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September 3rd, 2010
07:00 AM ET

The Mockingbird parables: Christian lessons in Harper Lee's classic

Editor's Note: Matt Litton, a writer and educator, is author of The Mockingbird Parables: Transforming Lives through the Power of Story.

By Matt Litton, Special to CNN

The social relevance of Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird and the subsequent film is profound. It has remained a beacon of hope for the marginalized, pointing the way toward our continued pursuit for equality.

The novel has been described simply as the story of one man’s stand for racial justice, but we cannot ignore the other valuable messages–including Christian ones-for today’s culture of distrust.

From Wall Street to Washington to Main Street, it seems our decisions are governed by what is financially, politically, and socially expedient. Oour faith is more of an afterthought than a guiding force.

The many lessons of Lee’s novel can lead us back to a restorative way of making choices by following these four principles:

1. Try understanding others. The theme is revealed in lawyer Atticus Finch’s memorable explanation to his daughter: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view–until you climb into his skin and walk around in it."

The Christian faith originated with a God who moved into our neighborhood, who “climbed into human skin and walked around in it,” and who truly understands and connects with humanity.

Redemption actually began in a movement of God’s compassion. The practice of our faith should start with that same compassion, demanding that we cease to see people who act, believe, or behave differently than us as “others” and learn to view them as our neighbors.

2. Live in the here and now. Lee’s novel challenges us to remember that our faith should impact our actions today.

A heroine of the novel, Miss Maudie, remarks that she is thankful that the town has at least one man (in Finch) with the conviction to do the right thing. But she also laments that “there are some men who are so worried about the next world that they have never learned to live in this one, and you can look down the streets and see the results.”

The compassion our faith requires should influence how we care for each other in the here and now. Who can forget the scene in the novel when the good Reverend Sykes locks his church doors until the money Helen Robinson needs to feed her family is collected by his congregation? How many of our nation’s challenges might be solved if we endeavored to care for our neighbors in that way?

Maybe you are writing me off as an idealist… that points us directly to another crucial lesson:

3. Embrace and encourage idealism.  In the book, the children emerge from watching a heated court case where an African American man is being falsely convicted of a crime. A child named Dill is disturbed by the way the prosecutor demeans the defendant simply because of his skin color. Dill, like most children, possesses an idea of how the world should operate and is unable to process the racism, oppression, and sin as normal.

He comments to the narrator, Scout, that he will join the circus when he grows up. He would rather laugh at the adults than accept their bigotry. When Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew that they must “become like little children,” I wonder if he is referencing the innate sense of fairness that children own.

Maybe Jesus is telling them to recapture the idealism they have lost with adulthood. Don’t many of us grow older and just accept the injustice, the poverty, the hurting people, the oppression and sin around us as “the way it is”?” So did many of the adults in Maycomb, the fictional town where the book is set.

The novel reminds us that cynicism leads to complicity, that disillusionment leads to inaction. Maybe by becoming more like children, we can refuse to accept the status quo and take a closer look at our neighborhood, see the injustice, poverty, and sin for what it is and determine what it requires of us as people of faith.

4. Be guided by faith, not circumstances. Christians could also stand to remember the racism of the “good church going folks” of Maycomb, that the protagonist of the novel calls it a “disease,” and be wary that the same types of religious folks were actually responsible for the crucifixion of our Jesus.

Perhaps we should pause for a moment today to determine if we are allowing our decisions to be guided by status, wealth, or political gain. Maybe we should conduct our daily business guided solely by our beliefs, like the unassuming hero that places his family and his reputation on the line to take a very unpopular court case.

