I can’t stop listening to the soundtrack of the hit Broadway show, Hamilton.
It’s amazing. The genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda is astounding as he finds rhyme after rhyme to tell the story of the “ten-dollar founding father without a father.”
When I was in high school, I dreaded U.S. History. To be perfectly honest, history still frequently bores me. It often seems like a bunch of things that happened to a bunch of people a bunch of years ago that, apart from setting the stage for the present, really has no bearing on my life now.
Hamilton, however, has opened my eyes to the riches of history.
I wish someone would have produced this musical when I was in high school so if I needed to recall some detail of the establishment of the national bank, I could have remembered that Hamilton’s idea was strongly opposed by Jefferson and Madison, as dramatized through a rap battle in cabinet meeting. Genius.
But history retold through the lens of hip-hop isn’t simply engaging because of the phat beats. Rather, by interpreting history in a new light, I can see that that the problems the founding fathers faced are really no different than the problems we face today.
Hamilton explores the reality that politicians form coalitions, quid pro quo arrangements to further their own agendas. Those in power have affairs, hide scandals, and blackmail one another. They get upset by petty disputes and take professional slights personally, calling people out publically (even to the point of being willing to kill each other).
In other words: nothing has really changed.
It took hip-hop to reveal this to me. In a lot of ways, the America of today looks a lot like the America of then. By looking at history with new eyes, we can see that it has a lot to tell us about our current context. It is not just the story of the founding fathers; it is the story of America. It is our story, too.
So, if this is true with the story of America, how much more true must it be with the story of Christianity, the story of God’s people?
Often we look at the scriptures and are baffled that the apostles didn’t understand who Christ was; after all, they saw the miracles, the healings, the resurrected Christ. Perhaps we look at the stories of the scriptures and feel the same way I felt about American history: good stories about people who are all dead.
Or perhaps more arrogantly, we read the scriptures and think, if we had been there, we would have recognized Him as the Son of God. Of course, apart from the one time Peter proclaims Christ as the Son of God and Longinus’ revelation following the death of Christ, the Gospels make it abundantly clear that the only people who recognize Jesus as the Son of God are those who are possessed by demons! Suddenly, I’m not so confident I would have gotten it either.
But if we read the scriptures with the same eyes we’ve learned to have through things like Hamilton, we may see that the story of faith is not just a series of events that happened to people millennia ago, but rather it is a living story, a story that we are a part of. It is not just the story of the founding fathers of Christianity; it is the story of God’s people. It is our story, too.
Perhaps the cast of Hamilton has taught us that it is indeed possible to look back at the stories of yesteryear and realize that we have much to learn from those who have gone before us. Perhaps when we look at the stories in scripture we realize that we are not simply reading about apostles who don’t seem to get what Christ is saying; we are reading about ourselves, disciples of Christ who still don’t understand what He wants.
Perhaps when we open the scriptures we can see ourselves in its pages. Perhaps we can take great comfort in realizing that even those who literally walked with Him had no idea what He was doing, so we, too, might begin to feel a little more comfortable in our own questions of discipleship to Christ.
The story of following Jesus is something that is written anew for everyone baptized into Christ, but it is indeed the same story. It is the story of a ragtag group whom Christ has chosen, people He has commissioned to be His witnesses in all parts of the world. It is a story that happens in this moment, in every moment, and it is a story to which we know the ending: Christ wins.
So while we may feel disconnected or lost as if we are seeking Christ in a dark room, we can have hope as we realize that our struggle to take hold of Christ now is the same struggle people have encountered for the last 2,000 years. And if we can learn to rap, it’ll just make it all the more fun in the meantime.
Hamilton Stage Joe Shlabotnik Flickr via Compfight cc
Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, podcaster, and CrossFitter. Christian has his first MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.