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Freedom and Hamilton and What We Can Learn from Both

I’m not so sure why this week’s blog was so difficult to write. I’d love to say that it’s because I wasn’t a history scholar and perhaps I’m afraid of saying something wrong.

I’m afraid it runs much deeper than that.

I have told you before. I was raised to be deeply patriotic. My dad fought in three wars and spent twenty-five years in the military. He loved America. He saw the faults, but loved this country and by his example, I did too. I feel privileged to be raised an American. I’m proud of my dad. I’m proud that he would risk his life to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy. Have you ever thought that there are reasons people put their lives in danger to try to make their way into our country and escape their own? I think we have it pretty great.

And yet….we are a divided country right now. We are torn politically. We are torn because of the virus. And we are torn on other levels as well.

It isn’t the first time we’ve been divided. When the Continental Congress declared their independence from the British during the reign of King George the III not everyone was in favor of that decision, but TOGETHER we fought for freedom. Our country has been torn during the Civil War and again during the Vietnam War when people avoided the draft and escaped to Canada to avoid fighting for something they didn’t believe in.

For years, people disdained a person who avoided the draft in such a manner. Now, it makes no difference to most people.

For a time we loved the freedoms that this country fought for and in turn granted all those who were citizens.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

What are the freedoms we are granted?

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom of the press
  4. Freedom to assemble peaceably
  5. Freedom to petition the Government.

With these freedoms we become the freest people in the world.

When do you get those freedoms? Do you have to work for them? Or be of legal age? No. You are granted these freedoms the day you are born. It doesn’t matter politically what side of the fight you are on: Republican or Democrat, you can use the freedoms you are given to push for change or oppose it.

Wow. You. Me. We. have the freedom to push for change. And I am so glad we all do.

Did you know that, John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the 4th of July should “be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty!

So you might be thinking….what does freedom and what people have fought for have to do with Hamilton?

During this time of celebration by many Americans, the Broadway musical Hamilton is making it’s screen debut and I think we can learn a lot from the production as well as the man.

Timing is everything.

Could this musical be a source of healing? Is there a way to look at the moral vision of the show, and in some way, come together as a county? Instead of allowing our differences to destroy us? Could there be an intersection between faith, arts and change?

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about the musical when I first had the opportunity to see Hamilton! I thought it was full of rap music and had a story line that I wasn’t super crazy about, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see something that was such a work of art. Hamilton won 11 Tony Award in 2016, including best musical. I now know it is a work of genius.

What can we learn from this musical?

Chuck, Ashley and me before the show last winter!
  1. Hamilton is the retelling of a time in our history, but brilliantly deals with the social issues that we face today. Hamilton was an immigrant from the Caribbean and a major theme of this musical is his fight for dignity and equality.
  2. The story also centers on grace, forgiveness, death and redemption. Themes that a person of faith rests on, but ones that we all should remember. Those themes should give us hope and show us what life might look like. Those themes open the door for us to have discussions about faith and hope and how we all need God’s Grace in our lives.
  3. The musical includes scripture that impacts as it tells the story of the past. Did you know that the song, “One Last Time” contains a phrase from the scripture that George Washington used in his personal writings throughout his life? Historically, the most famous use was at a time he used it to express hope that Jews would flourish in America.

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants–while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

4. Did you know that Hamilton, like many of our founding fathers, practiced a real faith in God.? He even wrote hymns and poetry when he was a boy. Here is a few lines from one of his most quoted:

“Hark! Hark! A voice from yonder sky, Methinks I hear my Saviour cry, Come gentle spirit come away, Come to thy Lord without delay.”

5. Hamilton tells the story about a man who was ambitious. It has been said that the poorest man has the chance to be a millionaire in America and indeed, “Hamilton didn’t “Throw Away His Shot.” By the time America was formed, Hamilton was the second most powerful man in the United States.

6. Hamilton teaches forgiveness. His wife, Eliza struggles with forgiving Alexander for an affair and the chorus sings, “Forgiveness, Can you imagine?” Can we, in our country, forgive each other? Can we take a moment to listen and understand the pain and forgive? Can we follow Christ’s example? 70 x 7?

7. Hamilton broke the “rules.” It is full of hip-hop, rap, poetry and it is the first musical to cast people of color to play characters who historically were not. Hip-hop and rap has traditionally been known as music of rebellion. To place it in a musical about a revolution is brilliant and eye-opening. Then the original casting hopefully opens our eyes to a new way of thinking about things and new possibilities. There is so much to learn from that.

Are we listening?

8. It is a story of heartbreak and redemption. Hamilton receives the honors of war and yet becomes a political outcast. He loses a son in a duel and ultimately dies the same way. And yet, his wife redeems all the hurt. In the final scene Eliza sings about her new calling to start the first private orphanage in New York. She sings:

” In their eyes I see you, Alexander. I see you every time.”

And she looks up to heaven and smiles.

When we celebrate July 4th this year I am going to be thankful for my country, my freedoms, my friends (both the ones who share my beliefs and the ones who don’t).

I’m also going to be thankful for God’s work of redemption. At times, the world seems full of sadness and suffering. May we each have the courage to speak out and spread the hope the God gives. May we have courage to be a catalyst for change not just a bystander. I am going to be thankful for my freedom of speech (even though sometimes I’m afraid to take the chance to express myself.)

I am also thankful for musical theater!

I hope you can enjoy your families, friends and FREEDOM! Happy 4th of July!

Please let me know your thoughts! Has the time of unrest in our country sadden you? Or do you see it as a wonderful catalyst for change and discussion?

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Until next time!

2 thoughts on “Freedom and Hamilton and What We Can Learn from Both”

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