Guest Post by Cristen Wathen
“It was the end of the world…
and I was dancing with Sally Bowles…
and we were both asleep…”
Cabaret! One of my favorite Broadway musicals (I’m a bit of a buff) the music, the time-period, the dancing, the message… There is nothing like seeing a show like this one live. Actually, I have two very distinct memories from the first time I saw Cabaret! on stage. Growing up in a Christian sub-culture where my friends and I preferred The Little Mermaid to “R” rated movies and Point of Grace to R. Kelly the raucous nature of Cabaret! Brought those icky shame-inducing voices to my head… “I mean, should I be watching this?” “I mean this is very sexual and “bad!”- of course what I considered risqué at the time pales in comparison to what millions of teens and young adults today are watching today! (#MileyCyrus) However, the words, costumes, and suggestivity implicit in the show made me uncomfortable at the time. I even considered leaving at intermission (embarrassing to admit). For those of you who are not musical theater buffs… enjoy:
I stayed. I mean… I paid 50 bucks to see this show- and despite my guilt regarding what I was allowing into my mind (which don’t get me wrong- I think can be spiritually relevant)- I LOVE MUSICALS and the singing was excellent! Rationalization accepted… move forward and ignore that annoying voice that I’m not sure is coming from Jesus anyway.
Thank God I did.
My second memory from the show is being drenched in tears and wrought with emotion after recognizing and understanding the actual message of the musical… or at least the one I constructed. As the story unfolded I experienced the pain of watching injustice and racism, felt the denial and then true sorrow of one mixed up and lonely women, witnessed the irony of greed, and came full circle in connecting the message of being “asleep” during the “end of the world.” Set in Germany right before World War II, Cabaret! tells the story of two lost souls who come together in their pursuit of pleasure while denying the realities present in the world around them. I encourage all of you (or at least those of you who enjoy Glee and the like) to go see this show.
Two points here. One. My Pharisee side (yes, I have one) almost kept me from having an authentic connection with God. There is no telling how many times I have reflected on that afternoon in a hot, close to empty theater in central TX watching scantily clad men and women sing and dance. And it was Life Changing. Sometimes God’s messages to us come in places that we are least likely to expect. Honestly, God speaks to me a lot through musicals- RENT, Cabaret!, Into the Woods, and Les Mis just to name a few. He speaks to me through dance as well… (Thank you Texas Ballet Theater and So You Think You Can Dance). It’s important (in my humble opinion) to know God’s voice well enough that we can sense when the voice we hear is the Pharisee in us and when it is Jesus in us. This is hard.
Two. Am I fast asleep while the world is literally in pain and “ending” around me? Am I focused on my own comfort and pleasure while those suffer outside of my self-focused life? Honestly? Yes. Crap. Enough so that God had to get someone to sing it to me on stage for me to listen. And He continues to deliver the message. I didn’t watch the VMA’s (no cable), however, my facebook feed let me know all about what happened- some friends disgusted at Miley, others disgusted at how no one was saying anything aboutThicke’s song, which despite its catchy tune, makes my stomach sick. After reading facebook, I got in my car and heard a report on NPR discussing Syria. I had one of those WTH moments where I no longer wanted to be an American because of how wrapped up we are in ourselves. What would it be like to be a Syrian right now? I bet I wouldn’t be talking about a music awards ceremony. I’m just as guilty as anyone else, and sometimes I long for something (though not a war) to jar me out of my comfort zone. Thank goodness for international travel. It has made the difference for me understanding different perspectives. (Though I still consider the fact that I am able to travel and learn from other cultures as a major privilege most don’t get in life). What am I to do with my selfish slumber in the midst of a world where most aren’t going to bed with a full belly after checking facebook and posting their opinion on the latest VMA scandal?
Just this weekend at my new church in Montana, the pastor challenged us and asked us if we truly wanted to be “healed.” (Scripture reference John 5:1-15) What does being healed actually mean? Unfortunately (at first!) for me at this time in my life, it means getting up and no longer relying on others to take care of me and fight battles for me. It means to stop solely praying for God to heal the world, and to get up and do something about it. It means quit writing and talking about social justice and volunteer in my community. It means to expand my focus to the world that is symbolically “ending” around me and to put my faith to action… to not just complain about the injustices I see around me (I’m a counselor and I see and hear my share of them), but to find my role in doing my part to change it. God is asking me to become an advocate for several causes that I have been afraid or too lazy to get to work on. It is scary for me, because I’m not sure all of my friends will understand and I might be considered “bad” or “moving away from the truth.” I assure you that is the last thing I want to do. However, I can’t ignore God’s voice and message any longer. “Life is a Cabaret” only if we choose to live in denial of what is going on around us in society- this was and is God’s message for me. Eventually, focusing on solely my own pleasure and comfort will lead me to a very lonely place. Clearly, years later, I am still in need of Cabaret’s, the VMA’s, and God’s message. I was in tears again after the sermon last Sunday. It’s amazing how God comes full circle- not only does He speak musical theater- He speaks church. Who knew? PREACH!
Because no musical referring blog is complete without a little Liza…