Sunday, July 18th, 2010
If you go back to the original text, the younger son starts out as the villain, but it’s really the elder son who eclipses him in that role. That reversal is a big reason we wanted to tell this story at this time. Because we are telling a story, not preaching a sermon, we decided to use the word “prodigal” progressively. The elder son uses it first as an insult toward his brother. Later in the story, the townsfolk turn that slur toward the father, calling him the “true prodigal”. In defense of the younger son, the Father applies the word to God, giving it a provocative positive spin.
The phrase “prodigal God” appears only twice in the script and be
gan presenting itself to us as a possible title. We resisted because it seemed either to confuse people or to trigger negative emotional responses. Others were arrested by the provocative irony of putting a word with a positive meaning and a negative connotation next to the word “God”. In the end, we couldn’t resist it.
With any story with such a long shelf life and celebrated history, everybody has their own take on what it means and why it’s so important. We’ve rendered the story that made most sense to us. By no means do we feel we have exhausted the range of possibilities and created the definitive version. We heartily encourage writers and songwriters everywhere to follow in our footsteps – whether as devotees or reformers – and plumb the depths of this wonderful treasure.