When his daughter asks why he is defending the innocent Tom Robinson, Atticus answers, “Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t defend that man.” To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us there is a spiritual approach to making decisions that can lead us to restoration on each street and in every house.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matt Litton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Books • Christianity • Opinion

soundoff (203 Responses)
  1. Roger

    I must disagree with the general statement that these are "Christian Principles"; Fundamentalist Christians prove each time that speak up that they are not understanding of others.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • MrHAnson

      These are Christian Priciples. Unfortunately Christians are sinners too. Don't let right wing talk show hosts or some tele-evagalists for that matter define what Christianity is.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
  2. Bex

    I didn't realize this was a religious article when I clicked on it, but I am glad that I did. I am not anti-religion, but definitely agnostic and "religious" people are one of the biggest reasons why.
    This article clearly delineates where I think some Christians veer from Christianity and simply become religious...

    September 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  3. mmrogers16

    I really don't see many Christians behaving like Atticus Finch. And I think the greater message of the book is to be a good person simply because you have compassion for your fellow man – not because you are trying to earn eternal life and good favor with your God. Maybe it is time that we do not assume that every good action in this world has to be in the name of Christ?

    September 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • WMesser58

      @mmrogers16 Well said.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:56 pm |
    • Chris

      @mmrogers16

      You're right, lots (I'd probably say most, in fact) of Christians do not act like Atticus Finch. I am a Christian and I know that I fail to meet that standard.

      You misunderstand the actions of Christians who do good, however. They are not trying to earn eternal life or the favor of God. Our good works are a response to what we believe God did in the person of Jesus Christ. None of us can earn anything (eternal life, favor, etc.) through our actions.

      You are also right that one be compassionate and do good things independent of religion. We all have our reasons for trying to do the right thing in this world. I believe that people of all faiths, creeds, and belief systems can and do perform good works in this world. Christians do not have a monopoly on being righteous (or wicked, for that matter).

      I am sorry if this seems like an attack on your viewpoint, I do not mean for it to be but I wanted to point out that the idea that Christians are trying to earn salvation is erroneous and runs counter to what many Christians believe. I will be the first to admit that many Christians struggle mightily to live up to their words, but there are some of us who try.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:10 pm |
    • mmrogers16

      Chris, while I commend you, I believe that you are in the minority. I believe far too many Christians seek salvation and aim to spread the word of God. Whenever I hear of churches organizing missionary trips to impoverished Africa, I have to think that those Africans would rather have food, clothing, shelter, and practical knowledge, than hear the words of Jesus Christ and be "saved."

      September 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Chris

      @mmrogers

      I understand and I know what you are talking about. Our actions speak louder than our words and there are plenty of folks in this world (of all types of belief systems) who say one thing but do not act accordingly. Many vocal "Christians" seem to fit this description and I can understand the reactions that they provoke.

      I assure you however, though their efforts seldom get much press, there are Christians who earnestly strive to help others and do the right thing by their neighbors because we believe that is what is right and that we are under standing orders to do so.

      Thanks for responding back.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • B Nakka

      I consider myself a christian and many times I was not the majority of christian-like. I was told by other members of the church i go to that I was not being christian because I am reading a certain book or I don't think something was wrong that they considered wrong. I choose not to follow everything they said because some of it was morally wrong in my sense. Christians or non-christians alike will be in predicaments when common sense should prevail against religion and I know that difference. Most don't. I also don't lead a very christian life like most around me but that is my life and I will be the one to answer for my deeds not them and I will if I have to. I don't exert my opinions or beliefs on anyone else, but I might tell them my opinion and my expectation is, if you find anything useful out of my opinion then take it as advice if not move on to what ever you are doing. No one can claim their opinion is correct while every other opinion is false.

