Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Do You Hear the People Sing?

I'm watching the 25th anniversary Les Miserables special on PBS tonight. The book and the musical are Christian through and through. What makes the show so powerful, though, is that it's unafraid of plumbing the depths of that faith. The chorus of women ask the big question: "What's the use of praying if there's nobody who hears?" It's what C. S. Lewis called "The Problem of Pain", in his book of the same name. We go "round and round and round again and back where you began". So why believe? Why fight?

There are many Fantines in the world - sacrificing and suffering for the good of their children. There are many Eponines - loving and giving, while never receiving the love they want from that one person they want it from. There are many Enjolrases - fighting for a seemingly impossible cause, even at the cost of their lives. Why believe? Why fight?

We fight because every battle on this earth is just that - a battle. The war has already been won. We don't have to win it, we just have to fight our way to the keep where our flag already flies. In the final song, a reprise of "Do You Hear the People Sing?", the characters both living and dead sing together. This is a meeting of Heaven and Earth, the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, singing together. If you keep this in mind, that final song takes on new (and proper) meaning. "Will you join in our crusade? Who will be strong and stand with me? Somewhere beyond the barricade is there a world you long to see? Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums? It is the future that they bring when tomorrow comes."

Somewhere beyond the barricade, beyond death, is the world we all long for. The choirs of angels and the communion of saints call us toward the future glory of Heaven.

In The Lord of the Rings (this is a fantasy/sci-fi blog, remember?), Frodo hears those same voices as he sails into the west.
"And the ship went out onto the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a green country under a swift sunrise."
We believe because we trust the Word of God. We fight because we hear that singing somewhere in the distance, whenever we sit quietly enough and listen. We fight now because when we look back from the other side of the barricade, the pain will seem trivial. We fight because we refuse to accept the alternative of comfort now instead of joy later.

Nietzche called that slave morality. Dr. Peter Kreeft rightly called it the wisest thing ever said. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? (Matt 16:26)

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