Tuesday, June 28, 2016

I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy

while traveling in the mid-section of the usa recently, my wife and i attended a dinner theater variety show.  the show began with an audience warm-up by the m.c., a pleasant young man who told jokes, did a few magic tricks, and played a game with some audience members.  during the meal, the show's band played some so-so jazz numbers, and after dinner the young performers, including a female singer, a male pop group, and a male dance ensemble, presented the main show.  all the performers were talented and well-trained.  the show was much better than i had anticipated, featuring lots of broadway and movie tunes and some inventive dance numbers, and the musical arrangements were first-rate

the entertainment company that puts this show on owns several other venues in the area, including water and amusement parks, all of which are run quite professionally and appeal to people of all ages.  this company has a knack for bridging the generation gap with a variety of offerings that attracts families with small children, teens, young adults, and seniors like us.  i was surprised when, near the end of the show we attended, one of the singers came on stage and made a short speech about the singers' need to share their faith, after which he and the female singer sang a duet which was vaguely religious.  this was followed by a spiritual sung by the male pop group.  had these two numbers been presented without reference to "faith-sharing," i would not have been bothered by them; i've often heard the duet performed as part of a secular program, and the spiritual arrangement was more about the energy of the song and its performers than any message conveyed by the text.  what troubled me was the assumption by the show's producers that the christians in the audience were entitled to a faith-based message that was out of place in this secular setting and indeed made that message seem more an attempt to pander to evangelicals in the audience than a sincere expression of belief.  i wondered how non-christians in the audience felt about being subjected to this proselytizing, having paid the hefty admission price for what they thought would be secular entertainment.

i was troubled, too, by the patriotic finale which immediately followed the "faith" songs.  the tie-in between the two segments seemed to be typical god-and-country fare that used patriotic music in a way that for me is contrary to true patriotism.  there was a speech about how grateful we should be for the veterans of the armed services, with a call for all veterans to stand and be recognized, and a tribute to first responders, again with a request for the audience's applause.  following this a medley of service anthems was sung, and the veterans of each branch were asked to stand and be recognized as their branch's song was performed.  the medley ended with a huge slide of the american flag projected on the screen at the back of the stage, as the entire cast sang "you're a grand old flag."

i don't have anything against patriotism or patriotic music, but the wedding of christianity in this secular setting with an over-the-top patriotic extravaganza seemed contrived and inappropriate.  i wonder if veterans tire of being used in this way and if such casual recognition makes some feel as if their service is cheapened.  how many of those veterans were hurting from the horrors in iraq and afghanistan?  how many were mourning the loss of comrades lost in the war?  how many were pained by the injuries that they and their fellow soldiers were struggling to overcome?  a round of applause seems too easy a recognition for the great sacrifices that veterans have made.  we applaud in such a setting but don't provide the resources that veterans need when they return home, and our consciences are assuaged by a show-business medley and a giant flag.

may a christian majority not force its beliefs on those who don't share them, cheapening those beliefs in the process.  may we show our gratitude for the service of our fellow citizens in substantive ways, rather than using those veterans to promote our own agendas.  may we consider how our actions affect and are perceived by others.  shalom.

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