Thursday, December 14, 2017

Without The Other

My students have very little knowledge of things that kids in my generation would have known. I would guess not one of my students would know anything about the book or incident mentioned below. None of them would be aware that on November 15, 1959, one of the most brutal and senseless killings in American history took place in Holcomb, Kansas. In a botched robbery, the four members of the Herb Clutter family were slaughtered in their farmhouse by two ex convicts. The story would have been forgotten by the rest of the country had not Truman Capote saw the short news blurb in the New York Times and decided it would be the subject of his next work. The book, In Cold Blood, was a chilling step-by-step account of the killings, the police investigation, and the subsequent execution of Richard Hickok and Perry Smith. The following entry, from July 29, 2007, centers on the writing of the most famous crime account in our culture.

Baseball greats Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken took their place with legends today as they were inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Class acts as well as amazing players, the duo embodies what baseball holds up as its best. A headline on a sports website stated that Ripken and Gwynn are forever linked with their enshrinement. In an era where players are lured to new cities and teams by more money, Ripken and Gwynn remained with their own organizations the duration of their careers. Their names were in the spotlight for on the field accomplishments, never off the field escapades. Their kind seems an endangered species.Two days ago, I finished a wonderful biography by Charles J. Shields. Mockingbird: A Portrait Of Harper Lee tells the story of the woman who penned To Kill A Mockingbird.....and never published another novel. The tale of Harper is woven with her childhood neighbor, fellow author Truman Capote, whose fame would eclipse Lee's. It was as if the life of one illuminated the life of the other. Capote, the inspiration of the character, Dill, in Lee's classic, was an abandoned child. Lee, whose observations of small town Alabama life became a staple in American schools, had an emotionally distant mother but a loving father, the embodiment of her book's Atticus Finch. Capote became acclaimed with his chilling best seller, In Cold Blood, detailing the horrific murders of the Clutter family on their Kansas farm. But In Cold Blood might not have achieved its success without the research of Harper, who accompanied Capote to Kansas and eased tensions with the local citizens. Even the villages the books center around (Monroeville, ie Maycomb, Alabama and Holcomb, Kansas) are tied together as tragedies create upheaval in rural America. Shields leads readers to question if either Capote or Lee would have become famous without the influence of the other. Harper Lee, still living in her hometown, gives no interviews. We'll just have to wonder.

School starts for me in two weeks. I haven't thought of lesson plans but I know where my eighth and tenth grade Bible classes will begin: the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus. The two are linked eternally by the mission of John, fulfilled in the ministry of his relative/Son of God. The life of Christ is so much more easily explained with the narrative of the wilderness prophet. Both were born miraculously after angelic pronouncements and both die at the hands of government officials on charges not worthy of the light of day. But John's message of the coming Savior prepared the hearts of the people for the one they had longed to see. In one of the best tongue-twisters in the Bible, the Baptist describes Jesus in the 16th verse of John 1:
John testifies concerning him. He cries out saying, ''This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' ''
John brought Jesus to the attention of the masses. Jesus delivered grace to a humanity in dire need of a messiah. That's a pretty strong connection. Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken are now Hall Of Famers while Harper Lee and Truman Capote raked in awards and money for their efforts. But the best link of all is the one that helped break the chain of slavery to sin. John the Baptist and Jesus; a team for the ages.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Remember these two things: play hard and have fun."
Tony Gwynn (San Diego Padres)

Here is a very good article about the Clutter family killings.

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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