapiens in the neighborhood, any neighborhood, as a way of consolidating power, wealth and influence in the hands of a chosen few.
The play also has underscored my other understanding of that mysterious mindset known generally as spirituality (as opposed to the more organized, almost militaristic notion called “religion”).
Spirituality, as I perceive it, is one human mind’s way of rationalizing the wondrously varied, often cruel and never dull parade of life as we know it.
I don’t know what God is, but I have the vague impression that there’s more to life than we ever get to know while we’re living out our time in the here and now. I also believe and hope that at some point we may get to see and understand more of the big picture we’re all a part of.
Beyond that, and particularly along the paths of humanity’s organized religions, I will not go — and that pretty much covers it.
In a marvelously inventive, allegorical kind of way, the play reinforced my point of view and left me feeling a little less reproachful, if not quite sympathetic, toward whoever it was who first came up with the idea of religion as a way to gain wealth, fame and power.
Given our necessarily egocentric approach to the world around us, I guess it was inevitable that the smarter individuals among us would realize that God was one thing no one could fact-check and that a charismatic dude or dudette (in those relatively rare matriarchal societies) could pretty much get away with almost anything under the guise of “faith.”
As long as those charismatic individuals were more interested in the betterment of the human condition than in their own self-aggrandizement, everything was fine. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before self-interest overrode social welfare, the churches and their hierarchies started getting rich and here we are, laughing at our own simple-mindedness.
Go see “The Book of Mormon” if you get a chance — or even half a chance.
It is worth it.
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