It’s difficult to find a play about religion that treats the subject with as much honesty, fairness, and intelligence as The Savannah Disputation. After working on it for months, I continue to have more questions than answers about this play, about its stance on faith, and about faith itself. This, I believe, is the point. I don’t think anyone can leave this play without questions about their own faith, or lack thereof. I also think that people of any faith can find confirmations of their beliefs within the play. But it’s not out of vagueness—the playwright’s “cop-out” as Mary would put it—it is, in fact, masterful playwrighting.
When intellectual thought is applied to Christian faith, many beliefs instilled in Sunday schools and youth groups must be questioned. There are inescapable contradictions. How can God have a detailed plan for our lives, yet be influenced by prayer? If the Bible is the infallible Word of God, why are there mistakes? Why did Jesus overturn some earlier teachings? And most commonly, how can we accept both a literal interpretation of the Bible and reconcile it with scientific evidence to the contrary? These questions lead many away from faith, and characters of this type are found all over literature. Christians who haven’t put much thought into their faith are similarly common. Father Murphy is a refreshing departure. He accepts the problems with common theology, and further embraces his faith, allowing for the possibility that he’s wrong, but taking the best path he knows.
The point of this play isn’t obvious. Is it pro-faith or anti-faith? I could defend either. I believe it’s more complicated. What this play is against is faith without understanding; unfounded or unmotivated faith. This play celebrates faith that is informed, diligent, active, and earnest. Each character leaves with an understanding of what they must sacrifice to hold onto the faith they claim.
I thank you for taking your valuable time to come see this performance. I hope that you are rewarded, and that this play succeeds in making you laugh, feel, and most importantly think.
Daniel Carter Brown