I have recently seen the famed Broadway musical Hamilton, which is now airing on Disney Plus. As an avid music listener and a history nerd, I was very impressed. The musical has so many aspects that any decent person would appreciate. The complexity, the story, the casting, the music– it’s all unique and very cool to see together. It’s one of those things you have to see more than once to really see everything. It’s good. I really enjoyed it.
I was a history major in college, so naturally it was right up my ally. I will say, though I’m not a huge fan of colonialism and that era of history, I do enjoy learning about the Founding Fathers. They are all pretty interesting people. It was cool for me to try and pick people out in the musical. Things like the rivalry between Jefferson and Hamilton as well as the role of Marquis De Lafayette were super cool.
Something I tend to do– which many may find to be annoying– is I search entertainment I consume for deeper spiritual meaning. Maybe I shouldn’t always do that. No one ever seems interested in talking about it. Nevertheless, that’s what I do. And upon digesting this musical, it’s characters, and the like, it’s fascinating to me. Here we have yet another example of secularism, almost purposefully, exposing the same truth the Bible does. Cultural consumerism and secularist tendencies are often diametrically opposed to the Gospel explicitly. But implicitly, and occasionally, we get things like Hamilton that either purposefully or accidentally nail the exact same points as the Gospel. Let’s take a deeper look into these things.
The Depravity of Man
“There is none righteous” — not even Alexander Hamilton. What we tend to do is elevate certain people of history. We do this all of the time with people we value in our own personal experiences. As of late, it seems as if we want to do the exact opposite of this in the United States. Even in the midst of that, people are elevated. It’s what we do. We live our human experience on the back of historical inspiration– or deterrence. One of the very interesting things about Hamilton is Miranda (the writer of the musical) does not attempt to obscure Hamilton’s shortcomings.
The easy thing to do when someone wants to showcase a person they admire is cover up said hero’s flaws. We also often see this in matters of historical debate. I was most recently exposed to this in the case of JFK. There are segments of historians who think he was the greatest, fiery President ever who fell victim to a heinous act. There are also plenty of people who think JFK was the worst husband and father, a bad politician, and a spineless leader. The point is to say you can find countless movies, books, etc. that make JFK a hero or a villain. The one thing I can appreciate about Miranda’s Hamilton is that Alexander Hamilton is seen as he really was– super smart, pretty cocky, brash, and a victim of his worldly passions.
Hamilton highlights the very essence of the need for the Gospel. If there is anything you can deduce about Hamilton after seeing the musical, it’s that he was very smart, very bold, and also very sinful. We see him commit and extra-marital affair, neglect his family, speak down to people, and undercut his enemies. Now, I’m not sitting here in historical judgment– I’m not better than Alexander Hamilton. But what’s interesting, and what Miranda highlights in this character, is that even those who seemingly have it all are prone to the same sin we are. Sin permeates Hamilton’s character, his family, and even his environment. What you see in the musical is event after event that oozes hopelessness. Eventually, yes, he’s generally victorious. But that’s not without its cost. Hamilton is a sinner living a life clothed in sin. You know who that sounds like? You. And me. And all of us.
The Dissatisfaction of Materialism
One of the songs in the musical is called “Satisfied.” In this song, Angelica Schuyler, the older sister of the woman who married Alexander, admits that she loved him first. And in the song she admits that she will never be satisfied without him. Aaron Burr, the narrator of the musical– which is a cool take– spends the whole musical mad that Alexander is more successful than he seems to be. Hamilton gets win after promotion after placement while Burr just races to catch up. Repeatedly, Hamilton mentions how poor he was, how he wanted to make more money and achieve greatness. What you see, in reality, is the various undoings of these people chasing the wrong things.
Just in the case of Hamilton, nothing is ever enough. He wants to earn his degree. And then, he wants to fight in the Revolution. Then, he just wants to be in charge of a troop. And then he wants to be in Washington’s Cabinet. Then, he wants to attend the Constitutional Convention. Then, Hamilton wants to change the course of history with his new Federalist fantasy. As you watch, it’s just one thing right after the other, hitting the recurring motif that Hamilton “can never be satisfied.”
Can anyone possibly think of another more potent theme of man? The entire human experience is one of incessant chasing after the wind. King Solomon calls all things “vanity” for a reason. If we make a million, we want two. If we own the iPhone X, we want the 11. If we make an A, we want an A+. Fan bases win one championship, then they want another one. None of us can find contentment in the things life can provide us because those things are temporary. And in our heart of hearts, we know this temporal existence to be true. That scares us. And we want to cram as much lust into our life before it’s over. Hamilton does the same, and we are not different– we don’t want to “miss our shot.” But in the process, we just find ourselves going back to the buffet of self-indulgence, discovering that we are never satisfied.
The Depth of Memory
Probably my favorite moment from the musical is just before the battle of Yorktown– both the song and the event, in context of the musical– George Washington has a solo. In his song, titled “History has its eyes on you,” Washington just makes the argument to Hamilton this his legacy is riding on the life he lives. Washington relives his failures as a young general, and humbly reminds Hamilton that, “you have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story.”
Now, this Biblical truth is hard to see if you don’t know the foundations of Christianity. Christ saves us in order to glorify himself. Then, by way of that and Jesus’ explicit command, we are to, “go therefore, to all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Quite literally, Jesus is calling us to go leave a legacy– His legacy.
Now, from the perspective of God’s salvation for man, nothing about the Gospel emphasizes “me.” It’s not about me. But the cold-hard truth is two-fold: we as believers are ambassadors of Jesus to the world (2 Corinthians 5:20), and we do know who will tell our story. His name is I am and He created us. There’s a moment in the future where we will all stand and give an account of how we have chosen to spend our time here on earth. From a worldly perspective, people know that you who are reading this sentence may or may not claim to be a Believer. So, what you choose to do with your time is your message to the world on what Jesus means to you. You don’t know “who tells your story”– or who even sees it play out. Just as Washington reminds Hamilton, I am reminding you, “Christian,” that you have the world watching you. Are you advancing Jesus or everything but?
The musical is pretty quality. I enjoyed it. But I was also reminded that the world is starving for the Gospel. I don’t need an anachronistic Broadway musical to see that.
Don’t “wait for it.” Or “you will never be satisfied.” The world is “helpless.” Now is “your shot” to share the Gospel.
We can “turn the world upside down.”