Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Walk Him Up The Stairs

OK, I know I only put out new stuff on Tuesdays, but with the momentous news of Monday, I figured that this couldn't wait, and I really didn't want to bump what I had already written for yesterday. So here you have it; an "extra edition" as it were.

Growing up in North Jersey, we weren't far from New York City, and this meant that we could head in to Manhattan to see Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. In fact, my parents were regular theater-goers, and often brought home copies of the Playbill for the shows they had seen. But my sister and I didn't get to see a Broadway show until 1970, when they took us to see the show Purlie.

The show opens with a funeral in a black Baptist church. Now as if that weren't strange enough, it's a funeral for the most hated man in the county; Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee, who ran the plantation that the sharecroppers worked on, and despite the fact that emancipation had occurred 100 years earlier, still kept the workers in virtual slavery by the way he ran the "company store." Ol' Cap'n had done the black community a great favor by "dropping dead standing up."

But wait, there's more. This funeral was not a celebration like you would see in the Wizard of Oz, celebrating and gloating that the witch was dead. Quite the opposite, as much as every person in that church hated Ol' Cap'n's guts, the preacher talked about asking God to do the seemingly impossible, by redeeming him, and the opening number was a rousing gospel number titled Walk Him Up the Stairs. Yes, as sure as they were that Cotchipee would be frying in Hell "like a fresh-caught, fat-whiskered catfish in the skillet of the devil," the preacher goes on to say "that it would not be Christian for us to not pray even for what we know is impossible...his redemption."

So with the news that Bin Laden is finally dead, there's a large part of me that wants to join the Munchkins in singing, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead, however, there's a much larger part of me that knows that I should be joining the people in that old church somewhere in rural Georgia, singing a rousing chorus of Walk Him Up the Stairs, and praying for what we feel is impossible.

And yet...this is no wimpy, feel-good forgiveness coming from me. You see, I believe that sometimes the cruelest thing you can do is to forgive a person; because then they're always looking over their shoulder, waiting for the other shoe to drop, not quite able to believe it. I'd also like to believe that meeting the people whose deaths he was responsible for, and being forgiven by them, would be almost unbearable to him. And worst of all, to have God tell him personally that he screwed it up big time...well, that's gotta hurt.

No...there are sometimes when I believe that Heaven can truly be Hell for someone, and I'm hoping that this is one of those situations.

But...I know that this isn't the right way either. I shouldn't be wanting him to be tortured by forgiveness. I should want him to be changed by it, and to truly understand the great evil he was responsible for. I know of people who've said that if Hitler made it to Heaven, then they wouldn't want to be there. But what they don't grasp is that if Hitler did indeed make it, it would be a greatly changed version of him.

So with that in mind, I'm praying for the seemingly impossible; that Bin Laden, as well as Hitler, and, of course, Ol' Cap'n Cotchipee, made it.

And I will sing Walk Him Up the Stairs!

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