One of the best things an author can do for you is to prompt questions. That’s what Nathaniel Hawthorne did for me in the Scarlet Letter, one of those long ago high school books that I can’t forget. What did I question? Hypocrisy. The only person I should ever challenge hypocrisy in is me. It is uncomely and unproductive to challenge it in another.
Who did I identify with in his novel? Reverend Dimmesdale. He should have owned his action, should not have let another suffer. He was a hypocrite – – just like me. How many times have I professed one thing and behaved in contradiction? Who was not a hypocrite? Hester. Her courage in persecution and in rebuilding her life inspires.
As a Christ follower, how do I process this? The woman with the scarlet A was about to be stoned, the master called the first assassin to be the one without sin, the Pharisee reverend dropped his stone but could go no further, and Hester went uncondemned by Jesus and sinned no more. Did others condemn her? Hawthorne says yes. And who are the worst? People like me. Those who should wear the scarlet letter, but are happily satisfied to see it pinned to another’s smock.
The scarlet letter reminds me of my own heart – – prone to wander, and my own sense of judgment that scripture forbids. How quick I am to point out your 8 pt scarlet letter while my 42 pt version seems not scarlet but infrared. Hypocrisy in my heart needs to go. I am the adulterer, constantly turning my affections for God away. I’m sorry Hester. I’m sorry Jesus. I’ll turn – – that is what repentance means.
What then of the modern scarlet letter explained below? As I read, correspond, and converse more with skeptics my heart has softened. We could both wear the scarlet letter with different intentions – – a double entendre in its truest sense. I’ll wear it to remind me of grace – – my heart’s wanderings, and my unfaithfulness to the God I love and yet – – I’m forgiven. That forgiveness is not for just for me – – it should affect the grace and mercy that I offer others. It should make me very hard to offend – – a work in progress. How can our two scarlet letters interact? I can welcome you into my digital or literal home. I can treat you with respect and try to understand your viewpoint. I can question my faith and listen to reason.