Kate and I saw Les Miserables tonight, the new film starring Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Russell Crowe. It is a truly stunning movie. The director, his crew, and these talented actors were able to take the spectacle of the stage show and translate it into a remarkably intimate story. Kate and I agreed that we’ve never had a movie experience quite like it, and we drove home from our date night in almost total silence.
I was completely engrossed by the movie, but a couple times during the film—to my surprise—my mind suddenly detoured: first, to a conversation I had this afternoon about the theology of predestination, and then to the biblical book of Isaiah. Today’s discussion about predestination was brief and friendly, but I admit that I spent many late nights in my twenties endlessly debating a subject that smarter people than me have been arguing about for centuries. Watching the scenes of the Parisian peasants crying out for social and economic justice, watching the young men on the barricades die in each other’s arms, I started thinking again about the roiling waters of human striving, the great mass of humanity, Kate sitting next to me, my daughter at home in bed, Gavroche dying on the cobblestones…and I thought to myself, “Could there be a less important thing to talk about than predestination?”
Honestly, what came to mind is this:
“The multitude of your arguments about predestination—what are they to me? I have enough of your debates about eternal security, more than enough of your pre-wrath and amillennial, and your endless tribs (pre-, mid-, and post-)…They have become a burden to me…Stop doing wrong, learn to do right. Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”
This is tonight’s interpretation (my very context-specific interpretation, mostly my own words, not a translation or paraphrase) of Isaiah 1:11-17. Defending the cause of the fatherless and pleading the case of the widow—that’s exactly what Jean Valjean did of course. And then he sang with the final chorus:
Do you hear the people sing
Lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people
who are climbing to the light.
For the wretched of the earth
there is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end
and the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom
in the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the ploughshare;
they will put away the sword.
The chain will be broken
and all men will have their reward.
Will you join in our crusade?
Who will be strong and stand with me?
Somewhere beyond the barricade
is there a world you long to see?
Do you hear the people sing?
Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future that they bring
when tomorrow comes…