I remember the first time I read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Still impressionable, the character of Atticus Fitch beckoned to me. When I “grew up” I wanted to be Atticus Fitch. I knew then, just as I do now, that being a lawyer was not in the works for me. It was more what Atticus represented. Courage. Boldness. Compassion. Sense of Justice.
I think Harper Lee knew what we all, sooner or later figure out, being Atticus Fitch is not easy. But it is something we all strive towards.
Pastor Matt Rawle’s new book The Faith of a Mockingbird explores theological themes from this great treasure of literature. Rawle is the Lead Pastor at The Well United Methodist Church in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. (He has a number of other books in the Pop in Culture series from Abingdon Press). Atticus is not the only character from the novel worth exploring. Rawle draws connections to Scout, Boo Radley, and Tom Robinson in addition to Atticus. Through these connections, he explores the Christian faith, theology, and ethics. Rawles writes:
“Sin, redemption, wisdom, and love are themes that comprise Harper Lee’s masterpiece. To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of a broken town, full of broken people, living within a corrupt and broken system; but, like all good stories, redemption waits just around the corner, and beckons us to discover how our own broken lives are part of God’s timeless redemption story.”
Before going too far, Rawle gives the reader a helpful refresher of Lee’s masterpiece, which is followed by four chapters, each focusing on a different main character. The chapters include what could be called mini-chapters. There are usually about six per chapter, making it great for daily readings, making it a useful tool for individual or small group settings.
As a small group study, there is a DVD available as well as a flash drive with worship resources if using as part of a small group-sermon series experience.
Rawle’s goal is for the reader or group to discover spiritual truths about God’s world and themselves. He challenges us with thoughts like this:
“Ultimately Atticus models the Christian ethics of strength through sacrifice and victory as defeat, a way of life rooted in Christ’s suffering, death, and resurrection. His example prompts us to reflect on our own commitment–it may be easy to follow Christ when things go well, but are we willing to follow Christ’s footsteps even when they lead to the cross?”
We are broken people, living within broken systems. This is why To Kill a Mockingbird still has such a strong impact on the world today. It doesn’t take much to make the connections between the Jim Crowe era of the novel to today’s time. All we have to do is look at the evening news to confirm this systemic brokenness. It speaks to the very heart of the problem with humanity. We are broken and we live in brokenness.
The solution? We stand in need of redemption.
Clearly Atticus is a Christ-figure. Rawle highlights how the other characters are Christ-like in the ways in which they love others. In turn, he highlights how we can be Christ-like by extending that same sacrificial love, filled with justice and compassion, to others.
To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us that violence is prevalent in our time. Matt Rawle reveals that the problems are first fixed within ourselves.
To purchase your own copy of the book, click on the image below:
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital review copy.