On faith: Feed your soul, not the plantThis August I had the great fun of participating in a production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” While a comic musical, it has a dark and tragic ending made all the more tragic because it was completely avoidable. The question that remains with me is: Where was the church?
By: Rev. Lawrence Lee, United Church of Two Harbors, Lake County News Chronicle
This August I had the great fun of participating in a production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” While a comic musical, it has a dark and tragic ending made all the more tragic because it was completely avoidable. The question that remains with me is: Where was the church?
The story revolves around an orphan named Seymour, an assistant at a skid row plant shop. He secretly adores his co-worker, Audrey, but doesn’t have the gumption to tell her. Likewise, Audrey adores Seymour, but has such low self-esteem that she has fallen into an abusive relationship and doesn’t feel worthy of true love.
Seymour discovers a bloodsucking plant that he feeds with his own blood and, because of the plant’s uniqueness, he starts to gain notoriety, fame, and fortune. As the plant grows, its demand for blood exceeds what he can give. Seymour feeds the plant the body of Audrey’s abusive boyfriend, which, at the time, seems just.
But the plant is never sated. The plant always demands more blood. Audrey, herself, becomes a victim of the plant and, finally, Seymour.
The tragic part of all of this is that the plant promised things to Seymour that were already his. He didn’t need the plant to be popular, intelligent, or to gain the love of Audrey. He only thought he did. In the show Seymour even sings “without my plant she might not love me anymore.”
And so I turn to my original question: Where was the church? Why was there no community of love there in Seymour’s life to affirm him as a person of worth? Why wasn’t Audrey lifted out of her spiral of self-loathing and destructive relationships by a community that loved her for herself? Why wasn’t Christ’s sacrifice magnified as sufficient to break the cycle of violent sacrifice of self and others that Seymour felt compelled to engage in?
Where was the church?
While the story of Seymour and Audrey is fictional and farcical, it resonates because the human dynamics are true. There are Seymours and Audreys out there right now who need to know love and acceptance and to be built up, not torn down, or the cycle of violence will continue. Once we are enslaved through our own doubts to these systems of violence, it is difficult to extract ourselves.
It is best if we never start feeding the plant at all, as innocent as those first few drops of blood may seem.
As the chorus pleads in the big finale, “They may offer you fortune and fame, love and money and instant acclaim, but whatever they offer you, don’t feed the plants!”
The Rev. Lawrence Lee portrayed Mr. Mushnik in this summer’s Duluth Playhouse production of “Little Shop of Horrors.” He has been the pastor of the United Church of Two Harbors for eight years.