Do you know the song “If I Were a Rich Man” from Fiddler on the Roof? Fiddler on the Roof was one of my dad’s favorite movies. The dad had five daughters. My dad had seven daughters. The daughter’s were breaking tradition with whom they wanted to marry; in some ways my dad saw that with our family too. And the dad “wished” he was a rich man and didn’t have to work so hard.
I used to play piano really well, and I learned how to play If I Were a Rich Man. My dad would request it often. I loved to play it for him especially during his last year of life as cancer started to wear his body down. The song would bring a faint smile to his lips. My dad lost his fight with cancer in 1981. He was 53; I was 19. I to this day have not played “If I Were a Rich Man” on the piano and it took about 20 years before I would listen to the song again. It just made me sad. It made me think of what I had lost; what might have been had cancer not stolen it away from me. If the song came on the radio, I changed the station.
There seems to be a lot of controversy in the media about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” right now. Usually I wouldn’t touch a subject like this with a ten-foot pole. But I am very open to both sides of a discussion. Therefore I offer this. (Stay with me.)
Proverbs 28:21 and 22: “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the Lord shall reward thee.”
Reading that today, I’d be like really. I can feed my enemy before I cast coals of fire upon his head and destroy him? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, but hey the Bible tells me so.” Well when I was in theological school, we learned about “Orientalisms” in the Bible. The Bible was written over 2000 years ago. Can we agree that the times may have been different back then? So it would do us good to understand the customs of the times in order to understand this verse – yes?
Coals of fire. All the proverbs in the Book of Proverbs were known before they got into the Bible. Solomon collected these from other countries, from India and other places.They were and still are in usage by the people.Coals of fire. This is before the time of matchboxes. Before matchboxes, one family in the villagewould strike one flint stone against another and get a spark. This would catch in the cotton wool. He starts the fire in his house and makes coals of fire out of the sparkle. The rest of the community don’thave fires at all—neither do they have stones to start their own—only one family had these. This person who starts the fire supplies the rest of the village with fire. He’s called a village fire carrier. They put a thick cushion on his head (leather), on top of this they put an empty bowl full of clay, on top of this they put a bowl of coals of fire. His head is protected by these. He then goes to houses. He balances the bowl on his head and doesn’t need to use his hands. When he gets to a house, he’ll sit at the door. Someone in the house comes with an instrument and removes a coal or two to start their fire. This man supplies the whole village. This fire on the man’s head warms his body, warms him all over, his personality even. Spiritual application: If you “heap coals of fire on your enemy,” you’ll warm his heart. You’ll change his thinking. Do good unto him even though he doesn’t deserve it. Fire is symbolic of love. Warm enemies with your love. Melt his heart with the warmth of your love. Read I Corinthians 13. Love never fails you. All may fail—but love shall stand. It won’t burn him up, it will warm him. –Orientalisms in the Bible; Bishop KC Pillai
Ohhhhhhh – so it won’t burn him up. Ohhhhhh it will warm him. It’s always a good idea to ask yourself when was this written, when was this sung, when was this filmed – what was happening in the world at the time, what are the customs of the land at that time.
I feel like the same applies with the song Baby It’s Cold Outside. This song was written in 1944 by Frank Loesser. 1944. Not 2018. 1944. Have you talked to any women who were teenagers in 1944? I have. It was a very different time. Some folks today seem to have an issue with the woman not giving “consent” in the song. Have you never said No when you really meant yes? And I don’t mean to sex. I mean to anything. Here he’s asking her to stay. I look at it as they are in love; they love being with each other; but it is socially unacceptable for a man and woman to live together or stay the night with one another in 1944. If you want that, then get married – which is what they did back then. When I heard this song in the 1970s and 1980s as a teenager and in my twenties, I actually thought “Oh I know how she feels. She really wants to stay with him, by the fire, cuddled up on the couch, with a Baileys Irish crème and just enjoy being together; but she knows her mom is at home worrying about her and what would others think if she didn’t make it back home. I never for an instance thought boy he’s being pushy. Everyone perceives things differently based on their life experiences.
So all I’m saying is ask yourself When was it written? What were the manners and customs of the time? If it is still triggering based on your past experiences, DON’T listen to it. I don’t listen to rap and I just started listening to “If I Were a Rich Man.” Imagine a world where we banned every song, every book, every newspaper article, every everything because it was triggering to someone.
Just offering my opinion. I will not tolerate hate comments, but I will accept your different point of view. Because I believe in a healthy debate. I have learned a LOT from listening to my children.