“Wicked” good theology

Allie and I went to see “Wicked: the Musical” last night in Boston. The show is supposedly a prequel to the Wizard of Oz, depicting the relationship between Glinda the good witch of the South and Elphaba, the wicked witch of the West. It was a fantastic show, beautifully staged with soaring music, costumes and great acting. It left me conflicted, though, about the message that thousands of people were sitting there soaking up.
Our society seems to have less and less tolerance for those who cling to the “intolerant” notion of absolute truth. When any claim is made about God or about a moral principle that flows from the Bible, many voices insist that what is true (or good, or right) for one person may not be true or good or right for another person. One should not “force” their morals on anyone else. Even the notion of good and evil has taken a hit, as these two ideas are often conflated.
The plot of “Wicked” portrays Elphaba as essentially a good (albeit green) person who was “forced” into wicked witch-dom by the manipulative designs of the Wizard and his cohorts, including Glinda (who isn’t really very good at all; just snarky and self-absorbed). The underlying premise seems to be that “good” people are not good, and “bad” people are not really bad. Let’s just seek happiness for ourselves and others.
There is one scene, however, where Elphaba (the wicked witch) confronts the Wizard for tricking her into casting a harmful spell on some animals and, by and large, for lying to the people of Oz about himself. The Wizard’s response? “Truth is whatever the people want. Where I come from, we believe all sorts of things that are not true.” Elphaba is disgusted with his easy capitulation.
I find that strangely heartwarming. While Wicked and other contemporary stories blur the lines between good and evil, they also point out something the Bible affirms: “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) And though there is great confusion in that story between good and evil, it is clear in at least one instance that people cannot and do not want to live in a world where truth is absolutely relative (irony intended). In that kind of world, justice suffers and people are oppressed. Thus the door opens for the gospel that speaks of grace AND truth that satisfies justice.
So speak up for the truth, and you may find an unexpected hearing. If not, we know that we are on the side of the One who is “The Truth” (John 14:6).


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