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The Word on the Week

To Kill a Mocking Bird

To Kill a Mocking Bird Word on the Week 20th February 2016.

Two deaths this week call us to stop and reflect. One is the author, Harper Lee, who wrote the novel “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, the other is our much loved Church Member, Ann Browne.

The novel written by Harper Lee in 1960 deals with racial inequality back in 1930ies in a small town in south Alabama. It captures the network of relationships as seem through the eyes of 6 year old Scout as she becomes aware of the racial injustice and the corruptness of the world around her.
She lives with her older brother Jem and her widowed father, Atticus Finch who is a white man and a lawyer.
In the film adaptation the part of Atticus was played by Gregory Peck in a performance which won him an Oscar. In it the local judge gives him the task to defend the black man Pat Robinson against the charge of raping a white woman. The case against Robinson is demonstrably false (he was even physically incapable of such an act) never the less the jury sentence him to death.

Atticus and the children are then subject to the jibe of loving the blacks because their father had earlier prevented Robinson from being lynched and then defended him at his trial.
Atticus is a quiet but courageous man. When a rabid dog enters the town the streets are deserted and, although it was not his job to do so, he shoots and kills the dog. The children get air rifles for Christmas and tells them to shoot all the bluejays they want but not mockingbirds. The latter do no harm but sweeten the air with their song as they sing their hearts out for us! There is a parallel between the innocent and harmless Pat Robinson and the mockingbird.

Harper Lee wrote an earlier book in the 1950ies called “Go Set a Watchman”. In it The Atticus figure, has aged and become a racist. The theme is one of disillusionment as she discovers the bigotry of her home community. Scout, now in her 20ies, is disillusioned by all that she sees and hears. In particular in her idealism she had idolised her father and now she calls him a hypocrite.
He overhears her remarks and the conclusion is that the South is not ready for full integration yet.

The publishing of Lee’s first book 60 years after it was written (and when she had become blind and deaf) would seem to have more to do with commercial greed than recognising the author’s wishes.
It seems likely that the first book was the draft of the Mockingbird with the characters given a makeover!

It is in the novelist’s domain to be able to rewrite history! You own the manuscript which you have created and you can make the characters do your bidding. It is possible to change your mind and, with a little help from your editor, progress the hypocrite to an upstanding man. Unfortunately in “Go Set a Watchman”, Atticus regresses from being an idealist who stood up for what he believed, to being a fraud in his daughter’s eyes.

St Peter would have wished he could have rewritten history! From the pinnacle of his profession, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times” (St Matthew Chapter 26 verses 33-34).
So when St Peter was challenged the third time, “After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. It happened right on que! How he must have wished to be otherwise…we know this because “he went outside and wept bitterly” (Verses 73-75).
Jesus was crucified for this sin on behalf of St Peter whose grief over his sin had led to repentance and restoration (St John Chapter 21 verses 15-17). But not for Peter alone but for all who emulate Peter’s grief and come to Jesus (1 John Chapter 2 verse 2).
The church of Jesus Christ has never lost a Member through death! Our sister Ann Browne is today in the place where there is no stain or wrinkle – the church of the redeemed in the glory (Ephesians Chapter 5 verse 27).