Tag Archives: justice

Book Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

There are classics. And then there are classics. To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the latter.

Set deep in the Depression-era South of the 1930s, the story covers three years in the life of young Jean-Louise “Scout” Finch and her brother Jem… three years marked by the arrest and trial of Tom Robinson, a black man falsely charged with the rape of a white girl.

Scout and Jem scarcely notice the goings-on until their lawyer father, Atticus Finch, agrees to take the case and defend Robinson in court: a fact that the two children (and the other inhabitants of Maycomb, Alabama) are staggered by.

Harper Lee’s acclaimed novel is ostensibly a courtroom drama, but such a description does not really do this profound and multifaceted book justice. At once poignant, wise, and humorous, Mockingbird is a tale of such excellence that, to quote the Chicago Tribune, “it will no doubt make a great many readers slow down to relish more fully its simple distinction.

Lee’s writing is graced with an elegance so unspectacular it’s spectacular; more than once, I had to pause and read passages aloud, just for the pleasure of rolling them off my tongue.

The book concerns itself with a number of weighty, adult themes, but Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a small child. It is within this context – the coming-of-age story or bildungsroman – that she explores the evils of racial prejudice. The result is both subtle and potent; a morality tale that never succumbs to didactic preachiness.

We’re also presented with an unforgettable picture of moral courage in the character of Atticus Finch. To most of the white folks in Maycomb, Tom Robinson was tried and condemned the moment he was accused. Atticus not only believes differently, he acts differently. Even when the odds are stacked against him, he takes a stand for justice and equity. One man contra mundum – against the world.

“This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience – Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

“Atticus, you must be wrong…”

“How’s that?”

“Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong…”

“They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinion,” said Atticus, “but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.” (p. 120)

Scout and her brother, and many others in Maycomb, come to respect him for that. One of the most touching scenes in the book occurs after the trial, when the town’s black minister tells Scout, “Miss Jean-Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” (p. 241)

Stand up, indeed.

Osama bin Laden and the Justice of God

In light of the death of Islamic terrorist leader Osama bin Laden, I echo the words of the children of Israel in Exodus 15:1-18, when the Lord destroyed Pharaoh and his army in the depths of the Red Sea:

Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying:

“I will sing to the LORD,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation;
He is my God, and I will praise Him;
My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.

The LORD is a man of war;
The LORD is His name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea;
His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.

The depths have covered them;
They sank to the bottom like a stone.

“Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power;
Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces.

And in the greatness of Your excellence
You have overthrown those who rose against You;
You sent forth Your wrath;
It consumed them like stubble.

And with the blast of Your nostrils
The waters were gathered together;
The floods stood upright like a heap;
The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, ‘I will pursue,
I will overtake,
I will divide the spoil;
My desire shall be satisfied on them.
I will draw my sword,
My hand shall destroy them.’

You blew with Your wind,
The sea covered them;
They sank like lead in the mighty waters.

“Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods?
Who is like You, glorious in holiness,
Fearful in praises, doing wonders?

You stretched out Your right hand;
The earth swallowed them.

You in Your mercy have led forth
The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength
To Your holy habitation.

“The people will hear and be afraid;
Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.

Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed;
The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them;
All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.

Fear and dread will fall on them;
By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone,
Till Your people pass over, O LORD,
Till the people pass over
Whom You have purchased.

You will bring them in and plant them
In the mountain of Your inheritance,
In the place, O LORD, which You have made
For Your own dwelling,
The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.

“The LORD shall reign forever and ever.”

That’s not gloating. That’s gratitude. Profound gratitude. That’s praise to God for bringing the wicked to justice. As Kevin DeYoung wrote in his latest post, “Sometimes we need to be reminded that we live in a moral universe where actions have consequences. And when deathly consequences are merited by despicable actions, we should be glad the world is working as God designed.”