Written in response to and in light of the Pulse night club shooting, Chasing Gods by Paris Crayton III is from the outset an emotionally charged and relevant play. It examines the struggles of the family of a Christian pastor who had responded to the mass killing by condemning homosexuals as sinners. The play centers on a family of a grandfather named Pops, two parents named Diedra and Immanuel, a son named Elijah, and a daughter named Olivia. They all struggle with internal conflict stemming from the pressure created by the mother’s sermon. Two revolutions are present in the play: the revolution of LGBTQ+ culture, which has seen expanded rights in recent years, and the revolution of modern Christianity, which must reform some of its outdated and bigoted values in order to retain followers. The play’s ultimate condemnation of fundamentalism (and a general refusal to change) is an important reminder of the social revolutions of today which combat bigotry and promote equality.
Perhaps the largest of the play’s many conflicts is Diedra’s struggle with her own faith and beliefs, which Crayton rightly exposes as well-intended but ultimately ignorant and alienating. Diedra’s beliefs hold that homosexuality is inherently wrong and has no place of support from Christianity. This issue is the hill which she chooses to die on, as she weathers alienation from Immanuel, Elijah, and Olivia as well as ridicule from Elijah’s friend, Sarah. When Diedra decides to hold steadfast in her beliefs rather than reform them to become more accepting to all people, she becomes a villainous character. The struggle as a viewer between sympathizing with her and wondering why she doesn’t simply become kinder is akin to similar thoughts by the typical person towards fundamentalist Christians as a whole. Their beliefs seem outdated and bigoted, and yet at the same time they are holding on to everything they know and find familiar, so it is not easy to change beliefs for them. This struggle is well-written because it shows why a person may remain bigoted, rather than purely villainizing such people.
Additionally, Diedra’s struggle with Pops’ death is an important move by Crayton. This reminds us all of the nuanced and multi-dimensional lives that these Christians lead; while Diedra is reconciling her faith and facing attacks from everyone around her, the one person who gave her constant support dies. Diedra experiences a multitude of problems, and the one thing which she believes can help her is faith in God. Through her depression, alienation, and loss of a loved one, she constantly prays and believes that God will provide the answers to her problems. Her response makes sense and is evidence of how when faced with all of life’s problems, it is very possible for a person to continue to hold homophobic or other bigoted views. However, and rightly so, the play condemns Diedra’s response to criticism. Even if she is enduring problems, she is overlooking an obvious solution which would not seem to cost much effort or sacrifice any core values of her faith.
Overall,Chasing Godswas an excellent examination into how someone can stand strong in faith-based defense of bigoted views, even in light of violence towards victims of oppression. It reminded us of the multifaceted problems that face each person, including these people who have caustic opinions. However, the play appropriately ends on a note of criticism towards Diedra’s, and other fundamentalists’, lifestyles. In the play’s epilogue, the 4 remaining members of the family are shown, with Immanuel, Elijah, and Olivia in the present moment, moving on with their lives. This is juxtaposed with Diedra giving her original sermon which incited so much criticism, and she is described by the narrator as stuck living in the past. In a world in which some Christians read an archaic text as pure truth despite the fact that it contradicts the core values of love and acceptance espoused by Jesus Christ, Chasing Gods is an important reminder to live in the here and now as a community which includes all people.