We went to see the Book of Mormon the day before yesterday. (Side note: I will probably be going on about my world travels for at least the next three posts. Sorry!) It was fantastic. SJ is a theatre director with an obsession with musicals, so I’ve had to get used to them, despite not exactly being a ‘natural’ fan of them. So I knew the music already – but as usual, seeing the full production was so much more fun than just hearing the songs.
And I was very struck by the levity of it all. It’s about holding on to faith in the most difficult (and weird) of circumstances, although you wouldn’t know that from the show’s publicity. It’s also rude, crude and deliciously funny. I had more than a few “Oh gods, I’ve been there” moments:
Turn if off, like a light switch,
There, it’s gone! (Good for you!)
My hetero side just won!
I’m all better now,
Boys should be with girls, that’s Heavenly Father’s plan
So if you ever feel you’d rather be with a man,
Turn it off.
– ‘Turn it Off’, Book of Mormon
Yeah, been there! And not just for the more negative references. I had a moment of nostalgic, joyful recognition when Elder Price declares “A Mormon just believes” in the context of listing the often ridiculous-sounding things that a Mormon does believe. (I had some utterly hysterical “A Christian just believes” conversations, back in the day. And the moment when SJ realised that Christians actually believe that ‘Jesus is alive’ was about the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.)
But in spite of the “oh gods” moments, and the wonderful satire and cutting comedy, there were a whole lot of feel-good moments about believing and belonging in this show, that anyone of any faith will recognise. Actually, not ‘in spite of’ all that – because of it. The comedy and satire were the reason why the more serious messages worked. There was a joyful, hilarious, beautifully self-mocking tone throughout the show that communicated why the Latter Day Saint characters believed what they did. There was levity about the often far-too-serious subject of faith.
We can take faith ridiculously seriously. And I don’t just mean Christians – Pagans do it too. Oh, we’ll claim to be more about experience than belief, technically – but I think maybe we need more levity about both those aspects of faith. As someone who uses reconstructionist methods to develop my path, I sometimes miss out on the joy of the presence of the gods, the ancestors and the beautiful, ridiculously hysterical world around me. I debate VERY SERIOUSLY about my gods, why I believe in them, and which sources I trust for learning about them. I do my rituals VERY SERIOUSLY. I talk VERY SERIOUSLY about the faeries at the bottom of my garden. Who am I kidding? It’s funny stuff.
In my OBOD grove, we have a fantastic sense of levity. We’ve lost the plot during ritual on more than one occasion, when something has gone wrong, or the weather has conspired against us, or the sheep in the next field start blaring out their happy agreement while we’re VERY SERIOUSLY trying to honour the realm of the sea. We’re not too proud to laugh at ourselves (or our neighbours the sheep) on those occasions. Sometimes, when you’re standing in a field in the rain singing ‘Awen’ at the top of your voice while wearing white robes and talking to the invisible spirits of the land, you realise that Pagan faith and practice are fucking funny. And that’s great. Us Pagan types often have trickster gods, and playful spirits, and some stories that can make you spit out your coffee all over your weighty collection of world mythology. We could definitely stand to be a bit less serious about it all, at times. Especially me!
The Mormons have apparently reacted positively to ‘The Book of Mormon’ – they’ve even referred to it in church publicity. Now there’s levity in faith and practice for you. I’d like to be as gracious and cheerfully faithful as that!
Levity. A virtue worth pursuing?
I believe that God lives on a planet called Kolob
I believe that Jesus has his own planet as well
And I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was in Jackson County, Missouri
If you believe, the Lord will reveal it
And you’ll know it’s all true, you’ll just feel it
You’ll be a Mormon
And, by gosh, a Mormon just believes
– ‘I Believe’, Book of Mormon