I readily admit that I am a lover of Broadway. Love it! Especially musicals. From the first time I saw Cats in the 6th grade to Wicked to Avenue Q to Phantom to Promises, Promises to In the Heights to most recently The Book of Mormon, there’s something about a story being acted out in the midst of great acting, catchy songs, and neat stages/dancing/the whole atmosphere that I just can’t get enough of. I know, I know – it’s a long way to Broadway. But there’s loads of shows that come through even wonderful South Carolina. And you could see the Legally Blonde musical on MTV or the anniversary special of Les Mis on PBS or even bootlegging from your wonderful youtube. There’s just something about being transported and watching really great art – singing, dancing, acting, the amazing orchestra – the whole experience.
So that’s the place I’m coming from when Mike won tickets to the Book of Mormon and we could see the whole thing from boxed seats and into the orchestra. I’m not the hugest fan in the world of South Park. I think it’s sometimes funny – the episodes about Tom Cruise, Scientology, Mormons, the Christian rock band, those I can find the humor and appreciate it. I’m not a fan of the overkill of language and violence but I know that is part of what they’re trying to speak to. I get that. I had no idea what to expect out of this musical. I had read about it in Entertainment Weekly and how they described it as “an atheist’s love letter to religion.”
I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, there’s some awful language. So much so in parts that I can’t even describe some of the songs. But how real and open they were to work with real issues and serious situations in the midst of the hilarity and satire, was a unique look about religion, faith, and just how cruddy or overly fake life can appear to be and yet how real and authentic it is.
I think about this how end of the world hoohah right now. When we were in New York people were wearing signs and handing out brochures in Times Square about our upcoming May 21st big day. One of the newspapers quoted a retired bus driver who had put in over $40,000 to get the word out to the “unbelievers.” That’s a whole lot of money to put out there. It also quoted a bunch of people who had already quit their jobs and sold their houses. I can’t even imagine that kind of….what’s the word….devotion? (lots of other adjectives that could be used here)
In the opening song of The Book of Mormon and also as part of the finale there’s a song called “Hello!” and it’s a melody of Mormons doing their somewhat cliched ringing of doorbells and introducing people to the Book of Mormon. I wouldn’t say the musical is completely anti-Mormon, but it certainly does poke major fun and lots of holes and questions about the legitimacy of Mormonism. It talks about these missionaries being dropped into these communities and not really caring how the people are actually doing or how they live, but only caring about witnessing. Now I’d like to get on my high horse and say that the United Methodist Church doesn’t do that – we’re working with communities, handing out bed nets, providing food, clean water, education. You can’t deny that UMCOR rocks. Very true.
But do we care enough to give our $40,000 savings to anyone or anything to get out any kind of message? I’m not saying you should start shelling out money a la to some televangelist – quite the contrary. I’m just saying, I don’t know how many of us are willing to part with our life savings for anything. And definitely not to our churches.
What do our missionaries look like? And not just our missionaries because that’s putting it off on just a few, but what do we look like as we share the Gospel? Do we share a Gospel with strings attached or just the simple bare basics in our every day lives? Do we tell people how our scripture could change their lives? Do we share how Jesus is relevant to our lives today? Have any of us shared scripture with someone else, much less a Bible? Do we think that’s too pushy or too “something”?
It’s great that we are doing Change the World weekends as a UMC. Really great. That’s what we should be doing. But all the time and all the churches. Too much to ask? Maybe so. But if we as a church – not just UMC, but all of us – aren’t doing something, living something, breathing something, actually giving a fig about something enough to put our time, hearts, and money where are mouths are, than what are we doing?