The Book of Mormon . . . the Musical

4 08 2015

Clearly, Broadway gets it!  Writers, actors, dancers and singers appear to have all come to the realization that it’s all about the metaphor!  They apparently know that the truth does not lie in sacred mountains, angelic visitors, or golden tablets, but rather with the transformation such tales give rise to in the human heart.  The myths and the stories, in and of themselves, are not the point.  Rather, it is their call to kindness, compassion, and courage that lead to salvation.  It is their rousing motivation to stand up to injustice and be true to the human heart, that leads humanity and all creation to the things of God.

They get it!  And while it may be communicated in ways that raise an eyebrow, or that cause this 54 year old pastor to cringe at times, they appear to know what so many of us religious types have yet to grasp.  And that is that it’s all about the metaphor!

So how come?  How come they get it, and so many of us don’t?  Why is it taking the Church, and so many other faith communities, so long to grasp what the bright lights of Broadway have been illuminating since “The Book of Mormon” premiered in 2011?

While we continue to fight about whether or not homosexuals will be permitted to marry in our sanctuaries, they are getting their college roommates ‘certified to perform marriages’ and heading to nearby wineries.  While we debate the veiling and education of women, they are going to college, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, and changing the world.  While we continue to kill one another over laws and land, they are saying “F*#& you!” (literally!) to our irrationally conceived gods and rewriting their own stories of redemption and new life.

And why?  Well perhaps because one is about persevering, while the other is more interested in preserving.  And you can probably guess which is which!

Both terms are used frequently in Scripture, however for some odd reason, the Church today tends to see itself as the vanguard of preservation; and this is painfully evident as we listen to the voice and see the work of so many faith communities.  The act of hanging on to what was, not allowing change or movement and thus restricting growth, seems to have become our mission . . . our god!  Rather than embracing the new things that the Spirit is doing in, to and with our world, the Church has become distracted by hanging onto the past, falsely believing that like antiques, if something is more than 100 years old, it is worthy of hanging onto!  We cling to stories and beliefs composed in the days of nascent scientific knowledge, and we refuse to allow our myths to grow and develop so that they might continue to speak to a 21st century world.

While catchy, and entertaining, “The Book of Mormon” is not a musical I’d like to take my parents to see.  Certain scenes are just downright offensive and embarrassing.  But an even sadder fact is that there are many churches I would never take my children to . . . and for the very same reasons.  Their stories offend our intelligence, and their methods are embarrassing naive!

But here’s the thing – this is NOT true of ALL churches.  In fact many are not at all offensive, OR embarrassing!  You just need to look around.  They are in every part of this country, and in most every town and city.  You just need to look! Search for congregations that have Sunday morning worship gatherings that are uplifting, creative, and in a language we can understand.  Look around for worship spaces that are visually stimulating, overflowing with music and messages that are relevant and engaging, and full of people who embrace their traditions but are not being strangled by them! And get online, and go to church websites, digging for words that yes, are politically correct (in spite of the fear that strikes in so many hearts!):  words like inclusive, accepting, emergent, open, and progressive.  And then seek those places out, and discover the adventure of following Jesus!

And one more thing — don’t be afraid of the small, old, mainline church!  Because sometimes, it is the fastest growing religions (and churches) that are the most . . . well, let me simply say ‘messed’ up!

At the end of “The Book of Mormon” (spoiler alert: stop reading if you don’t want to know the ending!)  the young, 19 year old missionaries wind up leaving the church of their youth because it becomes an obstacle to their persevering in the real mission to which they believe they have been called – ministering to the people of Uganda!  They decide that if they have to choose between their ‘religion’ and caring for others, they are going to choose caring for others.

But maybe we don’t need to make that choice!  Maybe, we can choose both.  Perhaps, if we begin to grasp the power of metaphor, and stop trying to preserve the past, we will be able to move into the bright and beautiful future God has waiting for us.  And if you don’t have a church telling you this, then keep looking.  Because they are out there, and you will find them.

In the meantime, check out Broadway.  Because it looks like they get it!


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One response

4 08 2015
Fred Brown

Nice post Bob. My biggest gripe about religion is literalism, if there is such a word. This is why Linda and I appreciate your approach to the pulpit, an open mind. Keep up the good work.

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