A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about Kathy Griffin’s anti-Christian remarks:
“Artists” lately define good art as anything that offends the mainstream, so taking cheap shots at Christianity is an easy choice. We see it all the time — urine laced crucifixes, a dung-covered Mary, a naked chocolate Jesus, so on and so forth.
Just out of curiosity: what do you think the backlash will be for this remark? Will outraged Christians write letters calling for Kathy Griffin’s head? Will we see protests and rioting from those enraged in the name of Christ? Will members of her show step forward to make clear that they don’t support her remarks, as they surely would had she insulted a “protected” minority?
Somehow, I doubt it.
Let’s just pretend for a second. Let’s pretend we removed the name “Jesus” from her lovely little speech and let’s insert the name “Mohammad”.
Now let’s imagine what the response would be. Griffin would be chastised as a bigot. CAIR would be calling for public apologies and tolerance seminars, and I’m sure we’d see Muslims rioting and calling for much more than a public apology.
So why go for something like that? It’s so much easier to take a pot shot at Christians. They won’t fight back.
Well, color me surprised, but some Christians are actually taking a stand.
The Miracle Theatre in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee made headlines a few days ago when they took out a full-page ad in USA Today criticizing Griffin’s remarks:
We are the actors, singers, dancers, crew and managers of The Miracle Theater in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. We are proud to stand on stage every night and use our God-given talents to portray the life and the love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We, along with thousands of other Christians in the entertainment industry, know our talents do come from God, and we take offense when His name is battered and bruised by people through the media.
Over 2,000 years ago, Jesus was mocked and few stood up for Him. We at The Miracle Theater consider it an honor to stand for Jesus today. We may never win a national award. We may never be household names. We may never be seen in Hollywood. Although others may choose to use their national platform to slander our God, we are honored as professional entertainers to stand for Christ.
They’ve also created a petition with the lofty goal of one million signatures, asking Christians to say enough is enough and stand firm against religious slander, bias, and bigotry.
I decided to speak to one of the players of the Miracle Theatre, Daniel Stargel, about the petition and the ad, and why the theatre decided to stand up against Griffin’s remarks.
Cassy Fiano: Daniel, thanks for speaking with me today. Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
Daniel Stargel: I’m from Central Florida and have lived there most of my life. I grew up going to church and Sunday school, listening to the stories. For me, it was the thing to do. My parents did it, my friends did it. As I got a little older I started understanding more of what the stories meant, and that they weren’t just stories. I personally made a decision to become a follower of Jesus when I was in high school. I’m in no way saying I am perfect. I admit that sometimes my own mistakes and indifference is contrary to what I believe. I studied vocal music in college, and found I had a bit of a knack for it. I worked for a time at a Christian ministry in Orlando, using my talents and sharing my faith there before auditioning and being hired to come to Pigeon Forge and work at the Miracle.
CF: What is the Miracle Theatre and what do you do there?
DS: Our show is a two and a half hour passion type drama starting with the Creation, the falling of Lucifer from heaven, finishing with the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. It is a Biblical take on the battle between good and evil. I am one of two guys who alternates portraying Jesus in the show.
CF: What was your response, as a Christian, to Kathy Griffin’s remarks?
DS: Let me first say that this is not about Kathy. She made comments, and yes, I was offended by those comments. I wasn’t watching it live, but when I heard it I thought, “What did she say?” She started by poking fun at people accepting awards and flippantly thanking Jesus, but then to come to the conclusion that that is Jesus’ fault? And then to address Him in such an offensive way was unsettling. It really is just a small picture of what is going on with a lot of thinking in our culture. That nothing is sacred, and there is this kind of selective tolerance. The stress here is not about a particular comedian, but it’s about a culture. There should be a mutual tolerance. There’s a lot of talk about the need for tolerance, but it’s rarely practiced. True tolerance is based on respect, and you should respect other people’s viewpoints.
CF: Tell me about the ad in USA Today.
