Church in Northern Ireland to protest film screening of Jesus Christ Superstar
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Church in Northern Ireland to protest film screening of Jesus Christ Superstar

A CHURCH in Northern Ireland is planning to protest an upcoming screening of Jesus Christ Superstar in Armagh this weekend.

Protestors are set to picket the screening at the Market Place Theatre in the town centre this Saturday for an hour before the film begins, singing hymns and handing out leaflets outlining their religious grievances with the hit Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera.

Rev Graham Middleton from Tullyvallen Free Presbyterian Church is set to lead the protest which will be a non-confrontational demonstration against some of the film’s blasphemous content.

Speaking to The Belfast Telegraph, Middleton outlined the church’s issues with the musical, which apparently start with the title itself.

"It's a complete fabrication that Christ is a 'superstar',” he said.

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“How can Christ be lowered to a worldly label such as this? Christ played an important role as the second figure of the Holy Trinity in Creation, and to be questioned by his creation in this way is wrong."

Middleton also expressed concern that the production "gives us a view of Christ's final days through Judas' eyes".

"He may have been an apostle but this is not a good standpoint as we know the Devil entered Judas as he left the Last Supper, so we are really getting the Devil's point of view".

Armagh Sinn Fein councillor Garath Keating says the church is entitled to protect the screening, provided their actions are peaceful and non-confrontational.

Jesus Christ Superstar made its Broadway debut back in 1971, where it was met with strong opposition from some religious groups.

Arguably the most contentious song to feature in the production is I Don’t Know How To Love Him, a ballad sung from the perspective of Judas Iscariot as he prepares to betray Jesus.

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At the time of the musical’s debut, co-creator Rice further stoked the controversy when he was quoted as saying: "It happens that we don't see Christ as God but simply the right man at the right time at the right place."

The film version, directed by Norman Jewison and starring Ted Neeley, followed in 1973.