My good friend Matt Litton recently honored me with a lovely signed copy of his new and destined to be a classic, The Mockingbird Parables. It’s a terrific book that plunges the depths of Harper Lee’s masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird and surfaces with some incredibly solid and challenging reflections on living a life of Christian faith.
It has also outsold all my books . . . combined. I kind of hate the guy.
Long time fan of the Kansas Jayhawks (don’t ask) and all around good-looking beast of a man, author and speaker Matt Litton has kindly agreed to subject himself to the ongoing debacle known as Five Questions. Our plan is to address and put to rest certain crucial questions relating to faith, literature, and college basketball. It could be a decision he comes to regret, but my feeling is everyone should be willing to make sacrifices along the way (even if it’s for a Duke grad).
1) Have you written any forewords recently?
Great segue, Tripp. Why yes, I have. An extremely over-educated buddy of mine who rides skateboards, plays in punk bands, and frequents the stage at university theaters recently wrote a book called Third-Way Allegiance: Christian Witness in the Shadow of Religious Empire. It is a book I think every thoughtful person of faith should pick up. It’s a book that will challenge the way you see your faith in the context of modern life. I don’t always agree with this dude, but he always challenges me to wrestle with the meaning of the Gospel, and in my estimation that is the essence of a life of faith.
2) What do you think Harper Lee has against mockingbirds?
I think there might have been some ingrained jealousy going on there. That is for the literary scholars and smarter men than me to decide. There is a line in the novel about how all mockingbirds do is sing for us (or something close to that). So maybe poor Harper Lee was ostracized as a child for not being able to sing? Maybe she tried out for the Christmas pageant and was cut because she couldn’t carry a tune? These are the types of formative life events that might make a child grow up to be a woman with some deep-rooted anger toward mockingbirds.
3) Let’s make a college basketball/literary figure analogy. Just roll with it. If Duke is James Joyce, and North Carolina is Flannery O’Connor, who is Kentucky?
Funny question – especially for your readers who might not realize what HUGE college hoops junkies we are! At the risk of alienating any potential bluegrass book-buyers from the great state of Kentucky (my mom is a Kentuckian), and while I would probably have refrained from answering this question in the pre-Calipari UK basketball era, I will quietly suggest that in your analogy I might use . . . hmm . . . a picture book or something from the “see Spot run” series? But maybe something like The Mockingbird Parables by Matt Litton would fit nicely into that analogy!
4) Post-apocalyptic zombie fest has finally occurred. You are living in a decimated world. You were only able to save 5 books from your local library in which you intend to use those books as the foundation for creating a zombie-free culture in which all remaining life can thrive. What 5 books do you save?
I went to see a zombie movie with my brother once. I think it was Dawn of the Dead. Last time I would ever watch a zombie movie. I am going to pretend you are asking me about my desert island book list. There are two directions I can go with this . . . the fundamentals of building a culture would lead me to choose some heavier more philosophical titles – but sitting on the beach enjoying five books on my island is a more pleasing scenario – so I am going to change the question. Here are a few I love in no particular order:
Telling the Truth – The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale: a beautiful (and really enjoyable) book that communicates the honesty and humanity of living the gospel.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship/Two Towers/ Return (maybe all in one big volume): Tolkien’s world and his characters are so rich – and what a wonderful story about friendship.
A Prayer for Owen Meany: I think this is John Irving’s masterpiece, read it for the first time the day before my first son was born – it makes me laugh and cry.
My Losing Season: As a former coach and basketball player this is one of my all-time favorites. Pat Conroy writes about a year playing college basketball at the Citadel where his team didn’t win a game! If you like hoops – it is a must read.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians by Rob Bell and Don Golden is not necessarily a desert island book, but I think it is one that all church people should read. I felt like these guys did a better job than anyone else I have read recently challenging the 21st century church and really trying to redirect the focus of our faith. I think sometimes there is an “ivory-tower-disconnect” or wall between what our teachers, pastors, and theologians really believe and what they are willing (or brave enough) to communicate to the laity. I sat with a pastor once who actually told me that there are things you just can’t tell your congregation! Rob Bell is a pretty good example of what it can look like to tear down that wall and communicate truth to people. Shane Claiborne’s books fall into this category and it might have started with Brian McLaren’s stuff. While the guys at the university might scoff at some these of books as “pop” – I think these writers and preachers are leading kind of a communication revolution in the Christian faith – taking truths from the academy and writing them as front porch faith conversations.
5) How is it that you are so damn good-looking?
You know what they say Tripp, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But I’ll always take the compliment.
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.