Wednesday, August 26, 2015
As long as I was re-reading, To Kill a Mocking Bird, I also dove into Harper Lee's new book, Go Set a Watchman. Caution...there may be some spoilers ahead. The book picks up on Scout, now as an adult. She lives in New York but comes home for a visit. She has to deal with the fact that no human, no one, not even her father, is perfect. While I enjoy Lee's long prose and rambling style, this book just did not quite get it for me. Perhaps it was because the expectations were so high. What I loved about Mockingbird were the exit ramps. Atticus shooting a dog with rabies or the side story with Boo Ridley. Watchman has few of those...and less characters too. In some ways, this would have been a great short story as an epilogue to Lee's book, or the first chapter...then we set out with Scout to New York. How would a Southern deal with Yankees in the 1950s and 60s? How does she eschew and embrace her upbringing? Sometimes those stories need to be explored outside of the comfortable confines of what is known and familiar.
When I reflect on my move to Florida, a Yankee now in the South, I sense some of the themes from Watchman. How do we deal with lingering racism? I am privileged to pastor a church that strives to be racial diverse. Yet, there is always more we can do. How do economic disparities play out? I live in an area where people pay millions of dollars for homes and some people don't make minimum wage. How do we walk around in each other's shoes, in a time when people who cling dogmatically to their own ideas (even when they are proven wrong time and time again)? Those are challenging questions that need stories to help us sort out.
The power of stories...as opposed to history or news...is that they allow us to engage our right brain and stir our imagination. We need stories...stories of people dealing with the messy middle of life today. Stories of people living into their God belovedness and encouraging others to do the same. We need stories when we get it right and when we get it wrong. And the church needs to be a place for all that. We need to start telling our own story and listening...that is the KEY...listening to other's stories too.
Not every story needs to be the best ever! Stories can leave us wanting...because life and other people leave us wanting. Near the end of Watchman, we have a conversation between Atticus and Scout. She confronts his racism and his participation in a group opposing the NAACP. She calls him out on his brokenness. And Atticus just graciously and gently responds. So we are left with the fact that Atticus has brokenness and edges...his beliefs have ceilings that Scout bongs her head on...which she also does every time she gets in the car. Again, because of the setting, we don't see Scout bumping hard against her own limitations. How would she respond in New York at a meeting of the NAACP? Would she even go? Those are important questions. To be sure, maybe Lee did not want us to idolize anyone...which our church has certainly done with Atticus. We all have blindspots and brokenness. The key is not only to see others...but also our own. To do that, Lee, is right we need more than just a trace of God's grace.
I encourage you to reflect on your own understandings of race, economic disparity, love, relationships, and life. In the coming posts, I am going to start working through stories of the Hebrew Scriptures...hopefully, these ancient and well-known stories can give us some insights into God's whose love is woven into every fiber...yet we often don't live that way. Until then, may the God of hope, peace, joy and love surround you.