3-4 Will no one anywhere confirm my innocence? But you, O God, have kept them back from understanding this. Oh, do not let them triumph. 5 If they accept bribes to denounce their friends, their children shall go blind.
6 “He has made me a mockery among the people; they spit in my face. 7 My eyes are dim with weeping and I am but a shadow of my former self. 8 Fair-minded men are astonished when they see me.
“Yet, finally, the innocent shall come out on top, above the godless; 9 the righteous shall move onward and forward; those with pure hearts shall become stronger and stronger.
10 And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 But when he heard this, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”
- Film Clip #1: Trailer
Three Minute Film Synopsis
The Greatest Showman is a musical film based on the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, founder of the famous Barnum and Bailey circus. At the start of the film we see Phineas as a young boy in new York, the son of a poor tailor working for the rich Hallett family. Phineas soon falls in love with the young Charity Hallett. Many years later, despite her father’s wishes, Phineas takes Charity’s hand in marriage and they eventually raise two girls.
Phineas loses his job when the shipping company he works for goes bankrupt. Wanting nothing more than to provide for his family, Phineas decides to pursue his dream in “show-business.” He recruits several “freaks”, or live attractions for his show, which is an immediate success with the people.
As the Barnum circus grows in popularity, P.T. Barnum starts to lose sight of his original dream. Tension grows between himself, his circus performers, and his family, sending his career and family life into a turbulent downward spiral that eventually ends in his circus burning down both literally and metaphorically. Almost ironically though, this disaster is what it takes for P.T. Barnum to realize the true purpose of his show–not as a revenue for money and fame but as a celebration of humanity.
Leading the People
Although in most films we recognize a Christ type, in this film I think that we could actually identify P.T Barnum as another biblical figure: Moses. Throughout this movie you see P.T. Barnum, like Moses, lead a mistreated people out of the darkness and into the light.
P.T Barnum is also like Moses in relationship to his people. There is a scene towards the end of the film, after his circus burns down and both his people and family have left him, where Phineas is found depressed and alone in a bar. His people (the performers) find and confront him saying that they want to continue on at the circus despite the recent tragedy, reaffirming his leadership. In the same way Moses and his people had an on and off relationship, always ending with his people coming back to him.
In todays scripture passage Jesus is accused of associating with outcasts and sinners. And even though P.T. Barnum doesn’t make a very good Christ type there are definitely some Christ-like qualities about him. In this next clip, pay attention to how P.T. Barnum looks at someone whom even the poor and the broken mock–and how he sees the value and beauty in their flaws.
- Film Clip #2 – Bearded Lady
The Light Behind the Shadows
It’s always interesting to see the different elements of cinematography that are used in new films. One thing in particular that stood out to me in this film was the use of shadows. Throughout the film there were several points that heavily used shadows and lighting to represent some themes throughout the film. In this next clip, see if you can maybe guess what the shadows could represent.
- Film Clip #3 – Birthday Surprise
On the surface this clip seems fairly happy, but if you look a little deeper than the surface, Phineas has just lost his job and his family’s wellbeing is hanging by a thread. So despite the family’s false guise of hopefulness i think that the encroaching shadows show that there is really something missing, and that this screen of happiness could be torn down at anytime.
There are several other scenes like this in the film. Another great example of this is when Phineas leaves his friends and family to tour the country with the opera singer Jenny Lyn, and although on the surface everything seems to be going well with an extremely successful tour in a later scene you see how broken Phineas’s family and circus crew are without him. There is one part in the scene where you see Charity, P.T Barnum’s wife, through the curtains of their house, and it appears as if she is dancing with Phineas…but soon you see that she is only dancing with a shadow of him.
In todays Old Testament passage, Job talks about only being a shadow of his former self, and how he is made a mockery among the people. In the film it seems like when P.T Barnum leaves behind what is most important to him, the shadows seem to creep back into the heart of the film.
A Celebration of Humanity
This final clip takes place right after the circus has burned down and P.T Barnum’s life seems to have taken a turn for the worse, when a newspaper critic who had previously criticized his show (saying it was a disgrace) comes and sits to talk with him.
- Film Clip #4 – The Critic
This scene is one of the most quintessential moments of the entire film. This critic who up until this moment has shamed the circus and world that P.T Barnum has created sums up the whole film in just a few words. Somewhere in this conversation, the critic calls P.T Barnum’s circus a “celebration of humanity.” And past the obvious meaning of this phrase, what the critic is maybe really calling the circus isn’t just a celebration of humanity in general but a celebration of the “diversity of humanity” as a whole.
Today is Scout Sunday. Everything that you see here today has been planned and or executed by the Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, and Girl Scouts of America. And like we did for The Greatest Showman, I think that we can look past the surface of what is happening today and draw out a deeper meaning: Maybe scout Sunday and every other church service isn’t just a day about the boy scouts or God, but like P.T. Barnum’s circus, a celebration of the diversity of humanity–embracing our individual talents and uniqueness by coming here every Sunday and sharing our gifts with each other.