Terror Texts: A Musical About the Lesser Known Bible Stories November 23, 2008

Terror Texts: A Musical About the Lesser Known Bible Stories

Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa is a Christian school. Earlier this year, they premiered a musical called Terror Texts which re-enacts the lesser-known, more-disturbing, unbelievably grotesque stories from the Bible.

This past week was the encore performance of the show.

Don’t expect to hear these Bible stories at church.

Cannibalism, rape, a bear that mauls children — this is the Bible?

They’re among six stories from the Old Testament acted out in “Terror Texts,” a musical at Northwestern College in Orange City.

Adding to the shocking nature of the stories are the theatrics, with actors decked out in Goth attire, a rock band and a mosh pit.

Theater professor Jeff Barker said the obscurity of the stories belies their value.

“We believe we have discovered something that has been lying dormant for many, many centuries,” said Barker, who created and directs “Terror Texts.”

Why did Barker create this musical?

Barker, who has been exploring Old Testament stories as plays and directs Terror Texts, says, “I suppose I created this musical because I got cheated in Sunday school. Teachers told me they revered the Bible, but they didn’t teach me all of it.

“Once I read it myself, I felt ripped off. If the Bible is truly a text worthy of our attention—and I believe it is—why not take time to discover all of it? And why not do that together, in a public setting like the theatre?”

“Once we’ve looked at human suffering that closely, it has the potential to change the way we relate to others. Our lives might be lived with greater humility, care and gratitude,” says Barker.

At least they’re acknowledging those stories. I’m kind of curious what the reaction was to the show — were there Christians who were unaware these stories were in their precious Bible?

If you want to know which parts of the Bible were covered in the show, check out these verses:

II Kings 6:24-7:20

II Kings 2:23-25
II Samuel 6:1-23
Judges 3:12-30
Joshua 7:2-26
Judges chapters 19 to 21

(via The Invisible Pink Unicorn)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Now, that’s funny!

  • Jeff Satterley

    Judges is quite an entertaining book. My favorite is probably 4:21

    Then Jael, Heber’s wife took a nail of the tent, and took an hammer in her hand, and went softly unto [Sisera], and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened it into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died.

    Moral of this story: Don’t mess with Israel, or you’ll get a tent stake driven through your head! And people say the Bible isn’t a good place to learn about morality. 😉

    I wonder what is meant by “fastened it to the ground.” Did she drive the stake completely through his head and into the ground, or did she tie the stake off to a ground stake, like you would if you were setting up a tent? Either way, its very disturbing.

  • How dare they make fun of II Kings 2:23-25!!!

    That’s the best Bible verse EVAR!!!!

  • With all due respect to the one who commented previously, and as a member of the Terror Texts cast for the past year, I can personally say that NONE of the texts are treated without due reverance, and that each was chosen for a specific purpose. The texts are verbatim (word for word) performed from the KJV, and are enacted in the musical. We take our work very seriously, and realize that it is all intended to bring glory to God and His kingdom on earth, and that our hard work is intended to bring people back to the often forgotten scriptures of the old testament, and posit the idea that the Old Testament stories can be performed, and not just read.
    I ask those who comment to do so wisely, and in doing so, not judge a book by its cover (to borrow an age-old addage), for I assure you that no article could ever fully describe the experience of seeing Terror Texts or being a member of its cast.
    I once again remind you that though we may have used the text from II Kings 2:23-25 for levity in the show, it still is treated (as are all the texts) with all due respect and reverence. After all, our musical is about teaching people to take a different viewpoint on the old testament.

  • Jen

    We covered Judges 4:21 for some reason in m Awana’s group when I was, oh, eight years old or so. They explained in fairly graphic detail, too.

    This is the same church that told me Jesus would come “like a thief in the night”, and I couldn’t sleep with my window shade up for a week, because Jesus was going to come into my room. I still get a little weirded out when I hear that.

  • SmilingAtheist

    With all due respect to the one who commented previously, and as a member of the Terror Texts cast for the past year, I can personally say that NONE of the texts are treated without due reverance, and that each was chosen for a specific purpose.

    Austin I have to say that you’re sort of missing something obvious. Some of us actually have a sense of humour and well, we like to use it. Call us silly.

    I ask those who comment to do so wisely, and in doing so, not judge a book by its cover (to borrow an age-old addage), for I assure you that no article could ever fully describe the experience of seeing Terror Texts or being a member of its cast

    As for judging a book by it’s cover, that’s what happens to atheists all the time. We get judged, normally by religious people, all the time and they assume they know what we’re like.

    Most here would see the bible or any other holy book as nothing but literature. We don’t see any ‘reverence’ in it. As for the texts you have chosen for glorifying your god well what can I say? Your god is a most terrifying individual and I would have nothing to do with it/he/she. Maybe you should look into your text some more and see if what’s going on there makes any sense to you.

    I had an interesting experience earlier this year when I attended a baptism. I paid attention this time. I sat there thinking, ‘wow, do they really believe this stuff or are they totally blind to what it says?’ I have never been so freaked out in my life as I sat there reading reading the words to the songs and the verses. I was absolutely stunned.

    Your plays would have the same effect on me no doubt.

  • disbeliever

    Smiling Atheist,
    I understand your concern with this musical at first appearance and the implications of it. I too am an atheist and have a hard time with a lot of the silly and frankly sometimes frightening things involved in Christianity.
    That being said, I have also seen this musical. And it is thought-provoking and beautifully done. Though it is obviously Biblically based, it does not preach or “bible thump” and only presents these stories of human atrocities as worthwhile of serious thought. Christian or not, we can all agree that people throughout history have done incredibly awful things to each other. This musical allows the audience to confront this fact and ask “why?”. I think, no matter what you believe, this is a question worth asking.

  • SmilingAtheist

    Disbeliever,
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a good play, the point I made however is that they state what this play is for, using Austin’s own words here:

    We take our work very seriously, and realize that it is all intended to bring glory to God and His kingdom on earth, and that our hard work is intended to bring people back to the often forgotten scriptures of the old testament, and posit the idea that the Old Testament stories can be performed, and not just read.

    I’ve been told by many a Christian that “no one believes that Old Testament stuff”. So if I were to look at it as just literature only then, yes, the play sounds interesting, something similar to Shakespeare I guess. However that’s not what they’re trying to do here since it is a Christian school and going by Austin’s own statement.

    Any play or movie can be made to be ‘great’ or ‘beautiful’ as you put it. It just depends on how you present it. As for the asking of ‘why’ most people viewing this will answer that with one word, ‘god’. Which is the answer the play wants you to answer with. Which is my problem. Bible stories, movies, and plays are all about verifying god as an answer.

    People in history have done horrible things, people still do horrible things and lots of them use god as their reason. I’m just a little tired of it.

    I’m all for a good musical or play. I like plays. However I’m a little over biblical myths. We’ve had our share of them for the last 2000 years let’s do something else more relevant shall we? How about a good science play? Maybe one explaining evolution to fundies? That sounds like fun. 🙂

  • Josh

    I really don’t get it…

    Aren’t these stories the kind of things atheists like us tell when Christians say that the bible is a source of morality? I mean, I guess I give these guys credit for bringing thing stories up so that people are actually aware of how much of a dick Yahweh is, but it seems to be a bit counter productive.

    The most unpleasant character in all of fiction? Definitely!

  • Jeff, I think you’re missing the real take home lesson of the Jael story for the contemporary man: don’t take strange women you just met back to your tent (or apartment) unless you’re absolutely sure they don’t want to drive a stake through you’re head. Go to her place and sneak out after she’s asleep.
    Now who says the bible doesn’t contain any relevant messages for today.