Faith, Tradition and the Passion Play

I cant claim to be a regular reader of Der Spiegel online, but I did stumble across this fascinating article on the uproar over the latest edition of the Passion Play, the stage extravaganza that has been staged in Oberammergau, Germany, every 10 years since the early 17th century. The play, which reenacts the trial, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, is a cherished tradition in the village, and it attracts oodles of tourists. So its all the more controversial that, as journalist Katja Thimm relates, the current director, Christian Stckl, has brought the modern age to the Catholic village, complete with modernity's doubts and questions.She goes on:

In a time that priests, bishops, the Vatican and teachers are struggling to deal with abuse allegations, Stckl approaches the Church from the bottom up in Oberammergau. He grapples with the old faith, old rules and old ideas. In some ways, it is also an attempt to drive the conservative elements out of Catholicism. And Stckl's efforts have been successful...This is precisely what his opponents accuse him of.They are fighting over everything that is sacred to human beings: feelings of self-worth, recognition, security and money -- and over the great questions of how people should live their lives and practice their faith.

Incidentally, anyone intrigued by this article should read James Shapiros fascinating and hyper-readable book Oberammergau: The Troubling Story of the Worlds Most Famous Passion Play. Shapiro has made a small splash with his latest book, Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, reviewed in a recent issue of Commonweal.

Celia Wren is Commonweal’s media and stage critic.

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