Top Ten Things Not Allowed in Productions at Mennonite Schools

For Lent this year I am engaging in the spiritual practice of humor. When something makes me incredibly frustrated and/or angry, I am trying to open myself up to the absurdity and humor in the situation. I realized recently that this practice of humor has been a deep grace in my life and I want to engage it more intentionally during Lent.

Turns out my denomination is supporting me in this practice by providing me with adequate anger to fuel a significant amount of humor this week. (At least I’m amusing myself and feeling a little less stressed.) The latest: Eastern Mennonite University cancelled all public performances of Christian Park’s senior presentation of the play Corpus Christi—in which Jesus and the disciples are gay.

I understand now that this is not a case of simple censorship. There are many people involved in this situation who are facing a lot of fear, heartache, and difficult decisions right now. I encourage us all to hold the entire EMU community in prayer.

There are, though, at the core of this situation, people who believe it is not OK to for EMU to present a play that portrays Jesus as gay. When this situation was discussed in one of my Facebook Groups, several people commented on things that had not been allowed in productions when they were in college. And I think it is interesting to consider where we draw our lines when it comes to artistic expression.

– – – – – – – – –

Top 10 Things not Allowed in Productions at Mennonite Schools:

  1. Shakespeare1
  2. Being Funny about the Bible (or God, or Jesus, or Menno Simons or the Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective)
  3. Swearing (as in cuss words, not oaths—but no oath-swearing either, come to think of it)
  4. Instruments (rumor is this policy began with a bagpipe concert gone bad)
  5. Real Cigarettes (The candy ones are OK, except they keep getting eaten before the end of the production so the actors end up having to hold their fingers in a sophisticated “V” around thin air and move the “V” toward and then away from their lips in a casual manner as they exhale slowly.)
  6. Gay people
  7. Heterosexual people
  8. Really any people who have or think about having sex (because we all know sex can lead to dancing)
  9. Vaginas (And can someone tell me why spell check does not recognize the plural form of “vagina”?)
  10. Gay Jesus (Jesus is supposed to be very very serious at all times—see #2)

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1. Many of these are things that have actually been banned from the Mennonite schools at some point–many of them back in the olden days (as my daughter would say). The rest I just made up because I needed 10.

4 thoughts on “Top Ten Things Not Allowed in Productions at Mennonite Schools

  1. Okay, Joanna, I must object to your headline — qualifying it in a footnote does not make it. I went to a Mennonite school, and in 1955 we performed “Merchant of Venice,” which, last I checked, was by someone named Shakespeare. So you think you can just write off Goshen as a Mennonite school with a footnote saying all Mennonite schools are actually just Eastern Mennonite University?

    • Point taken, Lin. I am assured that _Taming of the Shrew_ was an issue on the EMU campus a long time ago. I imagine Shakespeare is fairly well accepted at most Mennonite institutions these days.

  2. Yeah EMU did not only “Into the Woods” but “Twelfth Night” in the last year. While you are right that there are people who take issue with gay Jesus, this is soooo much bigger.

  3. I love this. If I can call humour a spiritual practice, I just got a whole lot more spiritual! As for me, I think a footnote in a humor post saying these aren’t all true should be enough of a disclaimer. It’s funny to start off with Shakespeare.

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