Saturday, January 12, 2013

Political theology depicted in Les Misérables.

From Experimental Theology: The thoughts, articles and essays of Richard Beck

Thinking the other day about the musical I had these thoughts about the political theology depicted in Les Misérables.

I'm interested here in the contrast been Jean Valjean, Javert, and Enjolras (along with Marius and the other student-revolutionaries at the barricade).

Javert and Enjolras could be considered as two poles along a continuum in how one aligns political power with God. On the one end is Javert who represents a conservative, even Constantinian, vision where God is completely aligned with the state, particularly the law and order aspects of the state (although Javert also espouses the capitalistic theology where "honest work" is the way we "please the Lord"). Thus, to fail in the state's system--politically or economically--is to fall afoul of God. This view is at the heart of Javert's theological condemnation of Valjean. Valjean isn't just a criminal in the eyes of Javert, he's a sinner "fallen from God, fallen from grace." Thus Javert prays to God to help him find Valjean to restore order and harmony to the moral universe.
At the opposite end of the continuum from Javert we have the idealistic and revolutionary political theology of Enjolras. The student-revolutionaries are scandalized by the plight of the poor and plan to lead a violent popular uprising (Victor Hugo based these events on the 1832 June Rebellion in Paris). Though Enjolras and Javert find themselves in conflict, I place them on the same continuum as each seeks to take or use political power as means to accomplish the ends of God. They are the poles of Constantinianism on the one hand and Revolution on the other. But both agree that we need to "take charge" of the world, violently so, for the Kingdom to come.

And picking his way through these political theologies is Jean Valjean, the hero of the story...
Read the whole blog post here.  It is well worth it!

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