The Laramie Project is a documentary play that depicts the events that transpired following the horrific beating and murder of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old University of Wyoming student. Many in the evangelical community complain about this play on several grounds: (1) the language is foul; (2) evangelicals are portrayed unfairly; and (3) it promotes gay and lesbian rights.
My wife and I saw this play in Fall 2007 and offer the following response to these concerns:
First, the language is foul. We understand why parents of middle and high school students would be disturbed by their children playing roles in or watching this play due to the language. While we respect the writer’s intent to include the actual direct quotes they collected during their research for this documentary play, we believe that the removal of the foul language would make the message much more effective across a wider audience. Since they refuse to take out the foul language, it is a fair critique to make that the language is indeed….foul.
Second, evangelicals are not entirely portrayed unfairly. We deserve some of the ways that they portray us – because this is after all a documentary. The writers of this play conducted hundreds of interviews and lived in Laramie for several months recording their interviews to ensure that they wrote into the play the actual direct quotes of those they interviewed. If evangelicals are portrayed unpleasantly in this play, it is only because some evangelicals responded in unpleasant ways to the death of Matthew. But for the record, this play portrays other evangelicals who are quite loving and kind while not adjusting their theology on the issue of homosexuality. So in the end, my wife and I conclude that evangelicals are NOT portrayed unfairly in this play.
Third, my wife and I disagree that this play promotes gay and lesbian rights. This play has nothing to do with promoting same-sex love: it has everything to do with elevating the dignity and value of a young man’s life in the aftermath of his horrific murder.
When we stand against The Laramie Project on grounds other than foul language, others perceive that we are standing against their right to live in safety.
My wife and I encourage adult Christians to go see The Laramie Project and find something of value. We found something of tremendous value: the opportunity that Matthew Shepard should have been given to live his life in safety. In the process, we came closer to understanding why others so often see evangelicals as positioned against their life.
As Christians, we have to practice showing kindness without being so fearful that we will lose our moral bearings: we saw The Laramie Project and our theology remains the same. But our love for others has been expanded…
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