Category Archives: Greatest Showman

Come Alive?

This song comes early in the film during the get-the-gang-together scene. Barnum knows he needs live acts to make his idea work, so he starts recruiting for “oddities.” (This moment of recruiting the team is a favorite part of leadership for me, and it’s also why Oceans Eleven is one of my favorite movies).
There’s another way to look at this, though. The message he sends isn’t just for the “freaks and weirdos.” What he describes at the outset applies to a lot of us:
You stumble through your days
Got your head hung low
Your skies’ a shade of grey
Like a zombie in a maze
You’re asleep inside
But you can shake away
And his pitch sounds like a call to conversion, with phrases like:
But you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day
Sun is up and the color’s blinding
Take the world and redefine it
Leave behind your narrow mind
You’ll never be the same
Come alive, come alive
Or
When the world becomes a fantasy
And you’re more than you could ever be
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
And you know you can’t go back again
To the world that you were living in
‘Cause you’re dreaming with your eyes wide open
So, come alive!
One of the things that Christian media and leaders have found very attractive in Showman is this sense of conversion and transformation. The theme of pulling out people who have been ignored by society and transforming them into stars runs deep in the American psyche – Bad News Bears, anyone? – and it also aligns with a motif that’s woven throughout the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Some day, when I have the time, I’d like to develop a project called “God of the Losers,” because pretty much everyone who gets a feature role in the Old and New Testament is somebody who doesn’t quite fit in with the cool kids. Abraham was too old. David was too young. Moses had a speech impediment. Solomon was illegitimate. You get the picture.
But if you go back to that opening quote about sleepwalking, you can see pretty quickly that it doesn’t just apply to the outcasts. All of us can get lulled into this mindset pretty easily, weighed down by the anxieties of daily life, just trying to make it through the day. Maybe you know this feeling.
In the show, Barnum is targeting the audience of misfits, but Christians might say his message is the call we all receive to be transformed by His love. We would also say that the “flip the switch” moment Barnum sings about is instituted sacramentally in Baptism. What we profess is that in baptism, God comes into our being in a different way than was present before, and that through our baptism we are empowered to live entirely different lives, fueled by the Holy Spirit to “come alive” and “dream with our eyes wide open.”
Though it isn’t an effect they used in the movie, it wouldn’t be hard to envision this song beginning in a black-and-white world and then snapping into full color as Barnum turns toward the chorus. There are examples of real lives of Christians whose transformation has been that dramatic. The apostle Paul comes to mind. St. Augustine’s life was like that. I have friends who could tell similar night-and-day stories.
But it’s not true for everyone. I’ll be the first to say that my life has been more like the rising or ebbing of a tide than a sudden Shazam. Most of my friends would say the same. Perhaps as a result, it’s hard to see ourselves in this narrative, and that makes it hard for us to speak to the power of Baptism.
I already talked at length about the transformative power of ritual, in which you transcend this mundane reality to experience an ecstatic spiritual realm. What I described there and is enacted in “The Greatest Show” is described in “Come Alive.” This ritual of initiation is, for Christians, Baptism. We should come out of the waters “never the same,” empowered by the Holy Spirit to “become more than we could ever be.” We profess this. Do we believe it?
One of the too-many divisions among Christians is whether infants and children should be baptized. There is evidence that the earliest Christians baptized entire households, which would presumably include babies. As Christianity became common, and since Baptism was linked to salvation of the soul for eternity, parents began to baptize their children in greater numbers, in hopes that, should they die young (which in the Middle Ages, many did), they would escape Hell and go to Heaven to spend eternity. Others pushed back, saying that accepting Baptism requires a free will that is yet undeveloped in a child. Many evangelical churches stick to an understanding of Baptism that requires the subject to be old enough to understand what Baptism is and have the will to actively seek it. I’m really not interested in arguing either side of this.
But what I am interested in is this: Either way, do we really believe it works?
If Baptism means what we think it means, shouldn’t we be radically different that those who aren’t baptized? Or at least radically different than we would have been had we not been baptized? That latter one is hard to parse out, for those of us baptized as infants, and it’s not that hard to find “nones” who were baptized as infants but have since wandered away from the life of faith.
I have great friends who don’t believe in any religion (including both those who just don’t spend time contemplating questions of faith and those who actively claim a secular worldview that precludes the supernatural). Life would be easier as a Christian if all the people who didn’t believe were heels, sad and lonely, miserable, conniving wretches who smelled funny.
But that’s not real. What’s real is, there are non-believers who are great people, doing great things for society, in loving relationships.
If I believe what I profess, Baptism (and the sacramental life overall) should give me such a power through God’s in dwelling in my life that I am capable of being exponentially better than anyone who doesn’t have that head start. We today talk about privilege and have exercises to help us realize the head start that those with privilege enjoy. In the moral and spiritual life, the gifts of the sacraments are the ultimate privilege.
So when it comes to loving others, the second of the two great commandments, I shouldn’t just be on par with the best unbelievers. I should be remarkably more loving than they are. And joyful, peaceful, kind, patient, generous, and self-controlled. Those are the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). If you don’t have sacramental access to those fruits, how chould you possibly keep up?
So, that’s not what it looks like today. Don’t count on non-Christians to all get wretched. We who profess Christ need to step up.
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Made for Joy

