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Jesus in Guantanamo
by The Ovi Team
2008-04-12 09:26:55
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If Jesus Christ returned to Earth today, would He get through US immigration? After all, Jesus is a bearded, Middle-Eastern man, who wants to die as a religious martyr. And he has just walked out of a cave.

This is the premise behind Jesus: The Guantanamo Years – a one-man comedy show – which entered the iTunes Top 10 Comedy Chart * in Italy, Sweden, Holland, Ireland, Finland, Belgium, Denmark and Japan.

The debut from Dublin comedian Abie Philbin Bowman, the live version of Jesus: The Guantanamo Years proved a sell-out hit at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Helped by an iconic poster (featuring Jesus in an orange jumpsuit), the show’s overnight success was reported by over 20 media outlets, with The Scotsman dubbing Abie "the face of this years' [Edinburgh] Fringe".

Following its triumph at Edinburgh, Jesus: The Guantanamo Years sold-out throughout Ireland and travelled to London's West End. The show's American debut was delayed, ironically, because of a hold-up at US immigration. When it finally arrived, the show played to rapturous audiences. “One evening, we had seven Protestant ministers laughing in the front row,” Abie recalls. “I’m glad they enjoyed the show. It would have been pretty ironic if they crucified me.”

In November 2007, Jesus: The Guantanamo Years represented Ireland at the World Performing Arts Festival in Pakistan. The script was changed to include references to the country's unfolding political crisis, making Abie the only Irish comedian “stupid enough” to perform a religious, political satire in a Muslim nation, under a state of emergency.

Abie attributes the show’s success to its irreverent take on an important subject. "Guantanamo Bay is like a maximum security prison designed by Kentucky Fried Chicken: it has tiny wiremesh cages, soulless uniforms and teenage staff with no other career options.” The Irishman is eager to dismiss charges of blasphemy: "Guantanamo Bay is totally unchristian. I'm not a religious expert, but I'm pretty sure that telling jokes about God is not as blasphemous as torturing His children.”

"Way beyond superficial religious satire... Absorbing, intricately woven, challenging and highly entertaining." - TimeOut

"The greatest stand-up story ever told… Funny, thoughtful, impassioned…Abie Philbin Bowman deserves a comic sainthood." - The Stage

“A rising star on the Irish stand-up scene” - Time


* N.B. This chart is updated in real time and is subject to change. As of April 8th, 2008, Jesus: The Guantanamo Years was in the Top 10 Comedy Albums in all the countries listed above.)

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Emanuel Paparella2008-04-12 10:57:28
Carl Jung’s break with Freud occurred soon after he had an irreverent and blasphemous thought about God defecating on a Cathedral. And then of course there is Nietzsche who imagines a madman shouting “God is dead” not to mention that other prophet, Dostoyevsky, who in the Brothers Karamozov depicts Jesus returning to earth, being apprehended, jailed and interrogated there by the Grand Inquisitor. So is in very good company among psychologists, philosophers and novelists. However, what may indeed be the most scandalous depiction of all is the scene depicted by Michelangelo on the wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. There we see Christ not as a bearded man wanting to be a martyr in Palestine and walking out of a cave but as a naked Apollo with an upheld hand judging the world at the end times. We know that some cardinals were very upset about such an irreverent depiction since one of them is in fact depicted by Michelangelo being dragged by a devil into hell. When the cardinal complained to the Pope, the Pope’s reply was: if he had placed you in Purgatory I could have done something but in hell I have no authority. (continued below)

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-12 11:03:08
It would appear that the Pope understood a bit better, beyond caricature and blasphemy the theology that Michelangelo was explaining with that irreverent depiction; and it was this: there is the horizontal immanent Jesus of Nazareth within time, and then there is the vertical transcendent Christ the Word (the second person of the Trinity) from the beginning with God through which all that there is was created, who incarnates himself at a certain time, a certain place, a certain people and wears a beard in Palestine. Like a cross, the two interesect at one point and become one, but they need to be distinguished theologically or we risk reducing the Jesus of Palestine to a mere ironical tool for every conceivable caricature. That stance is just as shallow as that of the fundamentalists vis a vis the Bible.
(continued below).

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-12 11:04:16
As John Haught has aptly rendered it in his recent book titled God and the New Atheism: “I must confess that it has been disappointing for me to have witnessed the recent surge of interest in atheism. It’s not that my own livelihood, that of a theologian, is at stake—although the authors in question would fervently wish that it were so. Nor is it that the treatment of religion in these tracts consists mostly of breezy over-generalizations that leave out almost everything that theologians would want to highlight in their own contemporary discussion of God. Rather, the new atheism is simply unchallenging theologically. Its engagement with theology lies at about the same level of reflection on faith that one can find in contemporary creationist and fundamentalist literature.” For a more thorough explanation of this comment on contemporary atheism see this site:


Emanuel Paparella2008-04-12 15:09:53
To complete John Haught's thought above:

"Clearly the new atheists’ strategy is to suppress in effect any significant theological voices that might wish to join in conversation with them. As a result of this exclusion, the intellectual quality of their atheism is unnecessarily diminished. Their understanding of religious faith remains consistently at the same unscholarly level as the unreflective, superstitious, and literalist religiosity of those they criticize. Even though the new atheists reject the God of creationists, fundamentalists, terrorists, and “intelligent design” (ID) advocates, it is not without interest that they have decided to debate with these extremists rather than with any major theologians."

Emanuel Paparella2008-04-12 23:19:27
And finally by the same Haught:

"Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, recently stated that "the crisis of the much-needed global responsibility is in principle due to the fact that we have lost the certainty that the Universe . . . has a definite meaning and follows a definite purpose." If we lose our trust that the cosmos is at heart an expression of a transcending significance, I would hasten to agree, our ethical aspiration will quite likely wither and die. The ideals that guide the moral behavior of all of us, including that of contemporary skeptics, were traditionally refined in the context of religious trust. The cult of compassion, justice, humility, gratitude, the avoidance of greed, and love of one's enemies—virtues that we still idealize—emerged in our earthly human history only in conjunction with the convictions of most of our ancestors that the good (along with truth and beauty) is eternally grounded in a transcendent reality.

Today we need to sustain their sense of the ultimate grounding of our ideals in a purposeful universe. With the assistance of thinkers such as Polanyi, Teilhard and Whitehead I think we can do so in a way that not only embraces the discoveries of science but also uses these as a springboard toward formulating a vibrant new sense of an ultimately meaningful universe."

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