My summer music listening list has included an album written/produced by a friend of a friend, Anias Mitchell. It’s called Hadestown. It’s more than an album—it’s also musical theatre. It’s basically a retelling of the Greek myth of Orpheus, the great musician and poet who tries to rescue his lover from the Underworld. In Mitchell’s retelling of this age-old myth, the Underworld isn’t the land of the dead, but rather, a walled city underground whose citizens engage in mindless, soulless work in exchange for the financial security promised by their boss-king Mister Hades. The citizens of the underworld aren’t dead, but they are lifeless as a result of being indoctrinated by Hades and his obsession with the Almighty dollar.
There is one song from this album that I can’t get out of my head. It’s called “Why we build the wall.” Apparently Mitchell began writing this song in 2004, but given our nation’s current conversation about wall-building, you’d think she wrote it today.
If you take a listen in the link provided below, you’ll hear slick billionaire Hades sing first. (It’s more like a growl.) And then you’ll hear the indoctrinated citizens of the underworld respond in this interesting, rather upsetting, liturgical call and response.
A song like this has potential to stir up many, contentious ideas and beliefs about border security, identity, nationalism, and culture.
Speaking personally, the temptation feels strong to spend all of my energy pointing fingers at others—being critical of citizens today who are chanting things about wall-building. But this song has actually caused me to reflect more critically on how I/we have all been indoctrinated to some degree by the powers that be. We all have fears and insecurities and desires for safety and well-being, and the lure of the Almighty dollar is strong.
What I keep trying to hold onto these days, not always successfully, is Jesus’ call or way of life through the various obsessions, temptations, lures, and fears. I hear in Jesus’ message a persistent call to keep building rituals, friendships, and connections that help us find our way toward abundant life that isn’t based solely on material possessions and self-security at the expense of other people’s suffering.
These summer months at Rainbow we have prayed the following call and response prayer. How I hope these words are not only prayed, but lived.
From greed and selfishness, from a society in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer…From racial prejudice and religious intolerance, from a society which makes its weakest and most recent members into scapegoats…From indiference to the needs of other countries, from the delusion that you love any other nation less than you love us…From self-indulgence and indifference, from a society in which fidelity and responsibility have little place….
Everyone together: Compassionate God, deliver us.