The Broadway musical “Hamilton” actually put up a good fight for airtime in 2016 with the most media-attractive and sensational presidential election campaign in American history. “Hamilton” became a phenomenon whose audience reached far beyond the Great White Way, winning eleven Tonies, a Pulitzer (for the script), a Grammy (for the cast album), and selling out astronomically-priced tickets at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Because of this musical, a previously obscure founding father, known mostly for his visage on the ten-dollar bill (and in danger of losing that status), not only kept the tenner but became the most-visited dead white man of the year.
“Hamilton” also changed the picture of our nation-founding generation. Lin Manuel Miranda tells the first U.S. Treasury Secretary’s story in a hip-hop cadence, mostly, which is the perfect idiom for the smack-down cabinet battles between Hamilton and Jefferson and the red-hot polemic between all the players who built the American democracy.
As their tribute to the play, hip-hop artists Tariq Trotter and Ahmir Thompson wrote a belated, brief prologue to “Hamilton the Musical.”
You ever see a painting by John Trumbull?
Founding fathers in a line, looking all humble.
Patiently waiting to sign a declaration and start a nation
No sign of disagreement, not one grumble.
The reality is messier and richer, kids.
The reality is not a pretty picture, kids.
Every cabinet meeting is like a full-on rumble.
What you’re about to witness is no Trumbull.
The vicious battles between Hamilton and Jefferson and (off-stage) Adams alarm folks who have imbibed the romantic image of harmony among the founders. But “the reality is messier and richer, kids.” The play flags an insight we’ve forgotten in our polarized times: it’s good that we have each other. For all their mutual savagery, these opposites tapped even more genius together than any one of them could have managed separately.
Church is like that. We’ll begin Courageous Conversations on Jan 8 and continue monthly through April, because the Apostle Paul tells us that God does great things when difference stays together. Paul’s little living-room-sized group of Christians in a Greek city called Corinth couldn’t figure out how to manage the way they were different from one another. (Sound familiar?) They responded by dividing into little factions (1 Corinthians 1.11), like Americans and Christians have in recent times, instead of moving toward one another in conversation. To help them (and us), Paul reminded them that our differences come from God – that the Holy Spirit allots a variety of gifts “all for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12.7).
Our contemporary allergy to difference – whether racial, socio-economic, religious, or political – doesn’t help us. It’s arrogant for each to imagine, “if everyone just thought like I do, we’d be fine!” God made us different for a purpose. When we stick together with our differences, the magic begins. It’s messy magic (I’m no John Trumbull!), but it’s the kind of magic God did in the earliest church, at the founding of our nation.
Wanna make magic? Join us!
Portions of this blog are an excerpt from Dr. Hilton's upcoming book, "House United: How the Church Could Change the World".