      Debating to prove that your views are better than mine only show your ignorance.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Chris

      @ B Nakka

      Well said and I know exactly what you mean.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
    • Beth

      Chris, I admire you for your faith. But I have a little problem with your statement that you (and you assume other Christians too) make good deeds and seek ideal behavior not to earn eternal life, but rather to acknowledge what Jesus Christ has done for the humanity. It simply implies that, had you been born before Jesus Christ did all those things, you would have had no morality and your actions would have been simply guided by the temptations? So, had you lived before Christ, you'd have been a murderer, a rapist, a conceited and evil human interested only in your own well being at the expense of the well being of others? I cannot come to terms with that statement, sorry, it just contradicts all common sense. Please explain.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • B Nakka

      @Beth

      Your point is well taken but let me ask you something. Do you know anything about college football? If so you heard of the term "Heisman Trophy". It is given to a collegiate football player that was the best in the country that year. The trophy for whatever reason was established to assume that Heisman was one of the best and the collegiate player who showed similar talent. That does not mean Heisman was the only best college football player. Getting that award does not mean the player acted like Heisman.

      We always use comparisions in our life to assume achievements. Christians using Jesus as their model is also like that, you should not only take things literally but figuratively sometimees.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Chris

      @ Beth

      Fair question. First, I'll state up front that no, I don't think anyone born before Christ was automatically evil/damned/[insert negative term here]. You're right, that defies common sense. I think about the world before Christ in much the same way that I think about the world now.

      Before Christ there were good people who tried to do what they thought was right – they had various reasons for doing so (just like folks now can have various and sundry reasons for doing good or evil). There are good people around the world now who strive to do the right thing for various reasons. I try to do what I think is right because I believe that that is my duty as a response to God. I do not succeed all or even most of the time in doing the right thing. I have faith, however, that my missteps are forgiven and that I am not trying to build up a positive balance in the morality bank so that I hit some magical number and am "saved." Ultimately we are all human and we are all going to make mistakes. My faith helps me to pick myself off the ground when I screw up (which is, admittedly, quite often). I am not one who looks to critique others as they struggle to do the right thing in the world – glass houses and stone-throwing you know? 😉

      I hope that answers your question – re-reading what I wrote I'm not sure that it does, but I think I am at least getting there.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • Chris

      @ Beth.

      An addendum since I sort of rambled in my last post and ultimately I don't think I answered your question satisfactorily.

      The bottom line for me is that you can do good things and try to live the right way regardless of what you believe or when you were born. Everyone has different reasons for trying to do good. I try to do what I think is right for the following reasons:

      1. I believe that it is the most appropriate offering to God in response to what I believe He did in the person of Jesus Christ.
      2. I believe, as a general rule, that we should treat others as we would like to be treated
      3. I believe that God believes #2 as well.

      I acknowledge that you could just take #2 and live an exemplary life which is what I think many people both today and in the past have done.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:45 pm |
    • Beth

      Thank you Chris. It is a very interesting point of view. I am glad you can see many people follow just that #2 thing in their lives and don't necessarily need to believe in a God. So it brings you even closer to what mmrogers16 was saying. I must say I have been thinking about this myself quite a lot (I personally cannot believe in any God, but I admire people who can, I have friends who believe in God and I see how easily relieved they are after knowing they did something bad and going for a confession – life is fresh for them and guilt free again, while I usually torment myself much more when I realize that something I did was not well-thought enough and ended up hurting someone's feelings). Namely how people of different faiths or lack thereof come to terms with imagining what they would be like had they been born and raised in a different society or even the same one but in a different time. I am convinced the vast majority would think they would have been just the same in spirit/beliefs/morality, yet if you look at what happened when necessity hit (Katrina, the SF bridge collapse, the LA earthquake, Haiti, and so on), most people go lower than they would think possible, and would do very questionable things to survive. It makes me think that there is no real free will in this world, we are all just molecules that react to a given environment. All our actions can be explained by genes and environment. I'm still trying to figure it out though, it's a hard thing to have to come to terms with.

      Anyway, rambling myself now. Wish you all the best.

      September 3, 2010 at 5:43 pm |
  4. Bill

    We are all bound by what we believe. Our daily actions are either based on our faith and belief or on being" in the world."
    It is said that if each of us just stopped and looked at our choices and decisions and would base them on living a life beyond our materialistic view of the world we could change the way in which we treat each other and the world around us.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Howard

      I try to live my life in that way, and I don't believe any of us will have an awareness after we close our eyes for the last time. I also believe there are others like me. Which just means, you don't need to believe in God to believe in doing good.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  5. CC

    Good grief. A book that talks about values, doing the right thing, trying to understand another's point of view – Christian?! Why the heck do we have to bring religion into it? Why ruin it?

