This weekend, I saw God in one of the last places I would have expected. It wasn’t at the shopping mall, or in STSS. I saw God while I was at work! Crazy, right?
Maybe I should begin by explaining where I work. I am an usher at Ted Mann Concert Hall, and I work at a lot of performances though the school of music as well as private renters. This weekend, the U of M music theater put on a performance of the Opera “Parables”. Parables is geared toward addressing the issues of racial and religious intolerance, and working to shed light on how we can be more tolerant of those around us. The three main religions that were targeted in this opera were Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
One of the key ideas that was brought forward through this musical masterpiece was that religious tolerance can only be achieved when we take the “triumph” out of faith. I was trying to decide what this meant exactly, because it was the first time I had heard it. Herschel Garfein explained in a Q&A session after the performance that people often believe that their religion is right and everyone else is wrong. In this regard, everyone believes that the whole world will be proven that their God is the “right” God and that everyone will convert to their faith. Through this belief, it is hard to see another religion as equal, thus exemplifying intolerance.
There was also a powerful moment in the opera when the choirs representing each religion all said the name of “God” in their language, in unison. This, along with many other pieces of symbolism went to show that we all believe in the same God, but told through a different story (or in this case, song).
I was fortunate enough to work during 3 performances of this production, and each time I saw it I took something new from it. It is clear to me that religious intolerance exists everywhere, but it takes everyone to put an end to it. God was most definitely present through the mouths of all of the performers, just as God was present in all the audience members who the message was passed on to. I hope that the message this opera conveys continues to resonate on this campus long after the melodies can no longer be heard.