We were made for joy.

If you watch children at all, you know that. Laughter, skipping, a silly verve for life are such a part of childhood that even in war-torn countries and refugee camps you can find children playing.

Of course, we drive it out of them as soon as we can. In school, joy can be disruptive, so we wall it off to the courtyard of play-time, which gets curtailed as soon as we can fill their days of scheduled after-school activities and homework, where coaches and teachers further underscore that the point is to get serious and settle down.

We do this, basically, to get people ready for adulthood, where joy is not really a public phenomenon. In the last week, I surreptitiously polled two groups – one in person, and one on Facebook – about what gives them joy. Family (including furry family and families of choice), hobbies, and nature were almost all of the responses. A few people (less than 5) talked about the impact of their (usually volunteer) work. Again, joy is a private, rather than a public phenomenon. But everyone who responded should count themselves lucky – at least they had an answer top of mind.

In the last couple of years we have begun talking about “flow”, which is sort of like joy, except you can’t smile and it has to be in service to your employer.

All of this is wrong.

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I’ll posit a definition for joy, which is one of those things that can be tough to define but you know when you see it. But let’s try this: Joy is the feeling you get when you are doing what you feel like you were meant to do, with the people you were meant to do it, in the place you were meant to be. Joy is the feeling of the soul at play. Joy is both in the journey and the destination; there is a satisfaction from accomplishment that sparks joy, but there is a joy in the process in knowing you are doing your part to its fullest to get there. Joy is infectious, as is its opposite, which I’ll label malaise. And you can choose to be open to joy; you can do the same thing with or without joy (and people can tell the difference from 50 feet away).

As I just defined it, you might think that joy needs to be reserved for something important. I think that misunderstands what I mean by “what we are meant for.” In his many books and talks, Matthew Kelly talks often about “becoming the best possible version of yourself.” That happens at a lot of different levels of what we would usually think of as “important” and acknowledges that we each have different roles to play in different arenas of our lives. Kids are meant to play. So are adults – not just at home or at the beach but everywhere.

The one thing I remember about the movie Chariots of Fire besides the slow-motion running to music was a quote by the British pastor and Olympic runner Eric Liddell. When he was asked how someone with such a serious, important role could spend his time on something as trivial as running, his response was “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. When I run, I feel God’s pleasure.” While God did not make me fast, there are times when I swim that I feel God’s pleasure. That’s what joy is.

I have seen joy in unlikely people and places. Not long ago, when the city pool where I swim was undergoing renovation of its locker rooms, the city had port-a-potties installed, and I remember several mornings leaving the pool as the guy whose job it was to service the port-a-potties was about his work. And he was joyous, in how he greeted people and how he acted. Cleaning port-a-potties before dawn. One of the people who runs the front desk at that pool is far happier than anyone should be expected to be at that early hour, anywhere, much less working a front desk. “Peace and love,” she shouts with a smile to you as you leave. They choose the joy they were made for.

