Jesus/Christ. Superstar. The Sequel.

Okay, so this is the continuation of my first post on the Lloyd-Weber/Rice musical Jesus Christ Superstar.

And then I saw thousands of millions
Crying for this man…
And then I heard them mentioning my name
And leaving me the blame.


My sisters played the record a lot. The original 1970 recording with Ian Gillan from Deep Purple as Jesus, of course.

Eventually Oldest Sister got a copy of Godspell, which she also learned to play on the piano. So I heard that a lot, too. I even have her copy of the LP now, and listen to it every few months. But it never had the same impact on me as JCSuperstar.

For many years JCSuperstar was essentially my main connection to religion of any stripe. And it has remained a steady friend in my time as a Friend over the last 15 years and one month. (That reminds me, I’d like to tell the story of how I came to meeting the first time in 9/1990, but that’ll have to wait.)

JCSuperstar brings out the latent, highly repressed drama queen in me. I love to sing along with the album! And act out the parts! Sneer with Caiaphas, strut with Herod, anguish with Judas, stir the masses with Simon the Zealot, and weep with Mary!

I once got “busted” in a friend's dorm room in college for singing along word for word at the top of our lungs, ‘round about 10 or 11 pm one night when others were trying to study. Oopsie!

What do you think about your friends at the top?
What about Buddha, is he where you are?
Could Mohammed move a mountain, or was that just P.R.?
Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or
Did you know that your message would be a record breaker?


I once asked Middle Sister what they meant about Mary Magdalene: “You shouldn’t waste your time/With women of her kind/It’s not that I object to her profession/But she doesn’t fit in well/With what you teach and say/It doesn’t help us if you’re inconsistent,” sings Judas. “She was a prostitute,” sister said. “What’s that?” I asked. “A woman who sells herself to men,” she said. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I could tell it was embarrassing, whatever it was.

Some of the understanding portrayed in the album is dated. Contemporary scholars have pointed out that any woman who was somewhat independent in the culture of the time risked being labeled that way, and Mary Magdalene was likely not one at all. And I’m uncomfortable with the portrayal of the crowds when it seems to portray “the Jews” as being responsible for the betrayal of Jesus, but that reflects what’s in the Fourth Gospel (aka John), which was the gospel Lloyd Weber and Rice essentially followed.

That aside, JCSuperstar does a great job of bringing the Sanhedrin as well as Herod to life as a group of scared and calculating politicians trying to protect their elite position under the Romans. I just love the bits with them.

“What then to do about this Jesusmania?
How do we deal with the carpenter king?
How do we deal with a man who is bigger
than John was when John did his baptism thing?”
“Fools! You have no perception, the stakes we are gambling are frighteningly high.
We must crush him completely, so like John before him this Jesus must die.”

--Priests and Caiaphas

And in the end, this is one of the strongest appeals of Jesus Christ Superstar for me: It brings out the humanity of the characters from the Christian Bible stories, characters who are always at risk becoming caricatures through sheer familiarity and repetition. It was a revelation to me a decade ago to see that the crux of Jesus Christ Superstar is the conflict between the agonist, Jesus, and the antagonist, Judas. It is a simple, classic drama.

“One thing I’ll say for him, Jesus is cool.” —Caiaphas

Amen, Friends.

I look forward to continue the conversation with you around the virtual table of communion through the blogosphere.


Supersize Me!
The Housing Problem as a Spiritual Matter

I was going to continue writing about Jesus Christ Superstar, but it is a tad frivolous. Then I read the SFGate's always-relevant Surreal Estate column today, which was called "Monster Homes R Us: American homes are monuments to conspicuous consumption." Spurred by the recent proposal by David Duffield, founder of PeopleSoft, to build a 72,000 square foot house, even bigger than the one Bill Gates had built for himself, Carol Lloyd looks at the larger phenomenon.

Consider this:
"According to a Harvard University study, in the 1950s -- an era infamous for domestic consumerism run amuck -- the average home was only 1,140 square feet. It grew to 1,800 in the 1970s and now it's over 2,225. When it comes to new single-family housing, luxury and excess are no longer simply for the occasional oil tycoon or Hollywood starlet, they are a burgeoning sector of the middle-class building industry. According to the National Association of Home Builders, 21 percent of new homes in 2004 were 3,000 square feet or more."