    September 3, 2010 at 1:45 pm |
    • Erik...

      Exactly. Just let this classic stand on it's own merit.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
    • Hilary Cathcart

      Well said!

      September 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm |
    • kbo

      If you actually read the book, you would see that much of the text is grounded in what the author and characters perceive as Christian - and in the late 1920s and 1930s in the deep south, you would be hard pressed to find a community that was not, at least partly, motivated by Christian ideals and values (no matter what you think of them). So, it was already in the book.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
    • Lisa

      Religion and being a Christian are two different things.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:35 pm |
    • TammyB

      I am with you on this. I read the book in the 8th grade, and I never thought about it representing God so much as it represented what was absolutely right, which was not to judge people by their skin color. It also represented a time when that was very much the norm and was about a man who saw beyond all that. I guess you could make everything a parable, and I believe really, everyone ought to read this book at least once in their lives, whether they be religious or not.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:41 pm |
    • TammyB

      @kbo...Well, if you ever lived in the South (which I have, and much of my family is from the South), you would know that, especially during the time of the book, many of those self-described Christians were fiercely bigoted, and hateful toward black people. Not really Christian values, now is it? The point of the book was that even during the midst of all of this, when it was a way of life to be prejudiced, one man was intelligent to look beyond all of that and see it was wrong. His sense of justice overrode the times and what was acceptable then. That's why I don't think of the book as totally showing Christian values as most of the characters in the book, besides the main ones, were racists and I don't think of that as a "christian value".

      September 3, 2010 at 2:57 pm |
  6. WMesser58

    It's typical for the religious to steal inspiration for what is a universal law. Equality has nothing to do with religion nor, does religion have the moral high ground to morality. You can be all those things without the hypocrisy of religion.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:42 pm |
    • MrHAnson

      With your world view morality has no purpose and can be defined by anyone.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • Anon

      Couldn't have said it better myself. Thank you.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
    • WMesser58

      @MRHanson & Anon You prove my point exactly. You both think morality is a christian value not universal there by judging everyone else as immoral.

      Thanks for helping me explain it. I couldn't have done it any better.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • stejo

      dude, Jesus was just speaking the universal truth. He didn't turn it into a religion...he didn't start a religion. That happened later with Paul and that crowd.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • Bill

      @MrHAnson – morality really has only one purpose – to remind members of a group of what is acceptable behavior within that group. Morality CAN be defined by anyone – and frequently is so. Perhaps just as important; morality is frequently and regularly REDEFINED by the very group it serves.

      The morals of one country, one religion, one people rarely reflect those of another. The morals of one time seldom reflect those of another.

      And as has been said, morals are not the exclusive domain of religions – nor do religions get to claim morality as theirs alone.

      It is quite possible to live a "moral" life without resorting to any sort of religion.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Howard

      @ MrHAnson ... human beings had defined morality long before there were organized religions. Have you heard the joke,
      "God and the Devil were walking along one day when God spotted something shiny and picked it up. God said, 'Ah, Truth!' The Devil then snatched it from God's hand and said, "I'll organize it.' "

      September 3, 2010 at 2:13 pm |
    • dan ash

      WMesser58, aren't you being just as hypocritical and judgemental? Wait don't answer that one, let me. YES, YOU ARE!

      September 3, 2010 at 2:14 pm |
    • MrHAnson

      I wasn't refering to only to the christian faith. If there was no God and we are just organisms in the struggle for survival then 'doing good' could be defined by anyone. It could meen helping others who are in need, it could meen killing the week to further the species according to Darwin, or killing someone for your gain. Without God altruism would have no purpose. I believe that God has etched on our hearts the knowledge of him and his commandments no matter what your fait. Unfortunaltely we are in a sin cursed world and we all are subject to the temptation of greed, hate, etc.... Including me.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • Dave

      If you say this then where did morality come from?

