Harper Lee’s masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird, returned to Pittsburgh’s Benedum Center in April. This time Richard Thomas, rather than Gregory Peck, performed the role of Atticus Finch.
To Kill a Mockingbird takes place in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s, a place and time where prejudice against African Americans was still acceptable, at least to some folks. Not to Atticus Finch, the local lawyer who is called upon to defend Tom Robinson who has been falsely accused of raping a white woman.
Atticus willingly defends Tom Robinson, even though it puts his family and his own life at risk. His two young children, Scout and Jem, are ridiculed for what their father is doing and, though it breaks Atticus’ heart, he knows he has to do what his conscience tells him is right.
One Saturday morning, Scout and her older brother Jem are walking into town when their neighbor Mrs. Dubose yells out some nasty comments about their father, Atticus. Later that day Jem, in a rage, vandalizes the old woman’s flower garden. That evening Scout climbs into her father’s lap as is her evening ritual, especially when she needs a little extra comfort. She questions why she and Jem need to keep their heads held high and ignore the hostility that is continually directed at them. Atticus tucks Scout’s head under his chin and rocks her.
“Scout” said Atticus, “when summer comes, you’ll have to keep your head about far worse things….It’s not fair for you and Jem, I know that, but sometimes we have to make the best of things, and the way we conduct ourselves when the chips are down – well, all I can say is when you and Jem are grown, maybe you’ll look back with some compassion and some feeling that I didn’t let you down. This 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….Before I live with other folks, I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that does not abide by majority role is a person’s conscience” (quote from the novel).
The Bible says, “Show yourselves in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity” (Titus 2:7). As people, living with the good news of Easter, imagine if we all took this teaching to heart. Imagine if we all stood for what was right, not popular. Jesus impressed others as he lived and taught in truth. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” The word used in the Bible, “alethes,” translates into English as integrity. It has five attributes: true, genuine, reliable, trustworthy, and valid. Imagine what the world could be like if we sought to embrace Jesus’ integrity and walked in his footsteps. Trust that God goes with us always.
Together on the journey,