DS: It’s a full page ad informing people of the comments made and a response directed to America. It has a picture of our cast and a statement of what we are standing for. The ad was our way to say in the same scope that the other’s comments were made that we believe in Jesus. It’s not directed at any one person in particular… We see ourselves as people in need of mercy and forgiveness as much as others and we wanted to stand up for people of faith everywhere, and say that there is a line of respect that should not be crossed. This is not an attack against Kathy or her jokes. This is making a statement in favor of Jesus on the same national scope that the comments in question were made. I mean, is it more appropriate to defend a comedian I like than defend a religious ideal I sincerely believe in? It is also a stand in our culture to say that there are things that are held sacred and shouldn’t be the object of ridicule. It is a matter of respect and I firmly believe that people that hear of this and read this can identify the lack of respect shown. It’s also not only a stand for Christianity, but for other faiths as well. People of faiths should not be ashamed of what they believe in.
CF: Whose decision was it to run the ad?
DS: It was the decision of our cast, crew, management, the theater as a whole. The Christian community doesn’t have the opportunities many times to state our beliefs and stand for them on this level. Unfortunately, we have to pay to get a voice on a national level. It’s funny because some people have called us extremists. We really are just a group of normal people who are in the entertainment industry and who share common beliefs in Jesus and our need for Him.
CF: And whose idea was the petition? Who will the petition be sent to?
DS: There were those who wanted to join us in the statement we were making. By starting a petition, it allows us to invite others around the country to stand with us and communicate to Hollywood and other medias that there are things in our culture that should be respected and held sacred. How long do you remain silent before you stand up to be heard? How bad does it have to get? Unfortunately, we had to take out an ad to be heard on a national level because our viewpoint isn’t one stated in the media a lot. Anyone who is interested in joining with us can go to www.miracletheater.com and follow the links. There is also a copy of the first ad there as well!
CF: Do you feel it is overly judgemental to criticize Kathy Griffin’s remarks?
DS: We are not judging her, we are disagreeing with her. A lot of papers are saying that we are irate and mad. If so, we must be the happiest people on earth. Of course we wish the comments had not been made, but it has opened up dialogue. We do not hate her, we are not judging her, condemning her, or anything like that. We know that as people we also make mistakes, and we are doing this to take a positive stand for what we believe in: that we believe in Jesus and that there are things that should be treated as sacred in our culture.
CF: Do you think that Christians are just being too sensitive over a joke?
DS: If someone went in front of a national audience and said something demeaning to your mom, dad, grandma whoever, would you not be offended? We are saying that we are offended by statements that were made, not about a close family member, but someone we look to in faith and we are standing up for those beliefs. Again, aren’t there things in our culture to be held in high esteem?
CF: What would you say to those who that she was just exercizing her free speech?
DS: Of course she was. The discussion is not about what someone can say, it is about what someone should say. Not one of us is asking for censorship or to limit anyone’s freedoms. Those involve governments and rules. We are exercizing our same right to free speech so why would we want to limit those rights? Not everything should be said though. There are those things that are sacred and worth respecting. We want our culture to know that we believe in Jesus and that people of all faiths would appreciate a second thought by Hollywood and the media before they dishonor our beliefs.
CF: What would you say that your end gain is?
DS: To have this discussion. First off to let people know that as a group of entertainers, we believe in Jesus and the hope and love He has shown each one of us. On a small scale we hope that people are encouraged to speak out respectfully for what they believe and make a difference in their sphere of influence. And ultimately we want Hollywood and our world to know that people of faith want our beliefs treated with respect in the public forum. There used to be a time in our culture when you used to not say offensive things out of mutual respect. Now in our culture it is ok to say and do offensive things. We are making this stand for Jesus, because we believe in Him, and we acknowledge our own need of Him in our lives, but we’re also making the stand to bring back a sense of decorum into our culture, and respect for other people’s beliefs.
I personally feel that Daniel’s remarks were dead-on. As I said, just because you can say something does not mean you should. It’s always funny how liberals bleat about the need for tolerance, but revel in their lack of tolerance for things that regular Americans across the country hold sacred, like Christianity. It’s refreshing to see a group of people stand up for their beliefs in such a respectful, civil way.