But the Strip will now confess that it was very, very wrong.
The play made absolutely no attempt to disguise its Jesus-pushin' message.
A couple of weeks ago, this drama-lovin' slab of protein went to see the locally written, federally funded Blood Money. The Strip attended one of two public performances at the YouthFront Auditorium at 47th Street and Rainbow. There, a volunteer estimated that up to 1,500 middle school and high school kids had taken field trips to two earlier shows on February 16 and 17. Most of those students, the volunteer told us, had come from public schools.
In Blood Money, a spirited cast of young African-Americans perform exacting krump-dancing contests and deliver some hot praying action. At one point, a young man named Cal prays for his friend Sean, whose recent sexual encounter with the lovely Erica has violated the abstinence pledge that Cal and Sean took long ago. Cal's request of God: "Be Sean's anchor ... lift him up in your righteous right hand ... show yourself to him in your mighty way."
Other highlights: Sean and Cal and their dance crew haven't just signed cards pledging no sex until marriage; they dance "for the honor and glory of God." After Sean gets laid, he's excoriated by friends: "Instead of talking about God, you've been thinking about that Laffy Taffy."
Sean's grandfather, who gets all the best lines, catches Sean sulking into the house early Sunday morning and sniffs, "I suspect wherever you've been, you should be in God's house." And Sean is roundly booed when he announces, "I don't wanna go to no church with you."
In short, Blood Money offers exactly two reasons why kids should keep their pants on: God and Jesus.
There's also a little bit of talk about how premarital sex is disrespectful to women to which this subversive sizzler scoffs: not if it's done right.
The show doesn't even mention any other valid arguments for abstinence such as the unhappy possibility that an eighth-grader might get pregnant or a horny high schooler might catch a lifelong STD.
The public performance concluded with Urban Youth Leadership minister Emmit Mitchell taking the stage. "I want to thank these young people who labored in ministry tonight," he said before turning the microphone over to Oklahoma City dance phenom Mike Davis.
Davis hit us with John 3:3: And all who believe this will keep themselves pure, just as Christ is pure.
He then invited us to bow our heads and approach an altar, where he dispensed "commitment cards" business-card-sized pledges of chastity, each bearing the Web address for Urban Youth Leadership, the activist ministry responsible for the show.
Patricia Pearl, who wrote the show and serves as executive director at UYL, assures the Strip that any public school students who were bused to YouthFront didn't wind up on the business end of a sermon afterward, like the Strip did. "The school performances are exclusive of the gospels," she says. "We absolutely respect the laws of the land, without a doubt. We wouldn't be successful if we didn't."
She has been successful. Pearl estimates that over the course of seven years, 19,500 people saw her first abstinence play, Worth Waiting For, and that 71 percent of them signed commitment cards. She expects similar results from Blood Money, which has already been performed for students from many area schools, including the Paseo Academy, Northeast High School, Wyandotte High School and by her reckoning every middle school in the Kansas City, Missouri, district. (When the Strip asked KCMO School District spokesman Edwin Birch exactly which schools attended, he said only that he was "looking into it.")
Joining UYL in sponsoring the show was the Lifeguard Youth Development program of the Kansas City Women's Clinic, which provides pregnant women with an alternative to Planned Parenthood. (Hint: You have one choice.) Lifeguard director Deborah Neel spoke from the stage and distributed business cards, pamphlets and an anti-abortion newsletter that accuses Planned Parenthood of aborting minority babies to further founder Margaret Sanger's eugenic fantasies. (Neel did not respond to the Strip's calls or e-mails.)
Also supporting the cause was that most extreme of fringe groups: the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Pearl told the Strip that Blood Money reaches out to its target audience in the best possible way.
"There are very few African-American plays written exclusive of God," she says. "As Frederick Douglass put it, God is the warp and the woof of African-American culture. I could never do a play and not mention God, because that would be dishonest to the community."
Pearl has worked in abstinence education for years, including a stint in a school for teen mothers in Southern California. "That experience taught me so much," she says. "Planned Parenthood ... had nothing that saved these girls' hearts from being broken. Most of them said to me, 'I wish I hadn't done it. I wish someone had told me not to have sex.'"
Through her plays and work at UYL and other outreach programs, Pearl has told tens of thousands of kids not to do it.
Besides, she says, safe-sex education doesn't do any good. "Three decades of birth control, and they're still getting pregnant. They know all about birth control. They don't know about self-control."
Besides, she says, teenagers tend to think themselves immune to risks, so what help is it to harp on about STDs?
Hmm. Now that's a question the Strip would like to ask the legion of "abstinent" kids who have caught chlamydia from unprotected oral sex.