You never know what you’re going to find on the internet. In this case, it’s a cartoon episode in which DJ Jesus must save the desert from a terrible storm by arriving at Burning Man on time—but first, he has to resist the devil’s temptation and get there. Here are some clips:
(Note: while this episode is appropriate for most children, others may not be as the show is intended for adults.)
You may think of Jesus as the long-haired, bearded Caucasian man, but artistic depictions of Jesus are flavored by all the cultures and times that produce them. In the blog Indigenous Jesus, you can explore the crossroads of indigenous cultures around the world and Christian imagery through art.
Many people have found a week of creativity and community in the desert to be a spiritual experience, but not always one associated with organized religion. Here are a few examples of Burning Man attendees, or “Burners,” who find parallels between their experiences in the desert and the philosophy of the Gospels.
Christian Scientist Michael Morgan’s “We Are All Prophets”
Interview with Lee Gilmore, author of Theater in a Crowded Fire: Ritual and Spirituality at Burning Man
There’s are a surprising number of clown ministries, and information about them, from a range of books to this 1989 New York Times article. While Godspell has moved away from the literal clown, its roots still lie in the playful, “fool for Christ” idea.
Godspell, along with many clown ministries, was inspired by Harvey Cox’s 1969 book The Feast of Fools: A Theological Essay on Festivity and Fantasy. Cox writes that “In a success and money-oriented society we need a rebirth of unapologetically unproductive festivity and expressive celebration.” The title comes from the Feast of Fools, a medieval feast day involving the inversion of clerical roles to symbolize humility and the “first being last.” Celebrations often included liturgical drama, and sometimes bawdy masks and parodies of usually-sacred traditions. As celebrations became wilder and more extravagant, Catholic writers condemned the practices and eventually, in 1431, the Feast of Fools was banned by the Church.
In the chapter “Christ the Harlequin,” Cox paints Jesus as a wise fool, reminiscent of the Shakespearean trope. He quotes from First Epistle to the Corinthians that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men…” and connects this playful wisdom to festivity and fantasy—unapologetic celebration and creative imagination. Cox describes some previous depictions of Jesus as a fool or clown, symbolizing the “combination of merriment and seriousness.” Georges Rouault’s painting “Christ Mocked” is one of the most prominent examples, and controversial at the time, although a far cry from the wig and superman t-shirt associated with Godspell.
While it’s from Mark, not Matthew, one of the benefits of this discovery is the ability to see how the Gospel of Mark changed from the first century to the second century. It gives an earlier start date to interpretations of New Testament texts, a timeline that continues through Godspell to current media.
This isn’t the exact mummy mask, but it is the kind that are made from reused papyrus.
One of the parables in Godspell, the Parable of the Sower, has inspired a series of other works, including a concert musical currently running at the Public Theater in New York City. This musical, by folk-rock musician Toshi Reagon, is an adaptation of the novel by Octavia Butler, which follows a young woman leaving her community in post-apocalyptic Los Angeles to find hope and escape with a new religion.
In any incarnation, Parable of the Sower reflects, as the original parable does, the struggles and benefits of spreading a new philosophy and reaching those who can most benefit from it.