Alas, It’s True: We’re Gonna Die

Young Jean Lee (photo by Kevin Yatarola)

Young Jean Lee’s just-closed cabaret at Joe’s Pub ends with the simple, comforting song “We’re Gonna Die.” (It’s also the name of the show.)

We’re gonna die

We’re gonna die someday

Then we’ll be gone

And it’ll be ok (Listen to the song here)

Lee isn’t the slightest bit ironic or sardonic – the evening’s jumble of stories and songs exists, she tells us upfront, to generate some kind of collective comfort to suffering, to make private unhappiness a public, unifying bond. Lee’s message is delivered in a refreshingly heartfelt, anti-arch way. It’s like a good backrub: “it’s ok, it’s ok, it’s ok.”

“We’re Gonna Die,” the 11 o’clock number, has a laissez-faire egalitarianism matched by a new book profiled in the Times Book Review. According to essayist Lauren F. Winner, Rob Bell’s “Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived” is sending shockwaves through Evangelical communities for its universal, less damning take on salvation. (Read the piece here.) Winner (a fantastic writer in her own right – see her spectacular memoir “Girl Meets God”) quotes Bell’s guiding ideas:

“Jesus is the way, but the all-embracing, saving love of this particular Jesus the Christ will of course include all sorts of unexpected people from across the cultural spectrum… What Jesus does is declare that he, and he alone, is saving everybody. And then he leaves the door way, way open. Creating all sorts of possibilities. He is as narrow as himself and as wide as the universe.”

Seems to me Lee and Bell might want to grab coffee. If “the door” is “way, way open,” then “it’ll be ok” for everyone. They might not agree on the specifics, but the mutual, all-inclusive optimism – rare in both the avant-garde and Evangelicalism – just might be a salve in troubled times.

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