If you love Harper Lee, don’t read ‘Go Set a Watchman’

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If Harper Lee wanted to destroy everything good she did in To Kill a Mockingbird, I’d say Go Set a Watchman was a massive success. But I’m afraid it may be an even greater tragedy than an author self-destructing.

I wish I could un-read this novel, and it’s not because it was a terrible sequel, it’s because it caused me to doubt every character that was great in one of the best novels of all time.

Had Go Set a Watchman been a genuine sequel I could have dismissed it, but it allegedly wasn’t. Apparently it was Harper Lee’s first novel. After being rejected by publishers, Lee went away to write the prequel, To Kill a Mockingbird. In doing so she created one of the most heroic, moral characters ever written.

Go Set a Watchman gives us an insight into the ‘original’ Atticus, and he turns out to be a disappointing shadow of the man we thought we knew. Reading through Scout’s eyes, once again, we find ourselves wondering whether, like her, we had seen Atticus incorrectly all along.

There is only one way in which Lee is redeemed in my eyes and therein lies an even greater tragedy. She never wanted this book published.

Harper Lee, the unassuming, silent, reclusive, now elderly author, has possibly been manipulated and betrayed by money-hungry publishers.

As one writer put it, tragically “Our Boo Radley [has been] dragged into the light.”

Don’t read this book.

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How do I know I’m not a psychopath?

Yes, I have actually asked myself this question. Very occasionally, when I remember the following two things, I have a mini freak out.

  1. We are all likely capable of unspeakable evilindex
  2. It only takes one screw up of epic proportions in the space of a few minutes to completely change your life.

What is it that is restraining me from a momentary epic screw up, and how strong is that thing that’s restraining me?

I was reflecting on this with a very down to earth friend who surprised me with her answer. She said first that we obviously create personal boundaries and make daily choices to adhere to a moral code to reduce the chances of an epic ‘brain fart,’ but that if we accidently screw up, jail isn’t actually the end of the world.

What? I actually thought it was! But she’s right. When you know God and you know grace, screwing up is never the end of the world.

But still, it’s not ideal.

This morning she sent me this quote: “Grace is not simply leniency when we have sinned. Grace is the enabling gift of God not to sin. Grace is power, not just pardon.”

Immediately after, I saw this by Challies: “God’s providence is the single greatest hindrance to the tsunamis of sin that would otherwise gush out of our sinful hearts.”

So, I think I’m safe. But it is a good reminder that when I see people who have epically screwed up, I need to remember that “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

The Gift of Death

The gift of death is, paradoxically, the gift of life.

One of my beautiful students asked me the other day, why God would create such beautiful people, only to let them die.

garden_of_edenIt’s a fair question, but it’s one limited by lack of information, because if we understand the fullness of the Bible, we can understand the gift of death.

When Adam and Eve were in the garden they were free to eat from the Tree of Life. They were going to live forever in the bliss and beauty of what God had created.

The right to eat from the Tree of Life was only taken from them after they sinned. Because living forever under the curse of sin was never God’s plan for anyone.

Adam and Eve both died a physical death, but it was not a tragic one. Physical death was one of the gifts that God gave them, along with the redemptive death and resurrection of His Son, in order for them to enter into eternal life.

Death can be a great tragedy, but only when it takes a person who refuses to accept God’s gift of life. For those who have life, it is the beautiful gateway out of an existence marred by sin.