There’s nothing worse than someone reducing a great book or movie to ten didactic points. Art is not so easily distilled. That said, I’ve been living with To Kill a Mockingbird all summer, and given that I’m doing a Film Talk after church on Sunday and closing my July Mockingbird series, I’ve been asking myself: So, what have I learned?
It turns out I’ve learned a great deal, and the book has been applicable in ways I never imagined when I planned this summer emphasis more than a year ago. I had not planned to open my sermon series the day after the George Zimmerman trial ended, a trial that once again exposed the raw nerve of race in America. I had not planned to do this sermon series during one of the most difficult, stressful seasons in my church. Nor did I plan on facing some of my own demons, questioning whether or not I’m even making a difference anymore as a minister.
Yet, this book has made a difference. It created important conversations with others, and most importantly, within myself. So, file it under the category “For What It’s Worth” . . . Take a Breath . . . and enjoy some of my favorite Mockingbird insights . . .
1. Trying to live inside the skin of another person is one of the best things we’ll ever do; and it’s also one of the hardest things we’ll ever do. Do it anyway.
2. Mob mentality is dangerous, and so practicing critical self-awareness is essential for every person, religion and society.
3. To be afraid of the unknown is understandable, but to demonize that person or idea just because we don’t understand, is one of the saddest things in life.
4. Sometimes standing up for another person is lonely, non-glamorous and tedious work . . . like Atticus spending all night outside the jail protecting his client . . . stand up for another person anyway.
5. Seeing the world through the eyes of a child is a perspective worthy of returning to again and again.
6. Racism isn’t merely a personal attitude; it is a systemic structure of reality that must be understood and dismantled.
7. The real measure of goodness is not how we treat those just like us, but how we treat those different from us.
7. Churches often do the “pretend” work of Christ by helping at a distance, avoiding the people on their very door step and in their own neighborhood.
8. Compassion comes from unlikely, surprising places . . . like Boo Radley saving the lives of Jem and Scout. Sometimes the stranger turns out to be our angel.
9. Sometimes a culture of politeness is an expression of respect, and sometimes it masks a terrible indifference and hostility we feel toward others.
10. Atticus may have lost the court case in defending the falsely-accused Tom Robinson, he did not, however, fail humanity. Not failing the human family is always the most important thing.