Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Glory Man: Truly Glorious

A hush took over as the cast filed onto the stage. All was silent. With a crash one man stomped his foot on the plywood floor, and then thrust his hands together. As he kept up the steady rhythm of his hands and foot, he began to sing in one of the most beautiful baritone voices I have ever heard in person. The Glory Man is a play that grabs your attention instantly, and then holds it until the last applause has died down, and the final audience member has filtered out of the theatre.

The Glory Man, a world premiere performed by The Lamb's Players Theatre Company recounts the little-known story of Dr. Clarence L. Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farm. Jordan was born in 1912 and grew up amidst the turmoil of the southern civil rights movement. After earning a degree in agriculture, a PhD in the study of Biblical Greek, and starting a family he returned to his southern home with an idea. A big idea.

He wanted to begin a communal farm, in order to return to the Biblical Christian living of the early church, and to bridge the gulf that separated whites and blacks by inviting them both to join him. They would eat together, worship together, learn together, work together, and share everything that they produced. It was unprecedented, and at the time, it was unwanted.

The residents of Koinonia Farm endured much anger and violence from their neighbors, but by the mid 1960's things finally began to calm down. Millard Fuller and his wife joined the Jordans in a new enterprise: building houses for those who could not afford to buy or build their own. Many of you may recognize the organization that they began, Habitat for Humanity. My family has several strange connections to Habitat and the Fullers. My parents participated in building Habitat houses when I was much younger, and my Dad was also scheduled to pick Mr. Fuller up from the airport on the day he died (in 2009). Nevertheless, it was not because of these things that this performance so moved me.

As I watched the characters laugh, sing, and assist each other in their work, characters of two different colours, I could not help but be reminded of Africa, where I found such great joy in breaking down cultural barriers in order to simply love on people. It is only through Christ that we are able to do that, when our mangled, sinful human flesh tells us to selfishly look down on those of a different culture, and to shun them as we keep to ourselves. Racial chasms must be bridged, cultural barriers must be torn down, in order for every tribe, every tongue, and every nation to one day be worshipping before the throne of their God.

For me the best theatrical performance is one that not only moves your heart and touches your soul, but one that causes you to examine yourself, and spurs you to action. As I left the theatre the question that ran through my mind was, "What are you doing to help bridge the gaps and break down the barriers?"

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