It is the international musical phenomenon that tells the story of a once “forgotten” Founding Father. But Hamilton has underlying themes that reflect the deep faith of its subject, according to an American pastor.
Hamilton, which held its opening night at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre on Saturday, tells the extraordinary story of Alexander Hamilton, an immigrant from the Caribbean island of Nevis who became a penniless orphan at the age of 11 and went on to become one of the key figures of the American Revolution and helped forge the US Constitution.
The musical was written by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. Miranda also played the lead role in New York’s original Broadway production.
But, what is not so explicit in the musical is that Hamilton was deeply religious from a young age.
“He wrote hymns, he talked about his faith and when he came to America, he attended a Christian college and his roommates would talk about the fervency of his prayers,” American pastor and theologian Kevin Cloud, who wrote the 2018 book God and Hamilton, told Hope 103.2.
“There’s no question that early in his life there’s very real evidence of a devout faith.”
Though the Pastor said Hamilton appeared to stray from Christianity in his middle years, on his deathbed – after being shot by Vice President Aaron Burr in a duel in 1804 – his faith was absolute.
“He was calling for pastors and priests to come read him his last rites,” Mr Cloud said.
“He was declaring his dependency on the mercies of Christ, and as he was dying he told his wife, ‘Remember Eliza, that you are Christian’. And I think it was his way of trying to help her get through this incredible loss that she was going to suffer.”
In the musical, the faith component of Hamilton’s life is clear through its themes.
“I don’t think it’s written from a Christian perspective, with the idea of faith being at the centre of the musical,” Mr Cloud said.
“But one of the most powerful moments in the musical is after Alexander Hamilton has had an affair and Eliza forgives him. And that happened because she was a woman of faith.”
The moment is marked in the song It’s Quiet Uptown in which Eliza forgives her husband for his betrayal.
“I saw the musical in New York. The atmosphere in the theatre changed when she forgave her husband,” Mr Cloud said.
“I think that’s because every one of us is dealing with unforgiveness in life. And we have people that we need to forgive that we haven’t forgiven. The example that Eliza sets, forces the audience to ask the question, ‘Will we forgive the people who have hurts us and who have wronged us?’”
“I think that’s because every one of us is dealing with unforgiveness in life. And we have people that we need to forgive that we haven’t forgiven. The example that Eliza sets, forces the audience to ask the question…” – American pastor and theologian Kevin Cloud
The musical also explores redemption. After Hamilton’s death, Eliza built an orphanage in memory of her orphan husband. Today that orphanage still operates as the Graham Windham charity home for families and children.
“Eliza takes the deep brokenness that her husband experienced, and tries to redeem it,” Mr Cloud said.
“To this day, the orphanage is still doing incredible work in New York City.”
Mr Cloud has reached out to Lin-Manuel Miranda and hopes to connect with him one day.
“I’m just so thankful he wrote the musical,” the Pastor said.
“It’s a work of genius, a brilliant piece of art. In Celtic Christian spirituality, there’s this idea that heaven is here among us, and there’s this veil that covers it so that we can’t see it. But at times there are these ‘thin places’ where the veil becomes thin, and we can almost taste and see and touch heaven among us. And I think art is one of the ways where the veil becomes thin. And certainly this musical served that way for me.”
Hamilton the Musical is for mature audiences.
God and Hamilton: Spiritual Themes From the Life of Alexander Hamilton & the Broadway Musical He Inspired by Kevin Cloud is available now.