In a very frightening moment from the Sondheim musical “Assassins,” eight historical characters gather together around Lee Harvey Oswald to try to persuade him to assassinate President John F. Kennedy. They are together in the Texas School Book Depository and have just introduced themselves to the agitated and troubled Oswald: John Wilkes Booth, Guiseppe Zangara, Charles Guiteau, Leon Czolgosz, Sam Byck, John Hinkley, Jr., Sara Jane Moore and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme have all either assassinated an American president or tried to, and they want Oswald to “revive them and give them meaning” lest they become “footnotes in a history book.”
It is a chilling scene, and I have a line of dialogue at that moment that I think about a lot. As Sara Jane Moore, a woman who tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford because she thought it would start a necessary revolution, I say to Lee Harvey Oswald, “You think you can’t connect? Connect to us.”
People do want to connect. We are social animals. We need love and relationship. I believe we were made for those things. But if people do not connect to something life-giving, positive, inspiring and encouraging (with its root Latin word of cor, or heart) it is all too easy to be drawn into negative attractions based on ego, fear, common hatreds, and causes that stimulate our reptile survival brain, the amygdala.
Perhaps you came to this website out of curiosity after having seen “Assassins” at Arts After Hours and wondering why a minister would be part of such a disturbing theatrical event where she cusses like a sailor, simulates smoking pot and (by far worse) points a gun at a child. If you did, hello! Thank you for seeing the show and for visiting our church website!
I wanted to be part of “Assassins” because I am a huge admirer of Stephen Sondheim’s work, and because I am always drawn to theatre that makes people think and that prompts great discussions. As an actor, I am attracted to eccentric and complicated characters and I have kind of a specialty in comic villains. Sara Jane is a real person, and although she is written as comic relief in the show “Assassins,” in real life she came very close to killing President Gerald Ford. She is not in the least a funny or charming person and her act is the result of disordered thinking and bad influences.
But Sara Jane wanted very much to belong. Throughout her adult life she sought to connect to movements and groups that would make her feel part of a movement toward social justice even though she eventually chose a deranged path to try to get there. She was an FBI informant for awhile (yes, she was fired), and she really did have five husbands and four children (not three, as it says in the show) who she sent to live under the guardianship of other adults. Ultimately, she and the other assassins were loners and losers who represent the worst of what people can become when they are left in isolation to their most negative, demonic and selfish thoughts and plans.
And of course, we are seeing in recent years how isolation, anger, disordered thinking, toxic affinity groups and the easily availability of guns have lead to terrible violence, chaos and despair as more assassins take it upon themselves to earn a place in history at the expense of the freedom, joy, love and life of so many others.
Please connect. Connect with those who are also worried, angry, confused and determined to make a difference through cultivating not violence but reverence. Connect with those who know that some joy and hope are as essential to every day as are water and oxygen, and who know how important it is in these times to strengthen the soul through spiritual practice, the arts, activism and the solidarity of being in open-minded and open-hearted community.
I will be out of the pulpit for the summer but I hope to meet you soon. Get in touch if you’d like to meet for an iced coffee to talk about your spiritual search.
With faith, hope and love,