The Milwaukee Ballet performed one of their best ever editions of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. Stunning music and choreography, true to the tradition. 5 stars, went to see it a second time.
And the Milwaukee Repertory Theater did just ok with a meandering, somewhat morose take on Dickens' Christmas Carol. Adequate for 3 stars.
Before each event, an emcee politely reminded us that the cost of our tickets was subsidized. They didn't use those words, but explained the price of the tickets would be far greater if not for generous contributions of commercial and private sponsors. The largest commercial sponsors were applauded and many private patrons named in the programs. Lead artists in the Nutcracker were personally sponsored by prominently named patrons.
And I appreciate that. As expensive as the tickets were - especially 7th row orchestra where I could enjoy the performer's facial expressions and hear musical nuances - we couldn't afford to attend if they were triple the cost or more. Many people would never experience the exquisite beauty of the Nutcracker if it weren't for these subsidies. The value is very real.
Its an easy way to think of our salvation.
The most commonly held view of heaven or life after death - in any global culture - is one of good outweighing bad. I will go to heaven after I die if I have been sufficiently good.
Deep down though, most self-aware people doubt that they are actually ahead on "good." And they're right.
The bible isn't as condemning or "judgmental" as many would like us to believe. It is honest, and it is fair. It makes someone with a conscience squirm a little.
For the good: What is the measure of my kindness, generosity, compassion, mercy and forgiveness - as naturally expressed by me towards others? Including those who disagree with me? That would trip up just about everybody during a presidential election cycle. Plenty of ugliness, very little compassion on both sides of the debate.
For the bad: What is the measure of my personal pridefulness, selfishness, lust, wasted talent, laziness, greed, anger, intolerance (including toward spiritual diversity, or those who disagree with me). I am tripped up by all of those at one time or another, some more than others.
I need a substantial subsidy to push my good past my bad. Be honest, and you do too. We all do. We know it, God knows it. The bible - and Christianity - don't condemn us for that, they recognize us for who we are.
The emcee at the Nutcracker didn't belittle me for accepting a subsidized ticket, he simply acknowledged the reality of it. They even gave away some tickets for free, all the beauty with none of the cost. They want people to experience the joy and beauty of the theater. "We understand - you can't afford this - but we've provided a way." There is no shame in that.
You can sit in your theater seat and pretend you paid your way. But it's disingenuous.
If the full value were on the ticket, we would not get through the theater door.
The bible points out the need for a sponsor - someone to cover the cost of our sin. Someone's name next to ours in the program. Jesus. I am not ashamed to accept his saving grace.
I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16
What do you believe?