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About 20 years ago, I was working at a small university in Mississippi as the sports information director and de facto public affairs officer for the school. One of the things I did was send a weekly email to everyone on campus about what sporting events were coming up. I remember one time, after seeing the school’s theater group put on a show, I put this reflection into my weekly e-mail (paraphrased; my record-keeping is worse than my memory):

There are lots of reasons to go to a sporting event or to a live musical performance, and there are lots of reasons not to. Go to one this week though, for this reason. What I saw at the show last week that grabbed my attention more than the songs themselves was the look on the faces of the performers. They said, not with their words but with the way they performed, that they had done everything they could to prepare for their role, they knew they had the talent to do it well, and they knew they were on the top of their game.

I recognized that look, because I see it in our athletes in the midst of competitioon.That look of joy is one you only really see in theater and sports. But it does us good to get to witness it. Maybe it will rub off, even.

One of the things that makes The Greatest Showman attractive is the joy with which the performers deliver it. The songs certainly have the energy to set them up for that, and the storyline is joyful even despite the challenges characters face. Since the actors are playing performers, they have not only the freedom but the mandate to depict the joy of performing as an expression of the best possible versions of themselves.

Making movies is, I bet, pretty soul-sucking, tedious work. I spent an entire 8-hour day once filming a 30-second commercial, and I was ready to crawl into a hole at the end of that day. But there are a couple of videos released by 20th Century Fox in promotion of the movie that show the joy-behind-the-joy.

Look at this one. Focus on the guy who stands up to sing the second verse, just as an example.

Do something that makes you feel like it looks like that guy feels.

Here’s another great one. I like the woman who looks like she’s standing on a table belting it out, but when Benj Pasek high-fives Hugh Jackman, you see the joy of someone who knows he’s birthed a project that’s going to get green-lit.

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What faith brings to this discussion is this: We make the claim that the highest joy you can feel, the best-possible-best-possible-version-of-yourself, is in fulfilling the role God has in mind for you to love Him and the people he puts in your path as much as you possibly can, and use what gifts you’ve been given to their fullest. What we say we believe is that there are lots of other ways to be joyful, and they are wonderful, but they exist to give us a hint of a more perfect joy that comes from soaking in the love of the divine Lover.

We say that we believe that. It’s pretty rare that we live that way, though. Instead, we spend a lot of time talking down the lesser joys, pooh-poohing and tsk-tsking silliness rather than offering an even more joyful presence to the world.

It would be great, instead, if we worked on choosing the joy before us and striving for the joy we were made for.

A Personal Note

We’ve been listening to this soundtrack in our house a lot. My daughter and I are both pretty fixated on this show (I mean, in case this blog didn’t already give you that impression), and my wife likes it a lot, too, so it plays throughout the house as background in the evenings even as we’re in our own zones.

The other night, when “Tightrope” came on, I ducked into the room where my daughter was at the time and said, “This song always reminds me of your mom and me.”

“Why? You never did anything crazy, like buy an old building with wax figures of Marie Antoinette and giraffes,” she said.

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April and I dated all the way through college, and for the first 11 years of our relationship, she saw me for who I was. Every semester, I started dreaming about what I was going to take the following semester. I changed majors enough that it was easier, going through the course catalog, to point to the (non-STEM) majors I hadn’t considered than to list all the ones I had. When graduation approached, I juggled ideas for graduate school ranging from religion to public administration to political science to law to business to what-else-is-out-there. I wanted to do all the things.

I got a professional degree for a vocation (ministry) that I knew I did not want to pursue. While there, I talked my way into interning with the (then-World Series) Atlanta Braves’ chaplain, even though he had never had an intern. When I left school, it was to go into sports, where my career path was:

  • unpaid intern for Minor League Baseball’s AA Southern League
  • intern for NCAA Division III (non-scholarship) athletic program
  • director of media relations for a startup women’s professional basketball league
  • sports information director for NCAA Division II all-women’s athletic program
  • (accidentally become head of public relations for that same school)
  • sleep on my sister’s floor, two flights away, while telemarketing for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
  • dream of being the general manager of a Minor League Baseball Class A Florida State League team and run it like a circus

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When our daughter started to develop a personality, one of the things that popped up quickly was that she was a dreamer. April would look at me in those times when she set outlandish, slightly off-kilter goals (like founding “Dog Cirque du Soleil”) and say, “She is definitely your kid.” But, more seriously, April would say how glad she was that our daughter inherited my head in the stars rather than her feet so firmly planted on the ground.

