L. James Harvey’s Courtroom Drama Presents Facts of Christ Rising From the Dead

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

res225The inspiration for L. James Harvey’s courtroom drama, The Resurrection on Trial, is due in part to his fascination with the O.J. Simpson murder trial, an abiding interest in the long-running TV series, Law & Order and a fact he learned about the average pew-sitting Christian.

“I saw a study that revealed 30 percent of Christians who go to church on Sunday do not believe Christ physically rose from the dead,” said Harvey. “And the apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:17 if we don’t believe Christ arose, our faith is in vein.

“And if 30 percent don't believe Christ arose, then obviously the church is lacking something.”

Drama not only for Christians

The inaugural play for West Michigan, The Resurrection on Trial seeks to stem that notion. But the play isn’t intended only for Christians, said Harvey, whose background includes former president of Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, dean of students at Hope College in Holland and vice president of William Rainey Harper Community College in Palatine, Ill., a suburb of Chicago.

Harvey also worked as a senior vice president and partner in an international consulting firm based in Washington, D.C. Afterward, he started new career as a writer of Christian books.

“It’s set in an contemporary courtroom, and the audience is sworn in as the jury and four witnesses argue for resurrection and four who argue against the resurrection,” said Harvey. “The witnesses give testimony and are cross examined. In the process, they try to get all the arguments four and against it.”

Average of 70 churches linked arms

As Easter approaches, some 70 area churches primarily comprised of Bible, Baptist, Reformed Church in America and Christian Reformed Church churches have linked arms to help make the drama possible. People are volunteering as actors, directors, ushers, production crew and getting the word out, said the Rev. Tom Couch, pastor of the Grandville Bible Church who’s coordinating the churches’ involvement.

Prior to accepting the pastorate at Grandville Bible Church in 2012, Couch was senior ministries pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, a church known for its Christmas theme production, Festival of Lights. He knows what’s required to put a drama together that relies mostly on volunteers, he said.

Community impact critical

“My goal is to see us come together that will have a community impact and not just a limited impact,” said Couch. “And perhaps out of that circumstances, the skeptics, the curiosity seekers, the scorner, the person who’s heard of the resurrection but had not thought it through, will come to a safe, non-church environment and hear the facts and be impacted by the resurrection.”

The Resurrection Trial is scheduled for March 5, 6 and 7 at the 1,200-seat Jenison Center for the Arts, 8375 20th Ave., in Jenison. All shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 and may be purchased at www.jpsarts.com or by calling the Jenison Center for the Arts box office. For more information, go to www.resontrial.com.

The Resurrection Trial is based on Harvey’s 2001 book, The Resurrection: Ruse or Reality?” A second edition was published in 2011.

“The book is too long to do as a play: over three hours,” said Harvey. “So I trimmed it down to a two hour format with a 20 minute intermission. I didn’t take out any of the major points and reduced the dialogue without changing any of the basic content.

“I wanted the play to present the facts for and against the resurrection so people can think through the logic and rationale of the event.”

Audience is the jury

What that means is the play doesn’t attempt to coerce the audience to decide in favor of Christ’s resurrection, said Harvey. Instead, at its conclusion, they will be asked to complete a card that indicates if the drama convinced them Jesus’ resurrection did, or did not, actually transpire, and then leave the card on their seat as they exit.

“I try to leave in a way in which they would make up their own minds,” said Harvey. “No verdict is rendered. The audience is given a jury ballot and they are asked to give their verdict. However if people want to know more about the issues of the resurrection, some churches have agreed to contact them.”

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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