Jekyll and Hyde

Back in, oh, probably 1997 or so, a student-teacher of either my chorus or band director introduced me to the soundtrack from the Broadway musical “Jekyll and Hyde.” (I think his name was Josh? Maybe? Heck, it’s been twenty years.)

The following year, our high school chorus took a trip to Chicago to see the show. While the soundtrack had already sold me on the show, actually seeing it cemented it as one of my favorite musicals.

The score was driving, fast-paced, largely in minor keys, and gave the lower-registered instruments of the orchestra a lot of the focus. It really did a great job of highlighting the darkness and evil associated with the J&H story. Interspersed within the dark musical themes are brief bursts of excitement, joy, anticipation, hope, love, and even lament that are sung in bold anthems and passionate ballads by the lead characters.

In this version of the story, Henry Jekyll is an impassioned physician who is desperately seeking a cure for his father’s dementia while trying to balance the life he has with his fiancee, Emma.  Upon having his proposal for treating his father’s illness rejected by the Board of Governors, he decides to inject himself with the solution as a test candidate.  This results in an extreme change in Dr. Jekyll’s behavior as he “becomes” another person, Edward Hyde.  Mr. Hyde is someone who has no qualms about sinister behavior and operates solely on his primitive impulses and desires.

The musical highlights the duality of humanity, as expressed in the characters of Jekyll and Hyde in a theme that is heard throughout the show:

There’s a face that we hide
Till the nighttime appears,
And what’s hiding inside,
Behind all of our fears,
Is our true self,
Locked inside the façade!
So, what is the sinister secret?
The lie he will tell you is true? –
It’s that each man you meet
In the street
Isn’t one man but two!
Nearly everyone you see –
Like him and her,
And you, and me –
Pretends to be
A pillar of society –
A model for propriety –
And piety –
Who shudders at the thought
Of notoriety!
The ladies and gents here before you –
Which none of them ever admit –
May have saintly looks –
But they’re sinners and crooks!
One or two
Might look kinda well-to-do –
Hah! They’re bad as me and you,
Right down they’re boots!
I’m inclined to think –
Half mankind
Thinks the other half is blind!
Wouldn’t be surprised to find –
They’re all in cahoots!

As the lyrics imply, it’s not only Henry Jekyll who is fighting a battle within himself–good vs. evil.  In fact, it’s the battle that takes place within each of us–conflicting desires and wants, knowing right from wrong and still consciously making the wrong decision, or even simply unconscious behaviors and habits that are based on selfishness, greed, passion, or anger.

I bring this up because this idea of “each man you meet on the street is isn’t one man, but two,” is precisely one of the recognitions of the Christian faith, particularly as defined by Martin Luther.

It is high time that we as Christians not only recognize this truth but ensure it is applied to our lives and our congregations–and in how we treat other people.  Luther held that a Christian is someone who is “saint and sinner at the same time.”  Yes, the idea is a paradox, but it makes sense.  We are both at once saved by the grace of love of Christ, yet continue to exist in an imperfect universe, with imperfect minds and bodies that will continue to be disobedient, regardless of how much self-discipline we possess.  This understanding is not to be taken as an invitation to engage in immoral behavior.  However, it does illustrate that those who profess a faith in Christ will still screw up, sin, do wrong things, have lustful or hateful thoughts, hold grudges, and otherwise exhibit behaviors that are “unChristian.”

It is critical that this idea is at the forefront of our minds as we deal with others.  When we as Christians exclude the “other,” we are not drawing a line between “them” and “us,” we are drawing a line between “us,” and Christ.  Remember that Christ came for the sinner–the thief, liar, the adulterer, the murderer.  He did not come for those who held themselves in high regard; in fact, he repeatedly spoke against those people.

When we selfishly draw lines between “us” and “them,” Jesus will always be with “them.”

When we look at someone and judge them harshly, we must remember that we are no better than they are.  Whatever the other person’s “problem” is, we have plenty of our own baggage as we are most certainly still sinners while we strive to be saints.

The fact is, we are “both evil and good.” Wearing a “facade” and pretending otherwise is foolish and wrong.

Even as Christians, we are still both Jekyll and Hyde; Saint and Sinner.

And so is the rest of humanity.