Thursday, January 20, 2005


The massive protests against BBC2's decision to show Jerry Springer - The Opera on late night TV, especially from Christian groups, raises a mass of questions about faith and culture. The show, which is a stage production that transferred from the fringe to London's West End last year, portrays the sad world of the legendary chat show host's guests. The humour is in combining high art music with 'trailer trash' stories, humour and bad language.

At the end of the first half, Springer is shot by someone who is furious about the humiliation inflicted on one of his guests. In the second half, hallucinating on the brink of death, he imagines the "greatest ever Jerry Springer show" in hell, where biblical figures (including God, the devil, Jesus, mary and Adam and Eve) have a stand up row about whose fault it is that the world is in such a mess. Springer's conclusion is that "there's no right and wrong, everything is holy": a larger parody of his actually "be good to yourselves and each other" closing remarks.

Christian groups have said that the show is obscene and blasphemous, though many of the protests have come from people who have not seen it or refuse to watch it. Ironically, a number of Christians have been involved in the production, and they take a very different view.

A sympathetic review of the issues the show raises is contained in Simon Barrow's article, Jerry Springer - A Post-Christendom Opera? He points to the cultural gulf between many Christians and those who work in the media and entertainment business, the difficulties of handling religious offence, and the theological questions about what Christians are witnessing to in an age where dominant Christian assumptions no longer reign.

Ekklesia's Jonathan Bartley also says that Christians have missed the opportunity for a serious discussion about the meaning of the Gospel by getting hung up about bad language and portrayals of God and Jesus which dissent from cherished Christian understandings. We can't control what others say about us, he says. But we can make a positive contribution ourselves.

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