The most compelling characters in the stories we read are those who undergo great transformation through adversity. Star Wars is ultimately the story of the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker. Braveheart, Saving Private Ryan, Gladiator, each of these stories demonstrates how salvation/redemption comes at the cost of great sacrifice and overcoming adversity. Every truly great story in some way contains God’s story.
God loves story. I know that may sound ridiculous, but think about it. The Scriptures tell the story of God’s love saving and redeeming His people. Jesus often told the message of His gospel through parable, a short story illustrating a kingdom truth. Jesus could have just said, “the Kingdom of heaven is worth more than anything else in the world.” Instead, we hear, “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matt 13:44).
I say this as a prolegomenon to my theory about Annie: The Musical, in which I am currently playing the role of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks. If you stop to really study the script, the person who undergoes the greatest transformation of character, the person who faces crises, redemption, and salvation is Warbucks. Sure, the musical follows the exploits of cute little Annie as she brings optimism and joy to those who face sorrow and despair (the orphans and Hooverville). Still, and I would say this even if I weren’t currently playing the part, Warbucks is the one whom Annie has come to save, and in this perspective, the musical is really a retelling of the gospel.
Consider this: Warbucks was born into poverty. Both his parents died before he was ten. From that time forward, he committed his life to making himself rich. To quote Warbucks, “making money was all I ever cared about. And I was ruthless to the people I had to climb over to get to the top. Because I’ve always believed one thing, you don’t have to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, if you’re not coming back down again” (the audience always gasps at that).
As we discover in the show, Warbucks, in spite of his riches and success, is missing something. Maybe he heard a great sermon by some Presbyterian minister there in NYC, but Warbucks knows his heart is missing something. He knows his riches, his success, his fame, cannot find him the happiness, the satisfaction his soul longs for. “It doesn’t matter how many Rembrandts or Duesenbergs you’ve got. If you’re all alone, if you’ve got no one to share your life with, you might as well be broke and back in Hell’s kitchen.” Annie (the “Christ” figure of the play) comes into Warbucks’ life and shows him what true happiness is and where it may be found; in loving and being love by another.
Is this not the message of the Gospel? We are born into sin, deprived of the blessing and peace of a loving relationship with God. Throughout our lives we are in a restless attempt to satisfy the deepest longings of our heart and soul, only to find the transitory joys of this life empty and meaningless. We surround ourselves with success and security, but continue to long for more. Then the Holy Spirit comes to us, shows us the emptiness of our hearts, and leads us to the saving grace of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus pays the price for our sins, and covers us with His righteousness and peace, so that we may be justified and at peace with God and with ourselves. When we find this love in Christ, nothing else seems to matter. We find contentment in the presence of Christ so that we can sing along with Warbucks, “And if tomorrow I’m an apple seller too, I don’t need anything but you!”