Why we love Sweeney Todd !

Why we love Sweeney Todd !

The Culture House is an arts organization built on the Judeo-Christian beliefs, definitions and life that has brought more health, dignity and prosperity to the world than any other approach.  When many think of Christianity, they think of people trying to be nice, stories of kindness and inspiration.  And this can be very true. 

On the other hand, the Bible is full of stories that remind us what NOT to do.  In fact, unlike many ideologies, the followers of God in the Bible most often come out looking quite bad.  It’s not for the purpose of accepting humanities failings, but rather to point to God’s perfection in all things and our need for Him.  We aren’t perfect, but God is.  And we have a shot if we turn to God in humility and ask for help reaching a higher standard. And what do we have a shot at?  Living a life with some level of integrity to do good and do the least amount of harm to others.  The ‘doing harm’ part is what Sweeney Todd is all about.

And that is why we LOVE Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.  (Performing at The Culture House the weekend of November 6-8, 2015)  Sweeney Todd is a story that reminds us of the fruit of choosing evil.  It goes from bad to worse, to worser, to even worsererererer. 

We meet a man who has been grossly mistreated.  A judge in power is attracted to Sweeney’s wife. He trumps up false charges to get Sweeney out of the way (aka King David anyone?).  As if that isn’t bad enough, he meets a woman who, because she is romantically interested in him, lies and tells him that his wife has died.  Hearing this takes away any motivation Sweeney has to pull his family back together and build a hopeful, new life.  Her lie is utterly corrupting.  The destruction and degradation that follows is heartbreaking. 

Most of us might think that if anyone has a ‘right’ to demand justice and take revenge, it would be Sweeney Todd.  But, the other story in this production is that choosing revenge is just as destructive as the initial sin.  The consequences of sin are multiplied in Sweeney’s own life as he seeks to carry out his own justice.  He is blinded by his own rage and hatred and eventually kills people he loves. 

In our current era of moral relativism, Sweeney Todd, stands in the face of ideas that say, “it’s all good”, “whatever”, and, especially, “if it feels good, do it”.  We are constantly told and witnessing self-justification as a high-value in our culture.  The truth is that there are ideas that are good and those that are bad.  Our survival as communities of people depend on a shared understanding of these definitions and ideas.  With all the cultural motions to encourage us to define our own reality, redefine ourselves over and over again disregarding our relationships, commitments and responsibilities, and create our own truths, reality has a funny way of persevering much to our dismay.  The truth is that when we do something wrong there are consequences.  Consequences that hurt ourselves, our families and closest friends and the greater community at large.  Sweeney Todd reminds us that our lives have significance.  We matter. 

The Christian message is that we are significant and, reflecting reality, our significance comes with responsibilities.  Most of what you’ll hear in modern thought today is “we are significant!”, but an effort to reject any real responsibility for that significance.  Well, it doesn’t work that way.  If you make a commitment to me and then justify to yourself that you’re not going to fulfill it or accept that it matters, it still matters.  And then there are those pesky consequences. 

Sweeney Todd is all of this rolled up in a crazy, creepy story that is way bigger than anyone will ever experience themselves.  Hopefully, with that extreme kind of story, we may remember that our lives do matter and to stay away from the destruction that comes with self-centeredness, lying and deceit on any level.  

Now, this show isn’t for small children for sure. Please do not bring them. There are some murders that occur, and some mature themes.  But, this show is extremely appropriate for the teenager who is on the brink of maturity. They hunger to discuss deeper ideas, concepts of justice, mercy and compassion.  While it is completely appropriate to expose our children to material that is age appropriate only, it is also good to find those stories and concepts that help them tackle mature themes at the right age without having to go too far.  This is a story about the consequences of sin.  And even though some stories appear to be dark, they, in fact, help light the path of redemption. 

Sometimes we learn by being told what is right.  Sometimes we learn by our own mistakes.  But, sometimes, if we’re wise, we can learn from other’s mistakes. 

Don’t miss Sweeney Todd.                         It may save you a lot of pain. 

- Jeremiah Enna