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posted: 12/24/2012 5:00 AM

'Mormon' musical debases, exploits

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On Dec. 10, I attended the dress rehearsal of "The Book of Mormon" at the Bank of America Theater. A friend who needed an escort for the production invited me at the last minute. As the show progressed, I found myself becoming more and more unsettled by this spectacle playing out onstage. I was disarmed and alarmed by the explicit language proffering as intelligent parody.

As an African-American religious leader, I also found it extremely difficult to stomach the debasing and mocking of people of faith. Equally offensive were the portrayals of "Africans" as little more than blackfaced minstrels.

My late father, the Rev. Paul Jakes Sr., took his stand against this type of bigotry many years ago. I feel it is my duty to likewise stand up and speak out against this type of distortion. I found the exploitation of the African men's genitalia unnecessarily overdramatized and ultimately insensitive. Moreover, the "F-bomb" being used in reference to God has taken Broadway to the lowest responsible level -- but I'm sure it earned the laughs the writers were after.

But after attending the show, I strongly urge that the directors and writers of this play to do some soul searching as this popular show winds its way around the country. Perhaps a broad, public warning or a disclaimer to any unsuspecting patron, "to attend at their own risk of being spiritually maligned." I am praying that you hear this word of wise council.

Rev. Paul L. Jakes Jr.

Chairman, Christian Council on Urban Affairs

Pastor, New Tabernacle of Faith Baptist Church

Chicago

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