Yesterday was Tuesday – my day off, and I got some of my Barnes & Noble time as Sky was at work.
Among the books perused today – along with the notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci, Salinger’s A Catcher in the Rye (never read it in school you know), and a few random magazines – were three biographical works.
You have to understand there is little rhyme or reason behind my usual picks. I just walk and scan and what catches my eye, I pick up. Some good, some bad. Today these three bio’s caught my eye for different reasons. Gerald Clarke’s bio of Truman Capote snagged me because the cover sports a photo of Philip Seymour Hoffman as he played Capote in the recent film by that name. Hoffman is a native of the town I pastor in and I have watched his career some. Amy Fisher’s autobiographical tale intrigued me because the title “If I Knew Then” held out hope for me that perhaps she had something substantive to say in the aftermath of her shooting Mary Jo Buttafuco – the wife of her older, illicit lover Joey in 1992. No such luck. And lastly, ever looking for redemptive themes, I saw Traci Lords’ “Underneath It All.” Lords became famous as an underage porn star. But this too was nothing but disappointing.
What was interesting to see played out in the pages of all three – were these common themes.
1. Absent, or no good fathers. Big surprise, huh? Capote’s was transient (in his son’s life) get-rich-quick-scheme chaser who left wife and son to fend for themselves most of the time. Scum. Fisher’s is virtually omitted entirely. Lords’ Dad was a wife-beating, philandering momma’s boy who never truly left his parent’s home, drill it into his four daughters that only whores wear make-up, drop the kids at Sunday School because God is so important but never come in yourself creep. This kind of absent and perverse fatherhood CAN do nothing but exacerbate the children’s sinful natures and launch them into society even more riddled and ravaged.
2. Mothers who sinfully responded to their sinful husbands. Lacking protection and supervision, each was sexually active way too soon, exposed to highly sexualized atmospheres and all under the cover of what their Mom’s “needed to do” for themselves. This is not as prominent in Fisher’s case, but you do see it. Sinful responses to sin only deepen and compound the wounds already present. Sexual impurity destroys the very fiber of the human being.
3. None had significant exposure to sound Christianity – at least not in any meaningful way. Lords did in name only. A Church where Jesus was talked about, but certainly not lived. In fact, if her accounts are to be believed (and she in fact does not say much about this at all – almost only in passing) none acted in a Christlike manner toward her period.
4. All three – but especially Fisher and Lords, spoke as though life as they have it now is just wonderful. Nothing’s really changed mind you. Their sinful, Christless lives are just mainstream Christless lives now. Redirected expressions of their fallenness – but fallenness nonetheless. Acceptable sin. Normal sin.
To me, while the first two speak to the reality of the continually degrading family structure in America – it is the 3rd which bothers me most. Were there no Christians around? None who ever took an interest in these kids? None who befriended them or gave them the least hint of what a life lived in Christ is like? It seems not. Nor does it seem anyone is doing that now.
And I just came away wondering – have we, the Church, abandoned our society? Not in actual monasticism, but in our failure to rub elbows with real people in the real world? Sure, we tend to have easier conversations with our saved friends. But have we forgotten how much we still have in common with the lost – and how much they need to hear of the Christ who saved us?
I put all three books down (and at this point could include Salinger’s) and just felt so sad at how little I’ve done (never mind the Church as a whole) to bring exposure to Christ into the desperate lives of those around me.
Oh Father God, please grant me repentance. Today, I just weep, thinking of how often I might have impacted a life for Christ, but was too busy, too self-interested, too afraid, or just too…