Last week J and I went to see Into the Woods at the cinema. It was a fun movie to go and see if you like fairytales and musicals, which we do. Into the Woods was originally a stage musical (lyrics written by Stephen Sondheim, book by James Lapine). It combines the classic fairytales of Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, Rapunzel and Cinderella with a fifth storyline linking them all together.
After the movie J and I got talking about a particular song. This song was all about blame. Because each of the characters’ stories were linked together there was always a way for everyone to excuse the consequences of their behaviour by blaming it on someone else. Some of the lyrics include:
Baker: It's because of you there's a giant in our midst,
and my wife is dead!
Jack: But it isn't my fault, I was given those beans!
You persuaded me to trade away my cow for beans!
And without those beans, there'd have been no stalk
To get up to the giant in the first place!
Baker: Wait a minute, magic beans for a cow so old
That you had to tell a lie to sell it, which you told!
Were they worthless beans? Were they oversold?
Oh, and tell us who persuaded you to steal that gold!
The characters go on at this, trading the blame back and forth between them all. The witch eventually concedes to accepting the blame herself if that’s what they want. But she still thinks that she is right.
The movie (/musical/song writer?) offered a kind of solution to the problem of the blame game. I also found this song very interesting. Here are some of the lyrics:
People make mistakes,
Holding to their own,
Thinking they're alone.
Witches can be right, giants can be good.
You decide what's right, you decide what's good.
Someone is on your side. (Our side)
Someone else is not.
While we're seeing our side (Our side)
Maybe we forgot: they are not alone.
This song gave a very relativist idea of what is right. It was a good reminder to look at things from other peoples’ perspectives of course, but after singing this the characters still did what they had originally planned to do.
One way of presenting the atonement (Jesus’ death on our behalf) is that there is a dilemma between God’s justice that says evil and sin must be punished, and God’s love for his creation which means he doesn’t want anyone to die. God solves this dilemma by talking the blame and the punishment upon himself in Jesus.
The characters in the movie were all to blame but no one was willing to accept a punishment for their actions (or anyone else’s), there were enough other people to pass the blame off on anyway. They solved their problem by killing the punishment (the only innocent party in the movie). But that doesn’t really finish the issue.
Even if you play the blame game forever eventually someone has to take the punishment. Someone has to pay for what has happened. Someone has to make it right.
Jesus did this, ending the blame game once and for all. He willingly took the punishment for all the blame in the world, even though none of it was his. And he made things right, he made things good.