Saturday, July 30, 2016

Book Review: On the Spiritual aspects of "To Kill a Mockingbird"

The Spiritual message to be found in Harper Lee’s beloved bestseller “To Kill a Mockingbird” is, I believe, one of the main reasons this book has endured for generations. The uplifting message is one that not only appeals to young adults, but also to those who remember the book from their own childhood. It contains a timeless message encapsulated in the most appealing of messengers, children who are coming of age in small-town America.

I’ve written several essays in the past on the film version of Mockingbird, which closely follows the book in style and tone. However, there are some key distinctions that set the book apart from the film. The book introduces us to the Finch children, Jem and Scout. As their names attest, Jem is the jewel in the family, one who is prized by all. Scout is the lookout, as she is always alert for any changes that come their way. And the father, Atticus, is the abacus, he is the great leveler, who can make all things right.

The other characters have similar spiritual overtones. While Dill is as his name implies, tart and comical, Jim Robinson, the Negro handyman who has been wrongfully accused of rape, is a kind of sacrificial lamb in this story.

One key difference that sets the book apart is the character of Mrs. Dubose. In the book, an entire chapter is devoted to her story. Where we see her simply as a crabby old lady in the film version, we hear a great deal more to flesh out her story in the book. Atticus explains that she was terminally ill and had become addicted to morphine. Yet she decided to die on her own terms, without drugs, and therefore she becomes an example of moral courage and illustrates the power of free will in conquering her addiction. This also gives a spiritual and moral aspect to the idea of conquering our baser instincts and using our free will to overcome our human frailties and failings.

In the book, as in the film, the two pivotal events surround the coming-of-age of Scout and the trial of Jim Robinson. In both, Atticus is seen as the wise man and the judge, both guiding his children with wisdom and seeking justice for those who are in peril.

Atticus is often seen as a Christ-like figure, although he bears more resemblance to the angels of the Lord who were sent to guide us and to bear witness as well as deliver God’s message to his people. In essence, by taking on the case of Jim Robinson and working to deliver God’s justice, he is “getting his hands dirty”, so to speak, meaning he is paving the way for others to follow suit as they work to uncover prejudice and to seek justice for those who are wrongfully accused.

The figure who represents the idea of Christ is Boo Radley. Boo is shunned and misunderstood, and he’s only fully appreciated long after the events of the story unfold. In the book, he protects and watches over the children, and this can be seen as a metaphor for Christ who is watching over us, his children. It was decided that to destroy a creature such as Boo, it would be like “killing a Mockingbird”; the thing that was created only to bring us joy and happiness.

It’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird, as it was a sin to kill Christ. Therefore, we must do our best to protect the weak, and those among us who are innocent and pure spirits. That is the core message of the book and the key takeaway for Christians who seek a spiritual message in the text.

Whether there is a deeper meaning felt, or simply one taken at face-value of selfless love, innocence, and the triumph of good over evil, we still can revere the book as one for the ages with a timeless message of enduring faith and love.


Monday, July 25, 2016

The Truest Balm

 In the ever-changing landscape of crisis and fear that we navigate all too often these days, the overwhelming love of God and the message of love embodied in Christ are the truest balm we may apply to our wounded spirits.

Here are three different messages, with passages from Scripture to correlate with the themes of Atonement, Blessings and Balm.  In these passages, we may take heart that Jesus loves us and cares for us. In Christ we are healed.

·    The first is Blessings: Unceasing Dependence-Continual Peace

Leviticus 25.21

Do not dwell upon remote events; this anxiety about the future is contrary to a religious state of mind. …A life of faith produces two things. First, it enables us to see God in everything. Secondly, it holds the mind in a state of readiness for whatever may be his will…"
"This continual, unceasing dependence, this state of entire peace and acquiescence of the soul in whatever may happen, is the true, silent martyrdom of self.” - Francois Fenelon

·   The second is Atonement: Not without Blood

From Leviticus 17.11

God has made more than one covenant with man, but ever, not without blood!..This is the wondrous note that rings through all Scripture, from Abel’s sacrifice at the gate of paradise to the songs of the ransomed in Revelation…There can be no fellowship with God, but in the blood, in the death, of his blessed Son.”-Andrew Murray

· The third is Balm: A Balm in Gilead

Jeremiah 8.22

There is a balm in Gilead
To make the wounded whole,
There is a balm in Gilead
To heal the sin-sick soul.

Sometimes I feel discouraged
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my soul again.

If you can’t preach like Peter,
If you can’t pray like Paul,
Just tell the love of Jesus,
And say he died for all.

-African American Spiritual