One of the most hopeful messages many of us took away from the 2008 election of Barack Obama, is the message of hope and redemption. We are hopeful in restoration of the basic beliefs, principles and democratic ideals enumerated in our great Constitution and Bill of Rights. The election of Obama also offers, many believe, a chance for redemption: redemption from allowing unprovoked warfare that has killed and injured many Americans, and an unknown amount of Iraqi citizens; tacitly accepting torture, permitting a denegation of our civil rights, and through rampant deregulation allowing economic devastation which has ripped the entire fabric of the economy.
Oddly, this Christmas season, it seems one of the old classics, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, and its protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, delivers the same timely message, of hope and redemption. Dickens´ metaphorical story has been resurrected at Ford's Theater in Washington, D.C., this Christmas season, and recently, its star, Martin Rayner, who plays the old curmudgeon Ebenezer, in this production, spoke about the character of the man, and the redemptive purpose of his dream journey at the Washington National Cathedral´s weekly Sunday Forum on December 21, 2008.
The Sunday forum at the Washington National Cathedral, is a conversation between the Dean of the National Cathedral, The Very Reverend Samuel T. Lloyd, III and influential figures in our society. The forum, which is free and opens the public, has featured such guest as Jon Meacham of Newsweek, to Tavis Smiley, radio and talk show host.
This particular forum, December 21, 2008 consisted of a conversation between Dean Lloyd, actor Martin Rayner, who plays both Ebenezer Scrooge and Charles Dickens in this year's Ford's Theater, production and Dickens scholar John Galvin, a professor at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. In examining Dickens and the character of Ebenezer, more closely, Rayner and Galvin conclude that he is more than just a mean old man turned nice. Scrooge offers a much deeper message which is relevant to the present. The journey of Ebenezer, they suggest, is really about hope and redemption. At first, Scrooge is confused that the haunting message from his old partner Jacob Marley, and the ghosts which visit him, was simply about being rich and miserly. But being rich was not the problem for Ebenezer. Losing his way, living in isolation from the world and forgetting about his responsibility to his fellow man, was the real problem for Scrooge.
The parallel to the present, was personified when actor Martin Rayner demonstrated some of his monologues from this Christmas Carol production. When asked by the Cathedral Dean about the more spiritual or deeper message of the work, both Rayner and Gavin made the analogy to the recent election of President elect Barack Obama. In America, as it was with Mr. Scrooge, being rich is not per se the problem. In America, too, in recent times, we have been operating in isolation from the world, starting wars of aggression, not abiding by our own idealistic notions, such as the Geneva Convention, and permitting and condoning torture.
Likewise, "Want," and "Need," were two of the most haunting figures for Scrooge, and he is sternly admonished by the Ghost of Christmas Present, for ignoring these two looming figures. And so it has been with America, as we have watched the disparity between the rich and poor dramatically increase in the past 8 years. It seems analogous that the 3 Ghost have visited America as they came to Ebenezer Scrooge, and offer us hope and a chance of redemption. 1. The Ghost of our past racism and arrogance, 2. The Ghost of a present, where we have allowed ourselves to demolish our ideals and principles; and 3. The .Ghost of the future, a warning of a devastated and decimated super power, if we don't find our way. But the good news is, like Scrooge, we have been offered hope and our opportunity for redemption, and if as a nation, we heed the ghastly warnings, perhaps we will grow a better and even stronger nation, a real representative model to the world.