The writer is Stephen King. He is the author of The Green Mile, recently turned into a movie. It tells the story of a giant black man on death row. His name is John Coffey (note the initials). He was convicted of murdering two little girls. John has the mentality of a child, a good heart, and mysterious magical abilities. He has the power to take on the disease and suffering of others and thereby heal them. Even though he is innocent of the crime, he is not spared from the electric chair.
John Coffey is a Christ figure, and the movie and book communicate the meaning of atonement in a powerful way.
Another contemporary Christ figure is John McCain (whether or not he is one’s political cup of tea). I had not realized this until I read an article by Charles Krauthammer in which he wrote:
...McCain’s military heroism is not the heroism of a warrior. He is no Eisenhower liberating Europe...McCain’s is not the heroism of conquest...but of endurance. It is not just that he suffered for five and a half years in Hanoi. It is that he chose to suffer by refusing...early release.
Twenty-five years ago, it was impossible to imagine what a Vietnam War hero would look like. Rambo was a guns-ablazing World War II hero grafted onto Vietnam, a context so improbable as to make him a parody.
How to be a hero in a war that so many believed was immoral and wrong? McCain has given us the answer. Even those who deeply opposed the war and who still remain ambivalent about it can only be moved and feel ennobled by war service that consists of suffering and self-denial.
He suffered for our sins (emphasis mine). He did not die for them, though he came very close. It explains why even people so ideologically distant from him find his experience so moving and his appeal so powerful.
©2000 C. David Hess