Archive for February 13th, 2016

I watched again the Academy Award winning musical “Cabaret”.  It is set in Berlin, the early ’30s centered on a cabaret, The Kit-Kat Club.  Liza Minneli plays Sally Bowles who is the singer at the club.  The club, as 30s pre-war Berlin was noted for it’s decadence:  drunkenness, homosexuality, sadomasochism, prostitution,  sex outside of marriage, abortion and orgies.  This musical came out in the ’72 and even then it was risqué. The musical picks up on those themes as the story line is based upon fiction by Christopher Isherwood, a noted and gifted homosexual writer. 

The musical celebrates decadence,drunkeness, homosexuality, non-marital heterosexual sex, sadomasochism, abortion, prostitution, gluttony  and orgies and does so with great tuneful songs.  It won 8 Academy Awards that year.  Yet, it is also set with the backdrop of the rise of the Nazis.  In one chilling scene, the two male leads, who had fallen in love with each other, are out in the country on a beautiful day, and come upon a biergarten.  A blond haired lad stands up to sing, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me”. It turns out he is a Nazi but he has the whole audience singing except one old man who is just shaking his head…and the two male leads.  It is chilling but we must remember that the Nazis spoke for the disaffected working class, they appeared to be moral and would lead Germany to a new tomorrow, a new Germany, after all, “tomorrow belongs to me”.  This sounds eerily like our current presidential candidates. 

The musical though, obviously extolls the decadence and decries the Nazis.  For Christians it is not an either/or:  both need to be decried and denied.  But the exaltation of this “lifestyle” reaches it’s apex in the last scene with the theme song, “Cabaret”. Usually in musicals, the theme song is at the beginning, but in a secular evangelical fervor, complete with an unholy altar call, Sally sings (emphasis added):

Put down the knitting, the book and the broom
It’s time for a holiday
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret

Come taste the wine
Come hear the band
Come blow your horn
Start celebrating right this way
Your table’s waiting

What good’s permitting some prophet of doom
To wipe every smile away
Life is a cabaret, old chum
So come to the cabaret

I used to have this girlfriend known as Elsie
With whom I shared four sordid rooms in Chelsea
She wasn’t what you’d call a blushing flower
As a matter of fact she rented by the hour

The day she died the neighbors came to snicker
“Well, that’s what comes from too much pills and liquor”
But when I saw her laid out like a Queen
She was the happiest corpse, I’d ever seen

I think of Elsie to this very day
I remember how she’d turn to me and say
“What good is sitting all alone in your room?
Come hear the music play
Life is a cabaret, old chum
Come to the cabaret

The happiest corpse that Sally had ever seen invites us to the cabaret. Is it any wonder that the “prophets” are decried as “prophets of doom” with the lie that prophets wipe away “every smile”?  Just the smiles that come from the suffocating selfishness of sin and evil and in this tuneful musical there is plenty of that selfishness. Here is an invitation I must refuse, but at least the lyricist got it right:  the happiest corpse invites us to death, as did the Nazis.  Christians must say no to both invitations.  I think “Cabaret” is a frightening movie as it is about the living dead.  The Lord Jesus is no corpse and He has invited us to life and in His life of joy at His table, no cabaret, but His Communion.  We extoll too many times the popular culture without realizing what is really being sung and it is not the songs of Zion.

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