One of the few good things to come out of 2020 so far is that Disney decided to release the filmed version of the Tony award winning musical hit Hamilton featuring the original cast on July 3. I was lucky enough to see Hamilton on Broadway in November 2015 when I traveled to New York with a group of writers. Earlier that summer, my friend Stephanie suggested we buy tickets to a show about Alexander Hamilton, the Revolutionary War, the Constitution, and the other founding fathers of America. So, I bought a ticket for less than $100 and was shocked as the show debuted and skyrocketed in popularity before our trip. I determined that I wasn’t going to like Hamilton just because of its critical acclaim – I intended to make up my own mind. But from the opening notes, I knew I was witnessing something new, innovative, and groundbreaking.
I love the musical Hamilton for many reasons, including the fact that my friend Heather and I snagged a photo with one of the stars, Daveed Diggs. But one of the reasons is because it portrays imperfect men grappling with tough decisions about national debt, governance, slavery, and how to proceed in war and in peace. Not all of the founding fathers agreed about the way to do things. We often take the way in which our nation works for granted, but they didn’t because they were creating it as they went along. And Hamilton shows us that we as a nation have a responsibility to continue to evolve and change. The proponents of the Constitution wrote a foundational document that still breathes and expands as the nation grows, changes, and as we become more enlightened as people and society. America is a promise that we must continue to live into – striving to become a more perfect union always. We cannot just look back and long for good ole days that were not good for everyone.
Much the same is true for Christianity. Some Christians use the stories in the Bible to portray a God that is ancient, stagnant, wrathful, and judgmental. The Bible has been used to uphold some of the most abysmal and systemic horrors in our history. But I believe the Bible is a foundational series of documents that guides us by demonstrating God’s loving nature. God is not static but is active and alive in our lives and our world today. We cannot stick God in a box of our own limited understanding so that the powerful remain privileged and the poor and downtrodden remain weak. God works constantly to bring justice and fairness to all people throughout the world. He expects us to open our hearts and minds to his love and to his people. He wants us to mature in our faith so that we can better demonstrate his love in our communities, our cultures, and in our countries, including, but not limited, to America.
Nationalism and patriotism are not religions. And while I believe in the separation of church and state, I also believe that God is the overarching deity to whom we owe our allegiance. We can argue and debate the ways in which our faith influences the course of our society, but we must pray and invite God into the process as opposed to treating God as a relic of the past. We must continue to expand our understanding of God, who is loving and inviting, and then use that knowledge to inform how our country and our world can become ever more inclusive, fair, and just.