While April would be the first to say that she is not a dreamer, she would also confirm that she knew who she was marrying and signed on whole-heartedly for the adventure. Even though my career path got a little more conventional, life with me still brings its twists and turns and off-kilter dreams, and she has continued to gladly dance on the tightrope with me.

From Now On

From Now On (with a great backstory)

This last song on the soundtrack seems, in some ways, the most “gospel-y.” There’s a little flourish in the piano before the first chorus that has a gospel flair, and the sound, once the song gets ramped up, is very reminiscent of contemporary Christian music’s Rend Collective.

The theme is at least in part reminiscent of a core Christian message, that the essence of sanctification of a life is the stripping away of all that is not holy, until all that’s left is reliant on God. So while Barnum is singing to his circus family, the words could be offered by a Christian who has weathered similar hard times as prayer.

A man learns who is there for him
When the glitter fades and the walls won’t hold
‘Cause from then, rubble
What remains
Can only be what’s true
If all was lost
There’s more I gained
Cause it led me back
To you

Per the discussion earlier about how easy it is for those who have earthly success to embrace it as the source of their meaning rather than faith, the second verse echoes both the seduction of fame and power and the ultimate emptiness of it.

I drank champagne with kings and queens
The politicians praised my name
But those are someone else’s dreams
The pitfalls of the man I became
For years and years
I chased their cheers
The crazy speed of always needing more
But when I stop
And see you here
I remember who all this was for

It’s valuable to sit with this insight for a while, but I’m afraid I’ve already beaten the point into the ground in my earlier posts, so let me close with a different reflection from the song. Pasek and Paul weave two mantras into the chorus, “From now on,” (which is hearkens back to St. Paul’s call in 2 Corinthians 6 that “now is an acceptable time”) and “Come back home.” Literally, the “home” Barnum et al. refer to is a bar, which…, but more broadly, they are talking about a return to the circus life from which their family formed.

But some Christians hear “home” as “heaven,” not in this song but more generally. So let me talk about the afterlife for a minute, even though it has nothing directly to do with the show.

Among some of my non-believing friends, religious belief is sometimes equated with belief in an afterlife. This cuts both ways – while some ridicule religious folk for believing in life after death, others are a little wistful that they can’t find it in themselves to believe in an afterlife.

To be fair, many people of faith also focus on heaven and hell as a key motivator for faith. This is often how we open an evangelical call, at least if church marquees are any indication. My favorite is a New Year’s Day homily I heard a young priest give (he didn’t claim authorship): “Last night you raised it. Today, you feel like it. Repent, or you will inhabit it.”

I don’t find that line of reasoning particularly motivating. Nor do I find its opposite, extolling the joys of heaven, all that persuasive. It’s not that I don’t believe in an afterlife; it’s just that I think if your purpose for faith is achieving a heavenly reward, you’re missing the point of the whole thing.

Faith is not about a transaction but about a relationship. When we say we believe in God so that we can go to heaven, we reduce faith to an investment plan, where we contribute in order to achieve a future payout. I don’t believe that’s what God wants.

God wants a loving relationship with us, his creation. Love isn’t something you can commit to starting at a future date – you wouldn’t say to someone, “I don’t love you now, but I plan to begin loving you in five years, so let’s talk then.” Love happens in the now, and while it can grow with time and practice, if what we commit to is love, we commit to it today.

Now it may be that my beloved isn’t with me this moment but may be in the future. That doesn’t negate my love for my beloved right now; it simply means that when we are reunited, I will be able to experience and express that love in profoundly better ways. But even in my beloved’s absence, I can still soak in that love, and even when the separation is painful, the love is fulfilling.

That is how I can best describe my thoughts on the afterlife. To the extent that I love God now, I experience God’s love for me now, too, and it is wonderful. It is enough as it is to “justify” the relationship. If a better way to live out that love comes later, super. If not, this is enough. We experience heaven (the loving presence of God) and hell (the absence of relationship with God) now, in each moment. What comes after death, I suspect, is an amplified version of how we live today.

So if heaven is one of those things that “has waited for tomorrow, start tonight.”

