Superstar or Charlatan
January 20, 2003
Why would anyone who loves Jesus Christ be offended at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar? From the perspective of someone that has accepted Jesus’ free gift of salvation and understands what He went through for me in order to offer that gift, the question seems ludicrous. It should be obvious.
Webber and Rice focus on the week of Christ’s passion and tells us the story through the eyes of Judas Iscariot. Of course, he is the disciple that betrayed Jesus to the Pharisees. In and of itself, this is not an invalid approach. Certainly a story told from his perspective is an intriguing idea.
The reason I (as well as many other Christians) believe the musical is blasphemous is because of some other issues. Primarily, Rice completely ignores the Bible’s perspective. Even when looking at the story apart from Judas, he follows the approach that Jesus is just a man. The story ends with Jesus being just a man. The lesson taught through the musical is that Jesus is just a man.
Take for instance the issue of Jesus’ relationship to Mary Magdalene. Rice does not merely create a plot where Judas perceives that Jesus is having an inappropriate relationship with the female disciple, he actually makes the illicit affair truth. The former is bad enough. The latter is truly blasphemous and nothing in scripture gives credence to this idea.
There is the scene where Christ chases the moneychangers out of the Temple. According to the musical, Jesus loses control. Again, the musical does not intimate that Judas perceives Christ lost control. It accepts as fact that Jesus in a fit of rage attacks the men. More often than not, the plot agrees with Judas’ misperceptions. The biblical account shows that Christ was acting as God in chasing them out of the Temple. A God displaying righteous anger is not inconsistent with biblical teaching and should not be seen as “losing control.”
According to Rice, another event that drives Judas farther from Christ is a time when Jesus is surrounded by the suffering. In this scene, Jesus turns His back on them and demands to be left alone. Searching through scripture, you cannot find an account where this happened. There is one point where Jesus goes into the mountains to be alone while leaving the people behind. However, this was after some of his most incredible miracles and displays of love for the masses that followed.
Rice is also inconsistent with the Bible account when he makes the genesis of Judas’ betrayal his own fear that Jesus would cause unrest in the “mob.” The Bible clearly records that Judas was deceived by the Devil and it was that influence that led him to betray his teacher. The JCS plot contradicts this and has Judas being tricked by God into the betrayal.
Judas’ death is also inconsistent with the Bible account. This is one case (of several) in the musical where Judas’ motives as presented by Webber are in direct contradiction to the Bible. Judas did not go out in a fit of rage and hang himself. He did not kill himself because he regretted being a part of the conspiracy to create a martyr. According to the Bible, he killed himself because he could not live with what he had done. When the Devil finished with Judas, the betrayer became remorseful to the point of suicide.
Finally, JCS ends with Christ’s death. However, Christianity begins with Christ’s resurrection. Here is where we find the greatest conflict between the Bible and Rice's portrayal. Jesus was not just a man. Jesus is God. Those who see the Bible not as some concoction of religious fanatics but rather as the definitive record of Jesus’ life cannot help but be offended. Sure, we can recognize its popularity and any artistic facets of the production (Andrew Lloyd Webber is a genius in many ways), but all of this will be trumped by the slap in the face it gives to the true record.
Several letters to the editor have been written in The Greenville News about the production coming to Greenville. One appeared today. Mike Cubelo has also weighed in on the matter here on TCV. I certainly understand that they will not appreciate this article. To them, it will be just another example of some holier-than-thou fundamentalist saying that he is right and everyone else is wrong. What they need to understand is that the Bible only gives us one way to look at all of the issues I have broached. It is not my perspective of Jesus that Rice perverts—it is the Bible’s.
While I freely admit that I am often wrong on things, I cannot say that the Bible is wrong. When it comes to JCS, someone is wrong. It is either the Bible or Rice.