Fire and brimstoned
By KAREN SHADE, 5/25/2007
One-man show depicts the fallacies of the self-righteous right
As a teen, Justin McKean didn't need to carry his Bible everywhere to teach others what he hoped others would not do unto him.
In his view, his ideas on Christianity were right. Anyone attempting to share with him another interpretation of the gospel was just an idiot.
He remembers heated discussions on Christian doctrine on the bus to school with kids of other denominations and even telling them they were bound for a lake of fire. He remembers and, frankly, is embarassed.
"They knew they were wrong, (that) was my assumption. They just wanted to do something different even though they knew there was no way they could possibly be right about what they were saying. That was the perspective I was raised to have," he said.
They're moments of intolerance that could make him blush on stage as straight confessionals. Instead, McKean stocks them as material for his live, one-man show, "Born Again Yesterday," playing at the Nightingale Theater this weekend.
"Hello my name is John, and I'm a fundamentalist. It has been one week since I last judged someone fit for eternal damnation," goes the opening lines.
The title suggests his present attitude about his religious upbringing. What it cannot tell you is that the show is presented as a comedy through different characters, half of which are drawn from his life and the rest created through observation and speculation.
"It's really a lot of making fun of myself, actually, because I'm the one who did that sort of stuff," he said. "I had these attitudes, and I had these sorts of judgemental behaviors."
The Broken Arrow High School graduate studied theater at the Churches of Christ-affiliated Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, before going on to teach drama to junior high and high school students in Texas and in Maryland. He returned to Tulsa a year ago.
He developed "Born Again Yesterday" while living back East, long after breaking away from the religion he'd been brought up to believe. McKean (who wanted to be a minister at one time) said his own Bible study of church doctrine led him to question many things to the point that he left the faith altogether.
McKean has presented the show to people of different beliefs and backgrounds and has mostly been pleased with the response.
"The best comment I got was that the show seemed regretful of the upbringing rather than angry about it or lashing out. That's what I wanted it to be," he said.
McKean wouldn't exactly call himself an atheist, a residual effect from growing up in the church.
"I think 'secular humanist' is probably best. The intellectual part of me says, 'Well, you're an atheist, Justin, really.' But there's still some lingering negativity about that word I guess I have a problem with," he said.
With a heavy topic in hand, McKean said he hopes the audience will laugh with him as he relates his experiences and past behavior, things that now seem absurd to him.
"Tulsa will be kind of a test of that, I think," he said.
"Born Again Yesteday"
When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Where: Nightingale Theater, 1416 E. Fourth St.
Tickets: $7. For reservations, call 633-8666.