Not Naive, Positive-Realists
For those who believe that Christians or conservatives are somehow naive, read on.
Christians have always valued repentance, redemption, and restoration. We know that human beings are weak and fallible. We understand the nature of man. People are NOT naturally good. We are good creations that have gone bad. That is why: Christ’s followers are “positive realists.”
We understand the fallen nature. We recognize our falleness because we have read The Book. And we recognize human frailty because we have seen the worst in ourselves. We have looked in the mirror, faced the truth about ourselves, and turned from our way to God’s. When we did, he supernaturally met us and transformed our inner person (Jesus called it being “born from above”). That is the core-truth of the Good News Jesus shared with the world.
Those who have never been brave enough to look at their own sinfulness and put their trust in a loving God to restore their humanness, don’t get to point at other’s weaknesses unless they have first confronted their own (Jesus parable of the log in the eye).
To illustrate: Jesus saw a woman who deserved stoning under the Jewish Law. Surrounded by her accusers who were ready to kill her for her adultery, Jesus answered their question about her punishment; he said, “Let he among you who has no sin throw the first stone.” No one was without sin, so no one threw a stone at her. Jesus turned to her and asked her, “Who now accuses you?” “No one,” she answered. “Then, NEITHER DO I. Go and sin no more.” Mercy always triumphs over judgment.
I don’t expect secular humanists, nominal Christians, or the self-righteous to understand how a sinful life can be redeemed. But if you’re a disciple of Jesus, and have yourself been forgiven and transformed, you are expected by Jesus to understand. That Newt, married three times, living in an open marriage in 1993 (17 years ago), can be forgiven and change radically having turned from his way to God’s. You understand the parable of the unforgiving servant and will not fall into the trap of choking your brother for $25. when your debt of $25, 000, 000. has been forgiven.
You may not like Newt Gingrich . . . or any of the candidates running. That’s fine. But you need to be careful before God about your attitude and your words. They are weighed by God.
Newt married Callista in 2000. Since, he has regreted his self-centered, shameful behavior and repented and given his life to Christ. Those around him also attest that Newt’s was not a campaign-conversion, but a real move of God in Newt’s life. I am not the judge, but I know the JUDGE. He expects us to give the benefit of the doubt and support and encouage all those in the family of God who are new disciples and learning His ways.
Rick Perry “Gets it!”
I’m glad that Rick Perry gets it. Listen to not only his words endorsing Newt, but his reference to our Christian values.
Then I call you, like him or not politically, to treat Newt the way Jesus (and Rick Perry) is treating him.
Hansen, Ron. Atticus: A Novel. New York: HarperCollins, 1996. 247 pages.
Ron Hansen 1947—
Just when we thought that we would not see any more great American novels, Ron Hansen has given us, not only Mariette in Ecstasy but, far more to my liking, Atticus. Hansen has created a “sundog” with this fine novel.
Hansen paints his characters with words as the lead character, Scott Cody, paints with brush and canvas. Impressions. He daubs his canvas with an attitude, a gesture, a scene that smells, tastes, feels, sounds like life itself. From the moment Atticus sees his first Parhelion, at age sixty, foreshadowing identity issues; until his mysterious encounters in Mexico, we sense that we are there with him in all his pain and sorrow. We watch him and want to help him understand Scott. But we find that impossible. Atticus lives from his Weltanschauung (worldview) and Scott is held prisoner to his own.
The characters that orbit Atticus and Scott come alive and draw our suspicion. We’ve all known Scott, Renata, Stuart, and Reinhardt, even Carmen and Renaldo, yet they are not caricatures. Soon we do not realize we are reading anymore, but we are there, in steamy Resurreccion. The narrative catches us up and carries us along into places we have been and never want to be again. We know that something is wrong, but do not know what. We sense something amiss. Hansen planted clues all along the way. We are not only feeling that we are witnesses, we are.
We know that somehow Atticus and Scott’s relationship is bigger than the sum of its parts. Atticus, the compassionate father, will not let the apparent tragedy rest. Scott’s home is Resurreccion. Atticus must leave the U.S. Surely life can come from death. Just as the phoenix rises, new beginnings can rise from the ashes of hopelessness. Perhaps the natural, mirrors the supernatural: multiple sundogs here for him who has eyes to see, ears to hear. Twin suns in the sky. Scott and Reinhardt. The Codys and the prodigal and his father.
This brings us to the point of the experience. We come to the story within a fine story–Shakespeare’s play within the play. Atticus’s story. Scott’s story within the greater context of all that has brought Atticus to Resurreccion. Merely because the story is there to tell? Or has the author created a divine appointment for his reader? We’re afloat in a paranormal sense of proximity and place very close to divine grace.
Planned or no, the reader is faced with questions of life and death, identity, offense, and forgiveness, sin and redemption. Not only for the characters in the novel, but with a skillful use of understatement, the reader is confronted with herself. Yet never a sense of sterile, impersonal preachiness.
Hansen takes the reader on quite a ride but we find the road has twists and turns that sweep us to the grand finale. We find at the end, what J. R. R. Tolkien termed, the eucatastrophe (Greek: “good resolve”)—the redemptive climax that makes the reading investment worthwhile—the exceptional ending, one that uplifts from mists of melancholy, that draws out the best in the human spirit.
After all, Ron Hansen’s writing is much more than the obscene voyeurism of so many contemporary writers. They find it passé to conclude hopefully or with grace. History will forget them, but my guess is that generations to come will study Hansen’s work in Literature class.
1. Atticus was a finalist for the 1996 National Book Award for fiction.
2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, also written by Ron has been made into a movie and was released in 2007, starring Brad Pitt.
QUESTIONS FOR READING GROUPS:
Other works by Ron Hansen are in my “Featured Books” list.
(c) 2004, David C Alves, revised 2011. Updated links.