Tightrope – The Christian Walk

There’s a Christian radio station in Florida whose slogan is “Always safe for the little ears.” The opening lines of “Tightrope” reminded me of this:
Some people long for a life that is simple and planned
Tied with a ribbon
Some people won’t sail the sea ’cause they’re safer on land
To follow what’s written
And that’s always been my problem with this station. It’s false advertising to say to a follower of Jesus that they will be safe. I know what they mean is, your kids won’t be exposed to a constant barrage of lyrics about sex and drugs. But, if they’re doing it right, they can’t possibly say that following the way of Jesus is safe.
Putting God first means risking everything you have. His first followers were all martyred, and from the time of Jesus till today, the one constant has been that Christians have been called to sacrifice their lives for the Gospel. The 20th century saw more martyrs than the 19 before it, and the trend continues in places like Egypt today.
Why? What is it that makes someone offer up their life for a religion?
The truth is, they don’t. Not for a religion. They give up everything they have to follow a person; more precisely, a personal God who they are madly in love with, and who is madly in love with them.
It’s not unusual to hear something in a song about romantic love and say, “Hey, that could apply to faith.” (Confession: In a class my freshman year called “Faith and Imagination”, I snuck into the classroom the night before class and covered the chalkboard with a question about whether God was really just the sum of earthly love, and listed some of the great pop songs that could go in the “hymnal.” I don’t understand why I didn’t get a better grade in that class.)
Here’s what sounds…faithful in this:
But I’d follow you to the great unknown
Off to a world we call our own
Hand in my hand and we promised to never let go
We’re walking the tightrope
High in the sky
We can see the whole world down below
We’re walking the tightrope
Never sure, never know how far we could fall
But it’s all an adventure
That comes with a breathtaking view
Walking the tightrope
With you
You pulled me in and together we’re lost in a dream
Always in motion
So I risk it all just to be with you
And I risk it all for this life we choose
 In fact, the Charity Barnum character in some ways best reflects the Christian life. She is joyful and creative and loving and hopeful and trusting but not blind. She knows what she is giving up: safety, comfort, acceptance. Yet she does it not just willingly but gleefully because of her love for P.T. Barnum even knowing he is nothing but risk and promise. That is the walk of faith on the tightrope of Christian life.
If what you want for the little ears in your life is truly safety, keep them the heck away from the Gospel.
If you want them to be fully alive and enjoy the breathtaking view that comes with that full life, well, that’s another story.

This Is Me – Rallying the Homeboys

“This is Me” is definitely the anthem and musical centerpiece of Showman, and it’s already shown up in Olympic commercials. It also is the song to which some Christians most object, as it celebrates what they call “expressive individualism” – the you-do-you empowerment philosophy that they fear separates morality and the good life from any external reference and anchors it solely in living your dream.
They have a point, but my take is a little different, thanks in large part to my semi-obsession with Homeboy Industries.
Jesuit Father Gregory Boyle inherited a poor parish in the gang center of Los Angeles in the 1980’s, when Los Angeles was the gang center of the country. So he started ministering to the gang members and helping the ones who wanted to escape that life.
I’ve never been to Homeboy, but I’ve read Boyle’s books, Tattoos on the Heart and Barking to the Choir. I have watched most of his public addresses on YouTube and know most of his stories. I tune in on Facebook to the 5-minute “thought for the day,” given by former gang members in their programs, or staff, or sometimes Father G himself.
One of the best stories he tells is about a gang member who was beaten every day as a child and learned to hide his scars. I can’t do it justice, so you’ll have to hear Boyle tell it himself.  It is with this man’s realization that “his wounds are his friends” that I hear this opening verse.
I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
‘Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are
This is the message, time and again, that the gang members of LA soak in.
Homeboy has become the largest gang intervention in the country, and Boyle and his charges have been everywhere, including the White House, to talk about how they have succeeded. I could roll out Boyle’s stories about Homeboy clients all day (and some days it seems like I do), but the uptake is that sometimes, not always, they succeed in surrounding former gang members in a circle of kinship and compassion that enables them to overcome the demons of their past and the despair of their present to accomplish a wholeness from which they can for the first time envision a future.
The chorus of “This is Me” looks like a self-empowerment battle cry.
But I won’t let them break me down to dust
I know that there’s a place for us
For we are glorious
When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I’m gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I’m meant to be, this is me
Look out ’cause here I come
And I’m marching on to the beat I drum
I’m not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me
I suppose it is. But it’s good to remember from whence came the confidence to utter it. This was a collection of outcasts who were given a chance to be something other than that. They were pulled from the isolation of being hopeless misfits into a collection of mutual misfits that became a company of performers and finally a family of mutual care so strong that even when their founder turned his back on them, their kinship gave them strength to rally on.
Christians can point to this as secularist fluff if they want, but not me. I would offer this, though. That ability to rise up, that resilience, usually rests on a deep knowledge that you are beloved, worthy of respect, dignified. We can do this for each other, in the family, in the Church, everywhere we build circles of compassion. But we are imperfect and we fail and we will eventually let each other down. If, however, you are blessed to know the truth on which Homeboy Industries rests its work, that you are God’s most beloved child, you are just what He had in mind when He made you, that He is a God of “no-matter-what” and not “one-false-move,” then the strength of the circle and the strength of the individual is unassailable, and the should can profess confidently, “This is me.”

