Theatre dispute

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‘Keep religious beliefs personal’

Given a lack of dissenting voice expressed in any of the five letters published in the ‘Your Views’ section of the Newtownabbey Times (January 23 edition) regarding the so-called ‘Theatre controversy’, I wish to place on record the following comment.

Not everyone in the Newtownabbey area, nor every reader of the Newtownabbey Times for that matter, agrees with censorship of artistic expression. Not everyone reveres the Bible, or other religious texts, and they cannot and should not be forced to endlessly pander to the sensitivities of those who do.

People who do not wish to see the play in question - The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) - are very welcome not to attend the production; but they have no right to deny anyone else the opportunity to attend it, should they wish to do so. Religious beliefs are a personal matter and should remain as such. The Reduced Shakespeare Company has had the good manners to advertise the content of its production openly and in advance. Those who fear its content might offend their personal religious beliefs have ample warning and opportunity not to attend.

No such opportunity is afforded to the borough’s residents by overbearing street preachers and doorstep callers who seem to be permitted to impose their religious opinions on others as loudly and as forcefully as they wish, without notice, licence or invitation. I find that I am frequently harangued both on my own doorstep and also in the streets of Newtownabbey and adjoining boroughs by the unwelcome and uninvited religious opinions of others.

I trust these views will inject some much needed balance into the ‘Your Views’ feature on this matter.

David Rice

Lakeview Park

‘How is show insulting?’

What a disgrace. How exactly is this production - The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged) - insulting? How dare a few dictate what we all can see.

Is it not ironic that on this same day in Pakistan a 70-year-old was sentenced to death for blasphemy?

I will never again visit this theatre.

Mark Caughey

Via email

‘I feel sorry for the Mayor’

Why is Mayor Fraser Agnew seemingly being left to stand alone on this issue? I feel sorry for him that he seems to have been left to take all the criticism for a decision that wasn’t taken by him.

The DUP seem to have gone very silent on this issue. They need to come out publicly and stand by the decision they took.

This should never have been allowed to happen. If they (politicians) were going to cancel this show then it should have been done at source, long before it was publicised and tickets were sold.

The Mayor has done a lot for the people of this area and it’s wrong that he is being left on his own to take all the public criticism for this decision.

Mossley resident

Name and address withheld

Warm welcome for move to axe irreverent play

In the wake of the recent controversy surrounding the cancellation of the Reduced Shakespeare Company’s production of ‘The Bible: The Complete Word of God (abridged)’ at the Theatre at The Mill, Trinity Reformed Presbyterian Church, just round the corner from the theatre, wrote a letter to the council warmly commending and thanking them for the decision to cancel the play.

The church’s letter said that the RSC admits in its own advertising that their play is ‘irreverent’, and that Christians do not believe it is appropriate to lampoon or parody the Bible as if it were just another book. They argued that since the Bible is nothing less than God’s words from his mouth, to mock the Bible is to mock God.

They agreed with the RSC completely in their assertion that God created human beings with a sense of humour, but pointed out that this great gift can either be used in a right way that enriches life or it can be abused. God himself gives guidelines on our use of humour, and some things are simply not meant to be laughed at.

The letter closed saying: ‘The Bible’s authority is being increasingly ignored in our province and we are reaping the bitter fruit of that carelessness. This kind of calculated irreverence exemplifies and undermines further people’s lack of respect for the Word of God. It is our prayer that God will use this courageous decision of the council to bring people in Newtownabbey to hold his Word in higher regard.’

Warren Peel, Minister

Trinity Reformed Church