Hamilton, but make it Jesus
Everything you need to know about the off-brand Hamilton presented by the Door McAllen church
Since Hamilton made its Broadway debut in 2015, the show has been performed in a lot of different places. It’s still on Broadway, had three North American tours, is on the West End, and is available on Disney+. Some places that Hamilton has not been are smaller stages, like high schools or community theatres. Since Hamilton has never given any licenses, the show has only been performed by major productions like tours and Broadway. Until now.
On August 5 and 6, the Door McAllen church in McAllen, Texas illegally performed Hamilton, with a few changes. Hamilton as a show has references to sexual activity and a lot of swearing, both of which are considered inappropriate for their church setting. For example, in the opening song Hamilton is referred to as a “son of a whore,” but the Door McAllen changed it to “son of a harlot.” One of the more iconic lines, “Southern motherfucking Democratic Republicans” has a silent gap in the middle. As this is a church putting on Hamilton, there are a lot of references to God and Jesus. In “That Would Be Enough,” when Eliza is supposed to sing “I know who I married,” she instead sings “my hope is in Jesus.” Hamilton gets evangelized and accepts Jesus right before he dies. They even change what is arguably the biggest message of the show: the idea of a legacy. According to the Door McAllen’s Hamilton, a legacy is repenting for your sins and knowing that Jesus died on the cross.
Immediately after the show was performed, a sermon was held about Hamilton, or at least that’s how it was listed on their YouTube before they set every video on their YouTube channel to private. The most notable part of that sermon was when Pastor Roman Gutierrez said “He [God] knows what you’ve gone through. […] maybe you struggle with homosexuality, […] God can help you tonight.” So, after performing an illegal version of Hamilton and filling it with a Christian storyline, the Door McAllen church told people that being gay was something you needed help with, and proceeded to compared homosexuality to alcohol and drug addiction.
After the Door McAllen church was called out for illegally performing the show, they changed their Eventbrite and Facebook page to say the show on Saturday the 6th was cancelled…except that was not true. An email was shared to Howard Sherman, director of the Arts Integrity Initiative in New York, saying that the show was going to be performed despite the listings on Eventbrite and Facebook saying it was cancelled.
On August 23, the Door McAllen church released statements on their social media and website apologizing to the creative team of Hamilton for their production, admitting to not having a license or permission to change lyrics, and stating that they respect copyright law. But there have been some contradictions to this statement.
In a sermon prior to the statement, Gutierrez stated that “the Hamilton team … [gave them] the license to perform [their] version,” and that “it was really, really good to get permission for this one and hopefully [they] can do it again in the future.” That was not true, and their statement confirmed it. A Hamilton spokesperson confirmed that “Hamilton does not grant amateur or professional licensing for any stage productions and did not grant one to the Door church.”
Gutierrez said an interesting line when claiming they had the license. He said that it was good to get permission for “this one.” He admitted to not having permission for any of their shows, and yes, there are more. The Door McAllen church has performed Despicable Me featuring a scene where Gru prays, Toy Story, Beauty and the Beast, Elf, and The Greatest Showman, all without the proper permission and licensing as far as we know. All of these had Christian messages shoved into the show. Not all of this can be confirmed since all the videos have been taken down, but shows like the Greatest Showman don’t have licensing because it is not a stage play.
It was illegal to put on the show, but the Door McAllen has agreed to pay damages which the Hamilton team has claimed will go to the South Texas Equality Project, a 2SLGBTQIA+ coalition. The show has been dubbed “Scamilton” and has been circulating on the internet since the performances in early August.
While researching this story, I was curious about the church itself. I wanted to know more about the church that would put on an illegal Jesus-ified version of Hamilton, and I found some interesting things. For starters, in their General Rules of Conduct, you must pay the church “tithes and offerings” to “be identified with the Church of Almighty God” and show that you are “pursuing a godly life.” Gutierrez has a book about himself that was not written by him, but he appears to use it for his motivational speaking. Some of their pastors don’t even live in Texas but are still listed on their website.
What I found more interesting was the information about their parent church, the Door San Antonio. They’re Evangelists who “enlist a ‘whatever it takes’ mentality” when it comes to their evangelizing. To become a member of this church, you must take a six-week course about the faith they follow and their responsibilities as church members. Once hopeful new members finish the course, they must sign a “Membership Covenant” for their role in the church to be solidified. Even further than that is the Door McAllen and the Door San Antonio’s relations to the Christian Fellowship Ministries which is reportedly a cult. Both churches are listed under CFM’s affiliated websites. For a quick recap, a church in Texas associated with a potential cult put on an illegal, unlicensed version of Hamilton. It was free to go see the show, which makes it more illegal, but if you want to be accepted as part of said church, you must pay them at least 10% of your monthly earnings. Following the show, the lead pastor made at least one homophobic statement, but we can’t confirm if there were more because the church has attempted to wipe every video they’ve ever posted from the internet.