Tuesday, February 06, 2007


A Jesus with dreadlocks? A triumphal entry into Yankee Stadium? A crucifixion on a street sign? What’s up with this? Don’t be afraid, it’s just !Hero: The Rock Opera, a modern day retelling of the story of Jesus as envisioned by Eddie Degarmo, CCM industry veteran, told in the vein of Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. The first reaction of many will probably be, “Isn’t this blasphemous or something?” Well, no, I don’t think so. Merely bringing the story into the present and adding some wailing guitars and driving rap beats is not in and of itself wrong. The real question is how they do that. This article is not intended to be an exhaustive review of the show (which I watched in Live on Stage), but merely an evaluation of what it actually is: a presentation of the gospel.

First, though, I need to touch on the music. I love music with a passion, and I will admit that this music got me excited. From the rapcore of “Raised in Harlem” to the dark pop of “Shadowman” and the Brit rock of “Secrets of the Heart”, most of the songs here are top quality, keeping my head bobbing and my earworm singing long afterward. Visually, it was full of amazing modern dance, lots of wild lights, and two huge screens constantly showing applicable images. As a show, it’s top quality. You can tell that many of the singers were chosen for their names and not for their acting ability (Michael Tait of dcTalk does an adequate job as Jesus/Hero and Mark Stuart of Audio Adrenaline is so-so as Peter/Petrov, but they definitely were not chosen primarily as actors). However, it’s quite a show to watch and hear.

But how’s the theology? Does the show actually get things right where it really matters: the gospel? I’m sorry to say that I don’t believe it really did. And that’s too bad, because these are some of the biggest names in Christian music we’re talking about here. What seemed to be the biggest statement of Jesus’ mission came in “I Am”, a dcTalk-type ballad that had Tait singing “I am, I am/the one to make a change/who's gonna do it if I don't step to it/I am." Hero himself never says that he’s come to save the lost, but merely that we all need to love each other. Rebecca St. James, who plays Mary Magdalene/Maggie says more about the actual gospel than Hero does. In place of the real gospel—Jesus came to die on the cross and save us from our sins, since we can’t save ourselves—we get the social gospel—Jesus came to spread love and teach us to love our neighbors. And that’s just too bad.

I actually borrowed the DVD of the show from Mrs. Mays, the director of our youth musicals. She told me that they had actually considered doing this show last year, but eventually decided not too. After watching, I think I know the two reasons why. First, logistically, we don’t have anyone who can come even remotely close to rapping like T-Bone. And second, when you have a show like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with just about no religious convictions anywhere, it’s relatively easy to put in a biblical worldview and preach the gospel through it. But when you have a show like !Hero that tries to be theological and ends up preaching the wrong gospel, it’s very hard to redeem it. And that’s the main problem with the show. It has great music, but the theology is what kills it. What a pity.


Josh T said...

Sam, you told me just a few days ago that I had two weeks to update. Yet I get on today to write my post, and I find that you kicked me off the blog...oh well...I guess you're going to lose popularity now... :-P

pedro del piero said...

A lot of Christian media has a knack for destroying the message through weak theology. It is a pity that they don't represent the most important message more clearly and that they represent their weak gospel in such a beautiful manner.

Kevin said...

They did get it right sometimes. You have Hero's line from "Fire of Love" where he sings "I came to earth to die for all your sins," and a few other similar statements. However, yes - for the most part, they miss it.