Never Enough

Never Enough

I’m surprised by how simple this song is lyrically. It’s a powerful piece. I will admit that the first time it came up, the lyrics didn’t sink in; it’s really in the tearful reprise that you realize that what Jenny Lind has been singing is so devastatingly descriptive of the realization Barnum is about to have visited upon him.

All the shine of a thousand spotlights
All the stars we steal from the nightsky
Will never be enough
Never be enough
Towers of gold are still too little
These hands could hold the world but it’ll
Never be enough
Never be enough

While the full version is a torch song, this chorus, sung in the reprise absent the love song, exposes the emptiness of the ambition Barnum has fallen prey to. Driven by the class-based disrespect he faced as a child (at the hands, literally, of his now-father-in-law), he sells out to achieve acclaim in respectable circles, neglecting his circus family (and his real family) to travel the country promoting the world’s most famous (opera) singer. He achieves what is his most burning desire, and in Lind’s chorus the curtain is pulled back to reveal that popularity, riches and power would never be enough to satisfy him.

This harkens back to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert, when the devil offers Jesus, on a 40-day fast in the wilderness, with variations of all of these things. Where Jesus resists, Barnum surrenders. (Although, he gets a good bit of credit from the audience for not acquiescing to Lind’s adulterous advances, even as his rejection of her spurs his undoing.)

But I want to use this song to circle back to a theme that runs throughout the show, one which I mentioned earlier. I want to talk about why I think that God is a god of the outcasts.

The joy that comes through faith is often long in coming and marbled through with sacrifice and loss. It is not easy to give up the idea of control of our lives, even if that control is overstated and maybe illusory. We are wired to embrace our ability to transcend and conquer our environment, and we are also wired to deny and avoid our finitude. It is psychically and emotionally easier to buy into a worldview in which temporal power and riches signify success. After all, they are manifestly evident. The people who get ahead in this world are the ones we notice.

In Christian circles, this has led to a heresy (I would say) referred to as the “prosperity gospel,” which holds that if you are holy enough, God will bless you with prosperity on earth – riches and cars and the like. I cannot for the life of me see how someone can profess with a straight face that this is coherent with a faith in a God whose own Son was crucified, whose earliest followers were all martyred (many in unspeakably tortuous ways), and whose current church flourishes most in areas of extreme poverty. In reality, you have to choose. You can’t serve God and wealth at the same time, and you can’t treat God like a vending machine that you feed in order to transactionally receive a goody.

If you are fortunate enough to be a (temporally) successful person, or even someone who has an outside chance of becoming such a person, it is really hard to choose not to pursue temporal success but to focus instead on cultivating spiritual virtues and a life of self-sacrfice. On the other hand, those who have hit rock bottom, and those who have never had a shot at respectability, they end up embracing the church, because that’s all they have. This is how the Beatitudes play out every day. To paraphrase Frost, church is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.

There is a piece of this in-group, out-group dynamic that shows up in the show quickly but powerfully. In a conversation between performances, Lind discloses to Barnum that she, too, is an outcast; born out of wedlock, her family was ashamed of her. Might that have driven her to her success? Maybe. But even at the apex of her ambitions, she clearly is unfulfilled, still an outcast. All the shine of a thousand spotlights will never be enough.