So it was with thoughts of how the church relates to the homosexual community fresh in my mind that I went to the Indy Fringe Fest. “The mission of IndyFringe is to provide an accessible, affordable outlet that draws diverse elements of the community together and inspires creative experiences through the arts.” That sounds almost like a good definition of what the church should be about.

Though Testaclese & Ye Sack of Rome had some appeal, a friend and I opted to see the one man show, Remember Who Made You.

Indianapolis actor Jeffrey Barnes portrays multiple characters in this original piece dealing with the issues surrounding homosexuality and Christianity. Audiences praise his ability to touch hearts and challenge minds.

Remember Who Made You is a five act monologue, tied together by the opening song “What Shall I Do?” The lyrics of the song set the tone for the whole piece, lamenting how the character was raised in the church, feared that he would be spurned by it, and didn’t trust the church. So he’s stuck in the unenviable position of wanting to be a Christian but Christianity seeming to not want him. Jeffrey Barnes slips into each of his chosen characters easily enough (and I say characters, because I came into this fully expecting to see caricatures).

Mild spoilers ahead.

Act I: A pastor agonizes over trying to remain faithful to the teachings of Scripture, while trying to live out the teachings of Christ to love. The accuracy of the character, and the fairness of his portrayal struck a chord with me, and showed a serious attempt at understanding this perspective. Act II: A high school student–struggling with the burgeoning realization that he’s gay–attends a church camp where an argument breaks out over whether or not homosexuals were destined for hell. He agonizes over his own self-hatred and his desire to be “normal”, while praying to be “changed.” Act III: A father goes to confession, fretting over the possibility that his son may be gay. His strong reaction to him first discovering that his son may be gay scares him. He even wishes that his son had never been born rather than be queer, but not for the reasons one might assume. Though he wants his son to be the son any father would want, he fears more that his son might kill himself due to how he will be treated. Act IV: A flaming character–accepted by his parents, goes to a progressive church, secure in his homosexuality–deals with a closeted friend who attended a conservative church. It strikes him as funny that since we’re all sinful, that God would treat one group of sinners different from another group of sinners. His friend eventually goes to a gay rehabilitation center and becomes cured. (I feared that this act was going to be the one to veer into preachiness). Now this character wants to know more about their center. Act V: Jesus. Okay, this Jesus was a little swishier than I would have imagined, and I could do some theological nit-picking over the line “the same God that created me created you.” However, the main point made was that people were to look at what he had to say (“the important stuff, in the red text”): love one another. And when in doubt, remember who made you.

Shalom (end spoilers).

The performance wrapped up with the song “Remember Who Made You,” to make sure that you got the point of the message. “We’ve got to speak out when there’s injustice, we’ve got to protest inequality.” We are to “welcome anyone who’s different,” because we remember who made us. Okay, my gut reaction was that this play was as subtle as that Star Trek episode featuring two warring aliens: one with the right half of his face painted black and the left white and the other alien with the right half of his face painted white and the left black. That being said, the play was simple but effective, stopping well short of being preachy or propaganda (like I said, I went into this with some preconceived notions). A little heavy handed at times, the play was basically designed to spur conversation; and in that, it succeeds nicely. Obviously some characters and situations may strike more resonant chords than others.

It’s a shame that I have to give my (conservative) credentials before I can speak on this topic, even in the relatively safe context of doing a review. It’s like I have to reassure some folks that I both understand the Bible and love it. Sadly, I know that I will get some criticism for “supporting their agenda”, whatever that means; and for that matter, my credentials will likewise cause others to prejudge me. The thing I want people to wrestle with is how much truth there was in the stories. Can you imagine this: the place that preaches love and acceptance despising you for who you are? Church should be that one safe place, a haven and shelter, where we can all go to as the broken people that we are. Churches are spiritual hospitals, for the sick, and shouldn’t be the source of hatred and condemnation. How many people has the church turned from the faith by its unloving attitude?

What this all boils down to for me is that it caused me to reflect on how I treat others. If I call myself a Christian, I am to be defined (defined, mind you; down to the very core of who I am) by how I love people. The questions I have to ask myself are “How well have I loved others?” and “How well have I accepted others?”

And I haven’t always liked the answers.

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