What is the place for a show called Doubt?
Calvary’s fall theatre production, Doubt: A Parable, tells the story of a nun in the 1960s. The nun believes a priest has been sexually abusing a boy named Donald in the parish school and sets out to have him removed. The topic and content raise the question: What is the intent of a production titled Doubt?
I read the script for Doubt my first semester at Calvary, and immediately loved its literary craft. I read it again the next year and found it resonated even more. It echoed passions God had already begun planting in my heart. As Calvary gears up to tell this thoughtful story, it is vital for us to know why it matters.
Finding Freedom in a Dumpster
How does this story speak the truth, love, and beauty of God? The answer, for me, was found in a dumpster. Some of the most prayerful and vulnerable moments of my life were spent there when, as a cabin leader playing hide-and-seek with the campers, I found myself crouched in a dumpster with plenty of time to think and process.
The camp I counseled at serves indigenous kids in western Canada, and I felt way out of my depth. Their culture is defined by both a history of sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders in schools during the 1800s and a destructive cycle that has far outlived the original abuse. Victims turn to substance, sexual, and domestic abuse and suicide in a culture that identifies itself by these tragedies. Every year, the reservations hold memorial services for the children whose identity and innocence were taken in the residential schools. These wounds of sexual abuse, inflicted by those who were and are meant to protect, last generations.
In a training session at the camp, a man who grew up in the indigenous culture spoke from Isaiah 53 and pointed out a verse I had previously overlooked. When we share the gospel, we communicate that Jesus can save you from your sins. This is true, but it is only part of the picture. Was he pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities? Absolutely. But that was not all Christ accomplished at the cross. Isaiah also says, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.” So often we give Christ our sins but hold on to our sorrows, even though we cannot hope to carry them. And it is this deep grief that Doubt addresses.
These offenses create pain that only the God-man can heal. But the story and the pain run deeper. What Donald needs—someone to carry his pain—he looks for in Father Flynn. This solidarity is exactly what Sister Aloysius, Sister James, and even Father Flynn are also looking for. Someone to lift the weight.
The God Who Carries Pain
Pain is very real. You don’t have to look farther than your neighbor down the street to see that our world is wracked by the consequences of sin and legacies of suffering. We know what it is to hurt. Our lives have given us huge burdens to carry, but sin is an offense against God and causes sorrows that only God in the flesh can carry.
The truth is, the only thing people can do with their pain is feel hurt. We can’t fix it; we can’t ignore it, and no matter how we try to hide it, it’s going to come out eventually. That’s what I came to grips with in the dumpster. My campers had complicated, often horrible lives, and I couldn’t fix them. They had burdens far beyond their—or my—strength.
But, if a person understands that Christ not only paid the price for his sin, but also willingly carries his suffering, he is freed. Not from pain’s existence, but from its control. Instead of being dominated by struggles, he can surrender them to God in a continuous act. That is the glory of life with Christ—something Donald and my campers don’t have. They have all the sorrow and none of the hope.
As I huddled in the dumpster, my thoughts turned to Psalm 139, our theme passage for camp. David asks, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” He paints a picture of God hunting him down wherever he tries to hide. Everywhere we go, God is with us, offering to take our punishment and our sorrows. That is true for everyone. It’s true for the girl who changes foster homes every year, for the boy who just lost his father to cancer, for the doubting, for the abused, for you, and for me. God continually, perfectly, lovingly offers to carry our pain.
Creating a Space for Redemption
How does Doubt speak into this need? Doubt does not flinch from the truth of human depravity but acknowledges the pain and speaks to often-overlooked brokenness. And all of these things are exactly what the church is called to do. I love Isaiah 61 because it reveals the heart of God “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” This is the same spirit we want to see reflected in ourselves, our school, and the global church. But it is God who does the binding; we can only be conduits of His healing.
At camp, I discovered that I could not change the sorrows inflicted by centuries of abuse. I can’t get my camper’s father out of prison or stop her uncle from raping her. All I could do was love and create a space for God to speak. Michael Card calls it “a frame around the silence where God speaks to the heart,” a space without distraction that encourages vulnerability with the Creator. A space that offers redemption.
So, back to the original question: Why Doubt? Why this play now? Because we need that space. As a campus, as a community, as the body of Christ, we need a space for vulnerability. We long for a frame around the silence for God to speak and for Christ to heal. We are weighed down with burdens only Christ can carry. How much lighter the load would be if they were surrendered to Him.
As we prepare for this show, I feel very much like a camp counselor again. I am staring down the giant of Sorrows that Calvary is about to meet head on. Doubt reveals a world’s weight of sorrow we cannot carry. But my time in the dumpster taught me that we were never meant to. We love wholeheartedly and pray for God to speak in the space we create.
Because in the end, this production is God’s work. All we can do is lend ourselves to its power, stand in the wings, and pray: “Thy Kingdom come.”