“Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.” –Isaiah 31:1
The Phantom of the Opera is one of my all-time favorite movie musicals. I’ve seen it four times now. At first, I thought Raoul, one of the main characters, was a bit of a Christ figure. Then I got to the end of the movie and wondered if maybe Christine was the Christ figure. Now I’ve decided that Jesus just isn’t anywhere in this movie, as beautiful as it is. And that’s precisely why everything goes so wrong.
If you haven’t yet seen this movie but want to, I must warn you that this post contains some significant spoilers. The last thing I want to do is spoil a great story, so please don’t read on if the movie is one you’ve been wanting to see. Then again, the movie is ten years old this year, so I’m feeling pretty certain you’ve already seen it if you ever wanted to.
A few days ago, I wrote about the danger of putting someone else in God’s place in your life, both to you and to that person. The Phantom of the Opera displays this truth clearly. It’s a cautionary tale, and don’t we just love those (so long as we don’t have to live them, our lives becoming a tale of caution for everybody else)!
Let’s take a look at one of the most beautiful songs in the movie, All I Ask of You. Pay close attention to Raoul’s promises and Christine’s requests:
Didn’t you just love that?! Please don’t be offended that I’m going to pick on these two just a little bit. They’re mostly only saying the kinds of things that most people who are falling in love say to one another. In context, however, Christine really is in danger. The Phantom is stalking her. He wants total control of her life. On some level, he wants to live through her, receiving, as her teacher, credit for all the musical success she achieves. Raoul, knowing this, offers to be Christine’s freedom, guide, protector, shelter, and light. All Christine asks in return is that he promise her that all he says is true. Their love isn’t that of two human beings who realize their limitations but want to share a life. Raoul is offering what he can’t provide, and Christine is asking that he promise to come through.
Unfortunately, though Raoul may have been a gifted man,* he is no savior. We see this truth for ourselves a few hours later in the movie. Raoul finds Christine in the opera house’s chapel. She is frightened. Raoul has come up with a plan to end the phantom, once and for all. This plan uses Christine as bait. Evidently Christine is no longer certain that Raoul is capable of all he claims. She tells him that if he goes through with his plan, the phantom will take her. The phantom will win.
Raoul doesn’t listen. The phantom takes the girl. Then he captures and threatens to kill the boy. In the end, Christine has to save Raoul, who is utterly humiliated.
And that’s what happens if ever we try to put someone in God’s place or try to claim that place for ourselves. Jesus wants to be our Freedom, Guide, Protector, Shelter, and Light. (He is the Teacher who deserves all credit for our successes, too.) Only He can love us in the way that Raoul promised to love Christine. When we find ourselves frightened, perplexed, or in danger, His help is what we need.
Jesus, thank You for Your love, freedom, guidance, protection, shelter, light, and teaching. We know that all You say is true. We joyfully place our confidence in You.
Note: I realize Raoul and Christine’s story isn’t the primary theme of either the book, musical, or movie. It’s really about the power of compassionate love to help a monster find his human heart. But the lyrics to the song prompted me to explore this theme as well. Thanks for following my thoughts down this little rabbit trail.
*For those who didn’t catch the reference, the actor who played Raoul also starred in a short-lived television series called A Gifted Man.