The following is based on a contemporary re-interpretation of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “The Grand Inquisitor” from his work The Brothers Karamazov. The character giving the monologue is a personification of Evangelicalism.
The setting is the sanctuary of a mega-church. On stage are two rows of four folding chairs, representing pews, a Bible is placed on the first row.
“The Grand Evangelizer” is dressed informally and very fashionably, wearing the latest trends. His demeanor is one of being kind in a highly patronizing way. Throughout the monologue he is talking to Jesus Christ who is seated in the back pew (invisible to the audience).
Approximate length of time: 18 minutes.
(Walking up to pews, laughs as if understanding a joke that’s supposed to be kept secret). Ha! Ha! Good morning! (Hands in pocket, standing in front of invisible person seated in back pew, proudly and confidently composed). Ha! Ha! Yes, I know who you are! Recognized you immediately when you walked in. (Pause. Gives piercing look, then prideful smirk). How did you like the service? (Uncomfortable silence. Avoids eye contact and briefly loses composure, then responds to his silence). Okay, I understand. And you’re right because heaven forbid you should add to anything you’ve already said (Gestures slightly to Bible on pew). So don’t say anything! I’d know what you were going to say before you said it anyway (laughs slightly).
(Sits down in front row. Pause. Looks forward, then looks back to check him out. Smiles). I like the piercing! And cool tattoo! You should get a “Mom with Heart” on the other arm (laughs, then sighs). Now no offense but you do look a little on the trashy side. (Teasingly) And you got a little beer gut going here (slapping his stomach with the back of his hand. Then laughs). Who would know, who would know. (Pause) So why have you come? It’s okay, I mean, of course you’d come to our church. (Beckons to sanctuary’s stage, laughs with sarcasm). Our worship’s awesome, we have “Eric Clapton” on guitar, “Bono” on vocals, and “Chris Martin” on keyboard! Ha! Ha! Just kidding, no but really they’re that good (proudly). Our sanctuary is the size of two football fields, and we’ve been nationally televised for five years now. Hell, we even have a pyrotechnic system that goes off after each praise song (Laughs with sarcasm. Then serious and a little embarrassed). No really, we tried it a year ago, but one Sunday it caught Mrs. Gibson’s hair on fire. Her white hair’s back now. (Regathers composure, then asks demandingly) So why have you come?! (Slowly, and patronizingly gentle). We got a good thing going here and we don’t need you coming to mess it up!
(Feels frustrated. Stands up and walks a few steps. Crosses arms in thought). “Greater things than these you will do”. (Turns around) You see, we’re doing the greater things. So go back to your father! (Expresses exasperation, as if not wanting to offend, but feeling he needs to vent. Sighs. Walks back toward pews. Turns around and surveys stage, then beckons proudly). Now look at this, what an awesome set. Who’s at center stage? (Begs slightly) But come on, give us a break, we have a picture of you hanging up at the coffee station. I mean, it’s you and not a picture of the senior pastor! You see, they aren’t comfortable with you. People want to feel part of the crowd, they don’t want to stick out, and they feel secure with us. Look at me. And look at our church. (Laughs) Now look at yourself! We’re accepted by the world. (Humorously with sarcasm). Because, “We’re rich enough, we’re chic enough, and doggonit, people like us!”. People are eager to put their faith in someone who appears stronger than them. They need that security because you obviously don’t give it!
(Sits down in front pew as if wanting to kindly give advice, but patronizingly). You see, people would be led astray simply because you refuse to take a more appealing look. If you told them who you were they’d dial 911! Now look at me. If I told them that they wouldn’t question me at all, they’d fall to their faces and worship me. You gotta speak up, dude! Show them your power instead of shutting your mouth. Make yourself known, make a name for yourself! Do a little thing like we got going. (Sarcastically) Think of it, “The Man Ministries” or “Meet God Himself Fellowship”. “Service at ten, no too early, at eleven; donuts afterwards”. Hey, besides preaching maybe you could even play base, and then one Sunday you could “accidentally” electrocute yourself while playing. (Makes physical gesture of being electrocuted, then laughs). And then you’ll come out of it like, “Hey guys, I’m okay”, then they would know you’re the Son of God!
Look at you, all introverted. You wouldn’t survive in our church because it’s only the outgoing, those involved, who make it. You see, if you really cared about people’s souls you’d take my advice! Instead of hiding until the Second Coming when it’s too late for those poor folks. So by default you’ve handed worldly power to us since you’ve refused it! (Beckons to sanctuary sarcastically) And behold, the nations come to our feet!
