Great thoughts from a great book

In the last week, I have begun reading again the book by Harper Lee called To Kill a Mockingbird, and I have found some quotes from the book that left me thinking  and wondering about life and following Jesus. You can read them and some of my thoughts as I reflect on its ideas.

Scout Finch is sitting on her neighbor, Miss Maudie’s, front porch. They’re talking about another neighbor on the street who never leaves his house. Many rumors and gossip float around town about this man, and Scout wants to know the truth. Miss Maudie is trying to explain to Scout why he never leaves as she touches on some wisdom about Christians. “Miss Maudie stopped rockin’, and her voice hardened. ‘You wouldn’t understand it,’ she said, ‘but sometimes the Bible in the hand of one man is worse than a whiskey bottle in the hand of – oh, of your father…  what I meant was, if Atticus Finch drank until he was drunk he wouldn’t be as hard as some men are at their best. There are just some kind of men who – who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the streets and see the results.'”

I read this part of the book and was struck by the truth in Miss Maudie’s words. I’ve watched over the last few years as people who claim the Bible as their authority have trashed or insulted or slandered other people who are also trying to follow the same God as expressed in Jesus Christ. I’ve wondered if our hunger for truth and absolutes in morality or scripture has left us unloving and unable to disagree peacefully with others. I wonder what it means when Jesus says that we should love our neighbor if we are capable of also saying terrible things about him or her. I wonder if we really want to love our neighbor, or if what we are really concerned about is loving those people who are like us or trying to be like us. In the words of Miss Maudie, I hear the truth that sometimes people have used the Bible and caused damage to the lives of other people that often does not make sense. Also, I see in Miss Maudie’s words that we who are consumed by the gospel that saves the soul for heaven but has little to say about the physical life that we live causes damage also. How can we see the results of this kind of Christianity in our world today?

The next quotation that I picked up is when Scout asks her Uncle Jack about what a certain bad word means that she learned at school. Uncle Jack does not tell her the truth. He evades the question and then brings up her question later with her father late one evening. Atticus responds to his telling saying, “When a child asks you something, answer him, for goodness sake. But don’t make a production of it. Children are children, but they can spot an evasion quicker than adults, and evasion simply muddles ’em.”

I noticed this part because we have been talking about taboo topics in American culture that many people struggle to explain to children or don’t explain to children until they’re older, even though a child coming into adolescence may be experiencing the topic. We talked about how if we talked about these things more, children would understand better what is happening to them and also realize that it is completely natural. These ideas go further than mere adolescence. What things do we try and hide from children because we fear that talking to them about those ideas would corrupt them or cause problems? Is there room to be more honest about things in our culture, especially with young people who may not have as much wisdom or experiences as adults? Is there room to be more honest about things in the church? Are we willing to acknowledge the difficult questions of faith and interact with young people over them, realizing alongside them that the answers are not as clear-cut as we may be led to believe?

The final quote comes at another time when Scout is talking Miss Maudie again. Scout and her brother Jem have been wondering what things their father is good at besides being a lawyer. They find out that he has an amazing eye for shooting things, and they wonder why he has never told them about it and why he is not proud of his ability. Miss Maudie responds to Scout’s question about this by saying, “People in their right minds never take pride in their talents.”

I wonder, though, if I have not become proud of what I can do, wanting to show everyone what I can do and how good I am. Maybe God’s greatest requirement, though, is to live life using your gifts and talents for the betterment of all people, not necessarily to make yourself look good. How has God gifted you to serve others and bless others with what he has blessed you with?


~ by randallkoehler on September 1, 2012.

2 Responses to “Great thoughts from a great book”

  1. I thought what you said was very interesting. I feel like a lot of times people get so caught up in trying to define themselves, whether by looks, beliefs, etc., that we lose track of what we all have in common, that we are human. We get so caught up in needing to be correct and prove that everyone else is wrong that we feel like we need to impede on each other because we try so hard to make order of this life. I think if we all just took a step back and realized how lucky we all are to be living this life, and that we only have this life to live, so we should be spending it trying not only to make our lives better, but the lives of those around us as well. I think Carl Sagan put it best, ” If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”

    I thought your post was really interesting, so I thought I’d add my two cents on the issue. Thanks for the food for thought for the night!

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