Friday, January 4, 2013

"At What Cost Redemption?" - David and Cathie

What is the cost of redemption?

In Roman times, during which the New Testament was written, slaves were bought and sold in the market place. Occasionally, as in the case of Aphrodisias, an ancient city located between Ephesus and Laodicea (at the village of Geyre, between modern day Selcuk and Denisli) a former slave could become famous through improving a city. (It's a great ancient city to visit!)

But what is the cost of the redemption of a soul , not just the legal transaction of making a person free within society? The cost to the ego, not the cost in francs, or any other currency.

Victor Hugo, the great French novelist, wrestled with this issue in 1862. His memorable novel, "Les Miserables" came out recently as a movie that is well worth watching. Previously, it had been a hit as a drama musical.

Hugh Jackman, a great tenor, plays the part of Jean Valjean, a slave, a criminal, who finishes a 19 year jail sentence for having stolen a loaf of bread. Anne Hathaway, as Fantine, plays the part of a mother who worked in a factory and, having been expelled for insubordination, is forced into prostitution. Her crime: she was trying to work hard in order to pay for her daughter to stay in a home where she could work, learn and be educated.

Police Chief Javert (Russell Crowe) sets Jean Valjean free and the question is: how will a former criminal life?  He was to report to the police each week, but he wanted another life. One home opened its doors, and Jean Valjean left it the next morning, having stolen six silver place settings. The owner of the house was the Bishop of the town, Monseigneur Bienvenue (Bishop Welcome). (The novel goes into great detail - 100 pages - about the good character of Monseigneur Bienvenue.)When the police come back to the house with Jean Valjean and the stolen articles, the bishop gives his silver candlesticks as well.But, can the soul of a man be bought with a simple act of generosity?

The story wrestles with difficult questions that affect nations today. What is the source of redemption? Should criminals be treated as criminals forever? Is redemption and transformation possible? Can the life of a man be redirected from cruel punishment and abuse, anger, hatred and mistrust?

Jean Valjean finds his heart changing and (during almost three hours) he shows tender kindness to: children, orphans, an honest woman, Fantine, driven into prostitution, a disillusioned revolutionary, Fantine's daughter (during the Revolution of 1830), and finally towards his bitter opponent, Police Chief Javert.

Three decades earlier Hugo had wrestled with another issue: not generosity, but corruption within the Church. He created a repulsive character, Archdeacon Claude Frollo and that novel, "Notre Dame De Paris", showed how a licentious man could ruin the reputation of the church.

In "Les Miserables" Hugo illustrated not the fallen side of the clergy, but the tender and merciful actions that could reach through the filth crusted on Jean Valjean face and soul. The three prayers (which come across in songs in the movie) illustrate the huge cost of leaving behind one's brokenness and sin. The cost to the bishop was his silverware; the cost to a criminal was his whole soul.

Note: Secular movie critics are being quite hard on the show, saying that the emotions, sets, and background to the story are not sufficiently detailed to understand the background of the Revolution, but we recommend this movie as an exploration of redemption, restoration and realization.

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