The fear surrounding Harper Lee's second novel has been as palpable as the excitement. I purchased the book yesterday and have not read a single page, but from what I'm reading and hearing, Lee's portrayal of Atticus is less than ideal. This go round, Atticus is reported to symbolize aspects of racism.
I am afraid to read this novel. Most lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird are, too. Some are choosing not to read the book at all. An article on social media this morning spoke about parents being upset about the book's publication, because they had named their child Atticus. And I think I know why. Atticus is our hero, and he might fall. As I process this, my thoughts have changed. We shouldn't be afraid.
We place people on pedestals. There are certain individuals who represent all we hold dear and value, and we forget they are human. It's inevitable. They will fall. Even our beloved Atticus. May we consider the danger in putting others on a pedestal. They are sure to disappoint us as surely as we will disappoint others at some point in our lives.
What if? What if Atticus falls? Why can't he be a hero and a human being at the same time? Whatever ensues in Go Set a Watchman does not negate what he did for us in To Kill a Mockingbird. We do not have to return a gift because the giver messes up. We do not have to stop loving someone because they disappoint us.
May we allow Atticus' journey to remind us to be gracious to one other. Reactions to Atticus' literary evolvement is evidence of how hard we are on each other in real life. None of us belong on a pedestal. Let's not hang our hats and hearts on a human being. He or she will fail. It is not Lee's fault or Atticus' fault we are afraid. It's our fault. Because we placed the expectation of perfection on the imperfect.
Atticus in Go Set a Watchman is a reminder of our own humanity. Our hearts can be so ugly and misguided. Atticus is us. Imperfect us. How about we hang our hats and hearts on the One, who in his very humanity, was perfect. That sure would make reading this novel much less daunting. In fact, it may be an invitation to grace, vulnerability, and growth versus an excuse for judgement, resentment, and stagnancy.