      September 3, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • MuDdLe

      Read George Santayana's 1913 critique in Winds of Doctrine of Bertrand Russell's early embrace of moral realism. Santayana–an atheist and moral skeptic–argues that Russell is not entitled to believe in the objectivity of morality precisely because "he is not a theist after the manner of Socrates."

      September 3, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • AlisonJane

      Ahhhh!! And the Christians have caught you in their great "humans can't define morality" argument. We can't win folks. They've been brainwashed to believe there can be no morality without God telling us what morality is first. Its sad really. They have so much faith for their God but so little for their fellow man.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:33 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ Dan Ash...I don't find WMesser hypocritical at all...he said how he believed and didn't pretend it was somehow different. He stuck by what he said about morality. As to judgemental, no, not that either. He was merely pointing out that Christians think morality is ONLY a religious thing, which it is not...morality is not exclusive to religion. When others said that morality is religious based and you cannot have one without the other, he pointed out that they proved his point that religious people think that. It was an observation of something that actually happened, not a judgement.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • MuDdLe

      There is an interesting argument to the effect that physicalism cannot account for the obvious fact of consciousness. The proponent of such an argument is not maintaining that physicalists are non-conscious! Similarly, the argument that morality is objective only if something like theism is true need not be maintaining that, say, atheists cannot be good people. That is obviously false and, indeed, rather stupid.

      Rather, the argument is that the very observed virtue of our atheist friends is incompatible with their philosophy. Hard to see how you start with Big Bang debris and wind up with, say, the notion of the inherent worth of persons. It is no accident of history that the Jeffersonian language grounded the notion of inalienable rights in an overall theistic (or, perhaps, deistic) outlook.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Cindy

      Where do you think these "universal world views" came from in the first place? religion developed and spread these ideas to the point where we consider them universal, but they are not. And it is not a matter of religion "stealing inspiration," especially in this book. It's not an accident on the part of the author that this book is based on religious principals.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
    • MuDdLe

      @MRHanson

      I think you're exactly right. Read chapters 4 and 5 of Darwin's Descent of Man in order to get the most likely account of the nature of morality on naturalism/atheism. It grew out of a set of "social instincts" that conferred reproductive advantage given the circumstances of survival for our remote ancestors. And Darwin thinks that had those circumstances been much different, then the deliverances of human conscience would have been very different:

      "If . . . men were reared under precisely the same conditions as hive-bees, there can hardly be a doubt that our unmarried females would, like the worker-bees, think it a sacred duty to kill their brothers, and mothers would strive to kill their fertile daughters, and no one would think of interfering. Nevertheless the bee, or any other social animal, would in our supposed case gain, as it appears to me, some feeling of right and wrong, or a conscience. . . . In this case an inward monitor would tell the animal that it would have been better to have followed one impulse rather than the other. The one course ought to have been followed: the one would have been right and the other wrong."

      Bottom line: given this account, morality is ultimately subjective. Nothing is *really* right or wrong; rather, we are hardwired to think so.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:46 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ Cindy....Let's take the Native American Indians....many who were peaceful farmers and hunters. They have no "religion" as defined by Christian standards, however, they did have morals, i.e., they didn't kill, steal from each other, etc. due to the tribal rules of just good behaviour. How can you say that God brought about morals when all over the world there are people who don't have "religion" but still manage to be peaceful, loving people?

      September 3, 2010 at 2:47 pm |
    • MuDdLe

      @TammyB

      Thinking that morality would not be objective without God does not entail that no one could be morally good without explicit belief in God.

      The theist may believe that all persons are created by God and that we all come with a conscience as standard equipment–courtesy of our creator. From a theistic standpoint, there is nothing surprising about the fact that even non-believers love their children and think that kindness ought to be reciprocated.

