Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Drama review: "Doubt"

Tonight L and I saw the Tony- and Pulitzer-award winning play, "Doubt." It's about the clash between a priest and a nun in the Bronx in 1964, when the church is in the middle of the upheaval of Vatican II and this particular nun is convinced that the priest is molesting a student at their school. Suspicions and conjectures start to reflect the changing times, the clash of sexes within the church hierarchy, and the fears and horrors that no one can really bring themselves to articulate. It was an amazing play, with the crackling dialogue and a lot to consider. (Not to mention a spectacularly obnoxious audience - intermittently beeping cellphones, crumpling candy wrappers, and the woman next to L who felt the need to complete the actors' lines for them. After she loudly announced the actual very last word of the play, I leaned over and brisky asked her to be quiet. A good moment.)

I was thinking, though - between this play, an article in the current New Yorker about the church's depiction of Mary Magdalene as a whore through the ages, and a book I read by Karen Armstrong about her experiences as a disenchanted ex-nun - I am feeling a little cynical about religion. The common theme that emerges is that the men in power make doctrines that will keep them in power and ensure the status quo. A question I keep returning to is why we expect leaders of the church to make such drastic and bizarre sacrifices - to abandon elements of their innate humanity like sexuality and the need for companionship - to somehow better prepare them for spiritual leadership.

I want to refresh myself and feel good about religion as this wedding of mine rolls around, but so far I still feel pretty disenchanted with the whole thing. So much of the doctrine has been manipulated through the ages, so many horrible things are done in the spirit of people's misplaced certainties. But maybe I need to let go of some of the irony and cynicism to see beyond it. I don't know.

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