Saturday, October 04, 2008

Theology at the Theatre 1

Les Miserables
Originally uploaded by Gary McMurray.

While we were in London, we managed to get to a couple of shows in the West End. The first one we saw was Les Miserables, which, I have now discovered isn't the name of a very sad man. Of course, it is a French title, we all knew that!

While this was more emotional / depressing / touching than the other show we saw (The Lion King - more on it at a future date), it seems to have affected me more, and the songs have been in my head ever since. It will only be a matter of time before I get the soundtrack cd, but in the meantime YouTube has been providing me with reminders of the songs.

There are so many theological insights and discussions that could be had, and I'm hoping to write a bit on some of these over the coming days. For now, here's the first.

Throughout the musical, we find a running battle between Jean Valjean and Javert. Jean Valjean is a prisoner in the opening scene, having been sentenced to a work squad as punishment for theft, and then trying to escape. Javert is the prison guard / army officer who takes a hard line on punishing criminals.

Indeed, such a hard line that he only ever refers to Jean as Prisoner 24601. He seeks to dehumanise Jean, referring to him only as a number. Jean, we learn, had stolen a loaf of bread to feed his sister's child.

Jean Valjean has been granted parole, a yellow ticket to leave the work squad. In Jean's eyes, he has his freedom, having served his time, yet for Javert, he will never have served his time - a criminal is a criminal and he cannot be trusted.

The question for us is - do we believe in the second chance? Are there those in our society whom we immediately write off because of their past? Thankfully God doesn't work this way - otherwise none of us would ever be saved. Imagine if God said, 'well, he's sinned before, he'll sin again, so he's just a sinner. We can't help him.'

What great words we find in Romans 5: 'God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.' (Romans 5:8).

Here's a clip of the opening scene and first confrontation between Jean and Javert, not from the theatre, but from the 10th anniversary concert.

Related themes:

See also Peter's Denials and the Gospel Hope and Dying Thief Finds Life.

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