The dramatic portrayal of the historical events leading up to Christ’s crucifixion are referred to as the Passion. For centuries Passion Plays such as the ones in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and the ancient one in Oberammergau, Germany, have been performed around the world using Bible times costumes and backgrounds.
This year on Palm Sunday, the Fox network aired a live musical Passion Play in the modern day city of New Orleans, using contemporary costumes and pop music. Tyler Perry provided narration to bridge the musical numbers and to explain, in simple terms, the series of events being portrayed.
I watched a recording of this program on Easter with my sons, my daughter-in-law and her family. For some of us, the use of the pop music with its secular lyrics was jarring. We felt it trivialized this precious story from history, but when discussing it later with my daughter-in-law, she made me realize this production wasn’t meant for Christians already steeped in the truth and meaning of these events. The program was aimed at a culture all too unfamiliar with Christ and the Bible. It was a palatable introduction which hoped to become a gateway to the truth.
Newly born-again Christians are nourished on the milk of the Gospel before they are ready to digest more mature fare. This contemporary Passion story which felt emotional and shallow to me, was meant for the non-believer, to be a sweet sample of what Christ has to offer.
In order to evangelize, or even to serve one another, we must meet people where they are. Although this Fox production of the Passion story didn’t speak to me, it wasn’t trying to. The faces on the live crowds in New Orleans showed how very well it spoke to them.