That, in a nutshell, illustrates the structural problem that people in the U.S. are creating for themselves: bigger homes, spread further and further apart, resulting in the need to drive further and further to buy groceries, drop children off at childcare and school, and go to work. We are, as an article in the League of California Cities magazine, Western City, was titled, "Driving ourselves to death." (Sorry, the article itself doesn't seem to be available online.)

Carl Magruder wrote on his blog, Confessions of an Earth Quaker:
"This is what the breakdown of community, phony spirituality, corporate media, consumerism, over-busyness, separateness from simple life processes like nursing the sick and dying or growing our own food, and even apathy itself do to the human organism."

At least three members of our monthly meeting our going on "car fasts." Of course, that's easier to do in a compact city like San Francisco than in many places in California, for example.

The point here being (clamber up onto soapbox):

  • the way we build our physical environment is an expression of our spiritual values; and
  • the way we get out of the problems caused by our way of life has to include a strategy to address the built environment, whether back to the land or back to the city; and
  • that has to include addressing the injustices of both city and rural life.

As Carl also wrote, "The inseparability of social justice and earthcare issues is undeniable here." I agree.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, "I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to agree together, to end your divisions, and to be united by the same mind and purpose." How are Quakers going to find unity as a religious society -- unity in mind, heart, spirit and body -- to act together, with love for God, for one another, and for the world?


Tables, Chairs and Oaken Chests

Greetings, Friends!

Chris M. here, joining the ranks of the Quaker faithful who have inspired so much interesting discussion in the blogosphere. I'm fortunate that Martin Kelley: The Quaker Ranter picked this week to reflect on Quaker blogs, since it's both a great place to publicize one's own blog and because he was the one who really inspired me to get started.

I’ve been reading Quaker blogs for about six months or so. I’ve been meaning to start my own for some time now, but I barely have time to keep up with the existing ones let alone write my own. So from time to time I leave a litter of comments posted around on other people’s blogs without much follow up. Meanwhile, my mental list of “things I could blog about” keeps growing.

The way in which I was led to these Quakerblogs -- yes, Friends, "led" -- is an interesting story in itself, but I'll save that for another time. I'll just brag that I was the one who showed Robin M. the Quaker blogs, and then there was no looking back for either of us!

I figure I'll use this space to:

  • expand on ideas I've found in other blogs;
  • explore my experiential and intellectual journey along what I would consider a Christian path, though whether others would consider it that way is open to question;
  • further consideration of stuff that I may have mulled over in meeting for worship and which may or may not have risen to the level of vocal ministry;
  • teaching Firstday School;
  • maybe some favorite books and musicians, as way opens; and
  • whatever else I manage to post in between advocating for affordable housing in the nation's most expensive county, participating in monthly, quarterly and yearly meetings, and being father to two young boys and husband to a certain Quaker blogger.

In peace and friendship,

Chris M.

Jesus/Christ. Superstar.

The entire time I’ve thought about starting my very own Quaker blog, I knew I had to start with just one topic:


Yes, that ol’ rock opera from Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice. Mind you, I’m only talking about the original album, featuring Ian Gillan of Deep Purple as Jesus and Murray Head as Judas.

In light of the recent blog posts by several Quakers, including my dear friend Robin M., about their relationship to Christianity, I’m pleased to be able to start with this.

Why waste your breath moaning at the crowds?
Nothing can be done to stop the shouting.
If every tongue were stilled the noise would still continue.
The rocks and stones themselves
Would start to sing!
Hey-sanna, ho-sanna, sanna sanna hey, sanna hosanna
Hey JC, JC won’t you fight for me?
Sanna ho, sanna hey, Superstar!

When I was young, my parents were highly suspicious of rock music. When I was about five years old, my parents finally gave in to my two older sisters and bought two contemporary rock albums. Because of their suspiciousness, though, there had to be some redeeming content.

One of the two was Fragile by Yes. Rick Wakeman was trained as a classical pianist, and one song, “Cans and Brahms,” was influenced by classical music. So, the parental reasoning went, there must be redeeming social value. It wasn't until one very late and rather intoxicated evening in college some two decades later that I realized just how ridiculous a lot of the lyrics were; they had just soaked into the fabric of my mind, making them seem normal by their very familiarity. A more drug-addled, albeit pleasant, example of early 70’s overblown prog rock would be hard to find. I still listen to it from time to time.

Okay. So you know what the second record was: JCSuperstar!

It was a rock opera, which is a term from classical music, and it was about a religious topic, so it had two redeeming features!

More soon...