(Energetically stands up, excited). If they’re sick, they come to us! If they’re hurting, they come to us! And why?! Because of our faith! Without our faith, the weak are hopeless! It’s us they seek for healing, not you! (Laughs) And even if they pray on their own and find an answer, they still commend it to proximity to us! (Shakes pew) We give them security, hope for tomorrow. With you there’s no assurance. (Rhetorically) Will you give them security tomorrow? How about wealth? We do! We’re building your kingdom, and those who seek us, all these things will be given to them as well! For the sake of their faith we make sure money grows on their trees. (Indictingly) Or otherwise you will walk by and curse them, and of course they would whither.
“Man does not live by bread alone”, but they hate your Word! Sure, they’ll milk you for your promises but they don’t want to know you. When they’re hungry they abandon you and lay their freedom at our feet. Wanting to be fed, wanting acceptance, wanting freedom from their sins, (more softly) wanting to hear the words, “You are forgiven”, they surrender their very identities to us. They come to our feet and say (clasping hands as if imitating), “Make us your bitches, only just fulfill our lives!”.
And if they dare try to leave, all we have to do is remind them of the slavery they were in before. And when they do leave they fall back into the horrors of drugs, of gambling, of pornography, of anorexia. They suffocate themselves, and then thy crawl back to our feet saying (imitatingly), “You were right, we surrender our lives to you, save us from ourselves!”. These spiritual niggers, they know we can crush them for their sins. But with our forgiveness they see us as gods, hanging on our every word, accepting everything we say as gospel truth. And then only, only when they are under our complete control do we say, “Hey, it’s okay to sin!”. “Don’t worry about sleeping around; remember you’re free, bound for eternal life!”. And when their marriages fail they come to us for salvation.
And the best thing about it is that they really think they’re free! (Turns around, takes a couple steps, surveys sanctuary). With all eyes closed and every head bowed, we reap a harvest of raised hands, promising them eternity. They ask you into their hearts and then they are ours (Briefly looking back). You see, it’s very easy to erase minds. We sterilize them of you! Indeed, after they pray they don’t want to have anything to do with you.
And for good reason, because you don’t really care for their souls. (Thoughtful). No. (Pause. Then laughs). Ha! Ha! “One thing you still lack”. Hmmm. (Turns around). You make the road way too narrow. But we make it wide because we sincerely care about souls! Do you really expect them to give up everything?! No, you don’t care if they go to hell. (Meditative again. Then laughs). So you only have a handful of followers, but we have the nations!
(Sits down as if wanting to console). But don’t worry, we give you all the credit. We fulfill your promises to them and claim it’s you who fulfills them. So hey, you should be grateful for our power. I mean, what if we weren’t here to accomplish everything you’ve said? Do you really want millions of people pounding you with questions, hounding you for answers, tearing down your character?! So we’re your bodyguards, man! We protect them from doubting you. And in doing so we secure their faith.
(Looks intently). But tell me, do we have a choice? Do they really have a choice?! You take the fall, and we reap the benefits. You take off, and we rise up to bring hope to the world! It’s our prayers, our music, and our advice that heals the nations. We offer the hopeless something to live for! We give them work to do, and it will not be taken away from them.
(Stands up in frustration). And where are you?! They’re not at your feet because they can’t hear you. (Stares at him, acts briefly perturbed, then laughs). Ha! Yes, and that’s all you will give them, the way you are looking at me. No, especially in this day and age they will never get anything from you. (Starts pacing). So we keep them busy. (Mockingly) So where is your coming?! Aren’t you supposed to come back in glory to bring world peace?! No. They’ve waited for you a long time and have no choice but to depend on us for doing your work.
(Takes a few steps towards him. Speaks sarcastically). So you can come down from the cross now! We’re not being fed to lions anymore! Look at yourself, you’re still up there while we are changing lives. (Pleads with accusation) Defend yourself! Because when they lose their homes or die of cancer they blame you, not us. Even better, when our leaders fight each other, or when one of our own falls to corruption or adultery, they blame you while we are treated with royalty.
So defend yourself! Speak! With your silence people are subjected to the tyranny of the unknown. Faith’s gotta be substantial, but you put it in a vacuum. So you leave people hanging while we give them faith in you. (Increases in frustration). And we give you the credit! So say something! (Stomps floor very angrily) Say something, goddamnit!! Don’t look at me that way, you piece of shit! (Shakes pew violently) Get angry at me! Look how weak and soft you are! I don’t want your love, I hate you!
(Pause. Expects a response, hoping for him to say something harsh. Feels uneasy and nervous as he sees him stand up and approach him. Adjusts composure accordingly. Shocked that he receives a warm kiss. Then watches him leave). (Smugly) Jesus, do you betray me with a kiss?”.