Letter to the Editor: A play about televangelists shows lack of judgement

Tom Canuel, Crier Staff

Last week, I attended the 24 hour play festival run by the Abbey Players. This was my second time attending the annual event, and many of the performances did not disappoint. However, there was one very controversial and concerning play during this year’s play fest called “You Can’t Spell Faith without AI.” 

To clarify before I begin, I am not here to tear the play apart, but to simply bring attention to two problematic aspects of this play. I am fairly confident that the writer did not intend it, but that does not mean we should not discuss these ideas and why they should draw concern for the college community.

The plot of the play was interesting and captivating: two retired televangelists interacting with AI technology in their retirement home. However, the choice to name the two priests after the Hebrew names of God (which I have chosen to refrain from using in this article) is the most immediately concerning part of the play. Saying the name of God is very offensive in the Jewish religion. The name of God revealed in its tetragrammaton was unpronounceable in the ancient world and often replaced with the term “Adonai” meaning “Lord.” Even today, the divine name of God is never pronounced by Jews and Catholics. In 2008, a statement by the Vatican’s Congregation on Divine Worship reiterated from previous statements that the name of God is to be barred from music and liturgy in all Roman Catholic liturgies due to its respect in the tradition and sacredness. 

Another problematic aspect of this play is the portrayal of priests as sexist pedophiles and scammers. During the play, the priests interact with the female AI technology in promiscuous exchanges and provide sexist commentary like “yes, I remember 1907. It was before women’s suffrage. That was a great time to be alive.” There was also the disturbing exorcism scene. After the AI runs out of battery, the priests take out two wooden crosses and begin to act out an exorcism, saying “the power of Christ compels you” while jumping around the person playing the AI. At the conclusion of the play, the two priests skip off stage saying “I’m going to start a Church and scam people out of more money.” Presenting priests in this way shows complete disrespect for the monks who welcome and work with students on our college campus. 

Going forward, I think our college community needs to address several ideas. First, we as a college community should be careful about what we are presenting to our members. Second, we need a better system of checks and balances, especially when performing something that could be seen as offensive to a particular group of people. Finally, we should continue to educate ourselves about different faiths and continue to build up a respect for all people.