Footloose Meditation: The Division between Children and Their Fathers

When choosing a production to put on at Covenant, Arts Chair, Mr. Jerry King, considers the central themes of the show and to what extent they speak to what is good, true and beautiful. The process for choosing Footloose, this year’s show, was no different.
“In the story, Ren, the angry son who has lost his father (“He just walked out on Mom and me…”) meets the angry father who has lost his son; Rev. Moore has lost his firstborn son in a tragic car accident.  Not only has he [Rev. Moore] not gotten over it, but, this wound, this arrow, has lodged so deeply in him that he has begun to neglect his wife and daughter, still very much alive and under his own roof,” says King. “More than that, he has undertaken a congregation-wide  -- even city-wide – campaign of moral/behavioral protectionism - NO DANCING - in an effort to safeguard everyone from any risk of loss again. It’s not working; the town is suffocating. Then in walks Ren, the crazy, dancing kid from Chicago, right into Shaw Moore’s moral crosshairs.”

This matter of the relationship between sons and fathers, children and parents, can be seen all through scripture. The last verses of the Old Testament, Malachi 4:5-6, read:
“See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.”

This is the “core issue in God’s sight, [the] leading symptom of how far people were from God,” says King. “The issue that was really grieving God’s heart was that the hearts of fathers/parents were turned away from their own kids, and the kids were reciprocating. It is not clear how deeply or spiritually the writers of the script of Footloose meant this, but that is exactly the central theme of Footloose,” King says.

Divided families in Israel were a sign of the division between God and His people, and the division of a whole town in Footloose is the sign of the bigger division between legalism and grace, between families, between children and their parents. “Over and over I’ve witnessed the importance of ‘knit hearts’ between parents and their kids. The results of broken homes often play out for decades, even generations to come – likely an underlying cause for a host of other social ills,” King said.

“In Luke 1 (v. 17), God’s angel comes to Zechariah as he’s serving in the temple, to tell him that the little boy that he and Elizabeth in their old age are soon going to have, will be that very promised “prophet Elijah before the great and dreadful day of the Lord,” the man we now know as John the Baptist,” says King. “And his central work? There it is: “And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

“There it is, the prophetic bridge between the two testaments: God moving mightily to close the gap in families, generations, turning hearts of the fathers to their children, and (he puts it this way, there) the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous,” King said. This idea couldn’t be any clearer in Footloose. “It is their clash, and – spoiler alert! – the eventual turning of hearts toward each other that is the heartbeat of the show,” said King. Ren acts as that bridge when he sees the town with fresh eyes, challenges their ideas and ultimately convinces Rev. Moore and all of Bomont to heal and know their children better and more deeply.

This theme, both Biblically and in Footloose has implications for the Covenant community too. King said that, in a perfect world,  “all Covenant families would be completely solid, [with] hearts turned toward each other, [and] no stifling fear giving rise to protectionism; all children clearly seen, known, loved, then launched out into the world to be dangerous for good by parents who have consistently ‘been Jesus’ to each of their own, and [who] profoundly trust the grace of Jesus for the gaps, slips, short-sightedness, fears, and desire to reproduce kids that are just extensions of ourselves.”

“But this is the real world, our world, and we know that’s not the case,” he says. “I was the son of a broken home. My parents began to have serious trouble when I was in fifth grade. The final divorce papers were signed my senior year in college. A divided home really affects you.” Maybe this theme in Footloose will make the community take a good, hard look at what these relationships mean, how they are functioning, and ultimately how divided we are from God.  “This all matters to God. [It’s] central to His redemptive, restoring work,” says King.

Footloose opens this week at The Covenant School Auditorium on the Hickory Campus. Purchase tickets here. Click here to read other reflections on the show from Mr. Jerry King.

The Covenant School

Birdwood Campus | Lower School | Pre-K–Grade 5 |
1000 Birdwood Road Charlottesville, VA 22903 | 434.220.7309

Hickory Campus | Middle and Upper School | Grades 6–12 | 175 Hickory Street Charlottesville, VA 22902 | 434.220.7329
Located in Charlottesville, VA, The Covenant School is a non-denominational, private, Christian day school for Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12. Students benefit from a challenging academic program, visual and performing arts, competitive athletics, and a wide selection of extracurricular activities.