Monday, July 01, 2013

Do you hear the people sing?

Do you hear..?
There's been a flurry of talk round our gaff about Les Miserables. Yes, there's the recent film version of the musical - which among other things is the stimulus of discussions in our 'girls' cell group' at the moment. We also have more than one literature buff around who's read the original Hugo (and huge) novel. And a couple in our house were treated, not long ago, to a 'Les Mis' theatre experience...

And, yes, we like to talk, to theologise and philosophise.

After all, this is a tale packed with spiritual topics. There's the trio of human conditions represented in (unrighteous) Thénardier, (self-righteous) Javert and (righteous) Valjean. There's the heroic sacrifice of the revolutionary students - but also the agonised question of 'what their sacrifice was for'. There's the power of 'little people'. There's love, death and redemption (someone once said those three themes sum up all literature). And there's the musical's conclusion that 'to love another person is to see the face of God'.

Why, asks a Christian reviewer, in a world where both Christian profession and practice are on the wane, has such a musical gained tremendous popularity? The answer is twofold: The musical's approach is not didactic or preachy; the primacy of love and faith emerges from the telling of the story, rather than catechetical speeches or songs. And that approach allows the truth to speak for itself, and to speak to the viewer. Whether he is Christian or not, he cannot help but recognize the underlying truth of the story...

Story has the power to move the masses. Jesus understood this. He used story both to make clear and to make cryptic - and sometimes both at once. He used the narrative of his day - from farming to returning kings to absent sons - to reach and to reveal hearts.

I think there's something to be said for using today's narratives, found on the screen as much as the page, to raise thought, to stir longing, to reveal hearts.

Do you hear the people sing?

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