On February 26, 1930, a play premiered in New York that was hailed as one of the best American plays of all time. It was called The Green Pastures, and was both written and directed by Marc Connelly The Green Pastures became a Hollywood movie in 1936. It was also written and directed by Marc Connelly. It was odd that the author of the play, which took the story of the Bible from Creation to Good Friday, described himself as an “Episcopalian agnostic”.
The Green Pastures was extremely popular and seemed to make it possible for secular people to feel like believers. Unfortunately, because his ‘Fable’, as Connelly called it, was portrayed entirely as an African-American Sunday School lesson, with the characters all costumed as African-Americans in the rural South of that era, The Green Pastures is now regarded as politically incorrect. Thus the Warner Brothers video edition of the movie has a ‘Warning’ label at the start, underlining the supposed stereotyping of the play.
The result of this amazing play’s being considered politically incorrect is that few people of our day see it, or even know about it. From being a play so powerful emotionally that it was compared to Our Town, The Green Pastures is now a kind of cultural relic.
Now that is very wrong and very unfortunate. Connelly’s play is a remarkable evocation of the spirit — the Spirit — of the Bible. The Green Pastures makes the Bible real, just as much as The Flowers of St. Francis by Roberto Rossellini or the recent Finnish ‘indie’ called Letters to Father Jacob.
You have got to see The Green Pastures!
Before you do anything else religious in the next month — and especially at Easter — you have got to make the time to Netflix and see The Green Pastures. PZ’s Podcast this week tries to say why.
Preview: Marc Connelly understood the relation of Grace and Law more powerfully than 99 in 100 of us. It all comes out in Scene VII of Part Two. Hezdrel (aka Adam) is a character for the ages. And note the resemblance to … another character, his Interlocutor.