      So the argument is that if you take naturalism seriously it is very hard to see how you can factor in objective moral properties in such a view of the world.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Cindy

      I didn't mention God at all, and the Native Americans DID have their own religious beliefs. You would be hard-pressed to find a group who doesn't. Even atheists have a set of core "religious" beliefs.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
    • TammyB

      @ Cindy...I stand corrected, you DID not say God (must need my glasses today!!). However, I still don't think that religion is exclusive to morality. I know the American Indians have their own beliefs, but I think morals must have had their start in just good behaviour and conduct, which also may have coincided with religion or a belief system. I just was reading into it God, which, again I apologize, you didn't!

      September 3, 2010 at 3:33 pm |
    • darkstar

      Finally. Someone with rational thinking and common sense. One doesn't need the promise of rewards or fear of eternal punishment from an imaginary sky-daddy to be moral. Morality and religion have become so intertwined throughout the ages that many people continue to erroneously believe that one equals the other. When, in fact, moraltiy is simply just an evolutionary adaptation to being able to co-exist within a communal society. Many species who know nothing of religion demonstrate this same ability, and morals are never absolute as many Christians would try to have you believe. There are always shades of grey.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
    • Jon

      I agree. In fact, the values of equality we take for granted today did not come from religion at all. The bible, in both the old and new testament, accepted slavery. Our notion of religious freedom is also completely modern and did not come from Christianity. But for a person who is a Christian, their faith does help them to live up to their values, even if their Christianity may not be the only source of their values. Non-Christians also have sources of strength to live up to their values.

      September 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm |
  7. David A. Porter

    Recently I chose to defend Islam as a predominantly non-violent religion that regrettably has a few extremists that give the rest bad names. In the course of the dialogue, someone went to my Facebook page and noted that I liked "To Kill a Mockingbird". The same individual proceeded to mock me by comparing me to Boo Radley. As I thought further about this I realized that person probably never really read the book and instead jumped at the chance to suggest I was retarded like Boo Radley, and failed to realize that Boo ended up saving Scout from the evil man at the center of the troubles in the story.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • Reader4Life

      I agree with you about Boo Radley being a hero in the book, but what makes you think he is retarded? He seems to suffer from a phobia or a social anxiety which would have nothing to do with his intelligence. Also, I do not see the connection between you defending the non-violent teachings of Islam and you being in any way like Boo Radley.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
    • Dave

      I would agree with you that any name calling is not necessary but I would also encourage you into looking at what the true faith of Islam is really about. We are so blessed in this nation to have religious freedom or in many cases the right to not have to be religious, that includes the Islamic faith. In this country many of the faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and the Islamic faith have become very moderate. But unlike America or a few European countries, the majority of the world believes in a much stronger Islamic faith, where other religions such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and any other religion other then Islam is forbidden. I would recommend reading the book Son of Hammas, an excellent insight into what true islam is about and how Muslims are taught to strive for the highest achievable level in Islam, “Holy Jihad”

      September 3, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
    • Dave

      sorry misspelled Hamas

      September 3, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
    • JJ

      Dave – Muslims countries do discriminate against non-Muslims. That's a fact. However, are you sure it is Islam that is the problem or governments of these nations themselves? Muslim countries are third world, riddled with corrupt governments who brutally enforce rules on their populations. Their barbaric attitude does not single out Christians or Jews or any other group. They treat their own people the same. I believe it is misleading to say Islam is responsible. Having read both Islamic and Christian scripture, it's obvious to me the differences are very small. The primary difference being that one believes Christ is the son of God whereas the other bans associating any other entity with God. It's the governments in Islamic identifying countries who hoard money for themselves and their lavish luxuries without caring for the mass population. The western media is bent over on saying this is Islam. I can tell you this from experience. I spent two years in Pakistan. Thanks to my darker skin and black hair (I'm from Chile), I didn't have that much of an issue blending in (many locals thought I was "Bengali"). In Karachi and Lahore, society is based on tradition more than religion. Sure they speak of God and many pray (a good percentage but I wouldn't necessarily say the majority), but their problems are abundant primarily because of corruption at the federal, provincial, and city level. Violence wasn't related to religion at all but a result of rival political parties with no capable police force to bring justice. Of course, this was in the mid 1990s.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
    • JohnM

