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Church protest planned for Jesus Christ Superstar screening in Northern Ireland


Protesters outside a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in 1974

Protesters outside a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in 1974

Protesters outside a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar at Belfast’s Lyric Theatre in 1974

Members of the Free Presbyterian Church are planning to protest at a film screening of Jesus Christ Superstar in Armagh this weekend.

The screening will feature the 1973 film interpretation of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's rock opera stage production of the same name and will be held in the Market Place Theatre on Saturday.

The film features hit songs such as I Don't Know How to Love Him and is centred on the week before Christ's death, with a focus on the perspective of the apostle Judas and how he betrays Christ for a bribe from Judaic religious leaders.

Speaking to The Belfast Telegraph, Rev Graham Middleton from Tullyvallen Free Presbyterian Church said his problems with the film start right from the title. "It's a compete fabrication that Christ is a 'superstar'. How can Christ be lowered to a worldly label such as this? Christ played an important role as the second figure of the Holy Trinity in Creation, and to be questioned by his creation in this way is wrong."

He said that the film and stage production "gives us a view of Christ's final days through Judas' eyes".

"He may have been an apostle but this is not a good standpoint as we know the Devil entered Judas as he left the Last Supper, so we are really getting the Devil's point of view".

He said he had taken charge of the protest in the absence of Rev David Macmillan, Minister of Armagh Free Presbyterian, who is not in the country.

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Regarding the Market Place Theatre itself, he said: "I believe in people's civil and religious liberties to show what they want, and they are not a Christian organisation. However, in my view, right thinking people should voice their concerns. The Lord Jesus is our best friend, he has stood with us, and we will stand with him in opposition to this blasphemous production."

Rev Middleton stressed the protest will be "non-confrontational".

The protest will take place outside the Market Place Theatre for an hour before the film begins, where protesters will sing hymns and hand out leaflets which will outline the Church's issues with the Jesus Christ Superstar.

Armagh Sinn Fein councillor Garath Keating said: "Protesters are entitled to protest as they wish, as the organisers and those who wish to go and see the film screening are also entitled to do so. As long as protests are peaceful and respectful then live and let live."

The Market Place Theatre declined to comment.

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