      Dave you also mislead everyone about the Islamic faith. I lived in the middle east and you're wrong about the vast majority of true muslims. Come down out of your ivory tower, judge not lest ye be judged.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  8. ANita

    I am please for this is a wonderful piece but I am entirely shocked that CNN allowed it to be posted

    September 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm |
    • TheKen

      How are you shocked? They have a belief blog on CNN.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • sheppard

      Why? And if you are 'shocked' by CNN, why do you come to this web site? Grow up.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
  9. BarbaraE

    Really great observations and a challenge to us all! I am sending this article on to my Granddaughter who is reading this book for her high school class. I trust that she will be blessed to see the Christian challenges in the book.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  10. DFarley

    I agree with Kathleen, we appricate your thoughts. What a great article. God Bless.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  11. Mike

    Interesting how Mr. Litton had to go back to a book and film that were produced in another point in history -by a different generation of Americans. Stories like this are hard to come by these days. They exist of course, but the new reality of the modern media demand and reinforce conformity. It's the dumbing down of America in action. If those of us who actually believe in the old American virtures espoused in works like those cited here were to engage in a meaningful social dialog with our own society, perhaps ignorance and hypocracy could be challenged in a way that would allow no refuge for the darker aspects of the institutionalization of superficiality in American Society.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:39 pm |
  12. PJS

    5. Find O.J. innocent to prove two can play that game.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
    • Spike5

      I'm sure I"m not the only reader who has absolutely no idea what you mean.

      September 3, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
  13. cuzwhy

    Enjoyed your article very much. I love the book and agree with your critique. Thanks a lot. A good read. I know there will be some cynics who will just rip it apart, as always.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  14. Aaron

    Very Good and profound. to bad more people do not share in your insights.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:36 pm |
  15. Joe Bob

    For the record, Scout was the heroine, not miss maudy

    September 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
    • Reader4Life

      I initially had the same thought, but I realized that I needed to slow down and read more carefully. It says "a heroine" not "the heroine." Loved the book! Loved the movie! Loved this article!

      September 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • Sue

      If you read it again Joe Bob, it says "a" heroine of the book, not "the" heroine.

      September 3, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • Howard

      @ eater ... it's really hard to imagine you even read this article and then proceeded to write that comment.

      September 3, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • ikantraed

      for the record, i like turtles

      September 3, 2010 at 2:09 pm |
    • Jann

      Point missed – good job!

      September 4, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  16. LBW

    It makes a difference when you see someone "Not just Talk the Talk but Walk the Walk"

    September 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  17. James

    Great article, so true.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  18. Jane

    Atticus did not say that; he said, "The main one is, if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town. I couldn't even represent this country in the legislature. I couldn't even tell you or Jem not to do something." NOWHERE does he say anything about worshipping God. I teach this novel in my sophomore English class, and therefore would know.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:30 pm |
    • Shanice

      yes it does. page 104 i read this novel for English studies.

      November 14, 2010 at 5:50 pm |
  19. Kathleen

    Thank you. This was beautiful. I believe God is very proud of your compassion and wisdom. Your ideas personify Christianity as it was meant to be.

    September 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  20. Richard

    Morals and convictions are not the same thing as faith. This comparison is illogical and unneccessary. To Kill a Mockingbird is about racial and social issues and hypocracy of some of the practitioners of the Christian religion. That is a comment on hypocracy, not a sign that the book has religious overtones.

    September 3, 2010 at 12:56 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.