John Green, you owe me a box of Kleenex.
Like millions of other chicks, I cried my way through “The Fault in Our Stars” – both the book and movie.
Crying doesn’t quite describe it. I sobbed, my nose ran, my eyes were bloodshot, and my face swelled up with blotchy red patches of grief. I wept for Isaac and his eyes, for the Lancasters as they stood helplessly over Hazel Grace’s hospital bed, and for Augustus who was robbed by a cancer assault that wasn’t supposed to happen. I flat out wailed for Hazel Grace after Augustus’s death.
My teenage daughter did the same and took it to a new level with her John Green and TFIOS fandom.
The story of Augustus and Hazel Grace is both a tragic love story and an incredible affirmation of life. There are tears and laughter mixed together in a beautiful tapestry of human experience.
The spiritual lessons in TFIOS
The story is also full of teachable spiritual moments which can be tragic in their own right – Hazel Grace believes that nothingness follows death, while Augustus believes in Something. Augustus’s life mission is to be altruistic and heroic, while Hazel Grace’s life mission is just to be. Yes, I cried over those elements as well.
Seizing on the fandom my daughter and her friends have for TFIOS, their Sunday School teacher proposed some very thought-provoking questions for the girls: was it right for Augustus and Hazel Grace to have premarital sex, and did Augustus go to Heaven when he died?
The girls were flabbergasted by the question. Of course it’s okay they had sex; they’re both dying! Of course Augustus went to Heaven; he’s a good person and he said he believed in Something! Connie gave the girls answers they knew, but didn’t want to hear – premarital sex is never okay, and being a good person doesn’t get you into Heaven.
Now before you start flaming me with comments about being an intolerant Christian idiot, consider the social impact of these questions. Is premarital sex, especially for teenagers, a good thing? Some would argue that it is an act of love between two people. Given today’s hook-up culture that views sex as a recreational activity, TFIOS’ sex seems very wholesome; however, the teens’ relationship went from first kiss to intercourse within one day. I appreciate John Green for not going into explicit detail in the book, and he does encourage the “safe sex” element with his mention of “condomy” issues. However, as a Christian, I believe sex is the ultimate act of love and commitment that is designed to be enjoyed by a married couple. It’s not an act to get yourself out of the circle of virgins.
God understands the human emotions that accompany sex, and He created a framework that protects and elevates both individuals. Did Augustus and Hazel Grace love each other? I think they did, but not with a mature love that puts the happiness and well-being of the other person above their own. That kind of love doesn’t provide post-coital notes showing someone is now outside the circle of virgins.
But they were dying! And they loved each other! Were they supposed to die without ever experiencing sex?
Augustus’s death also raised some uncomfortable questions about the afterlife. The girls were adamant that their teen heart throb was welcomed into Heaven with open arms; however, Augustus himself admitted he never fully believed in the concept of Heaven or God, just Something. His spirit would go on with Something; however “something” is very different from a loving God and His promises. “Something” didn’t die on a cross for you; “something” doesn’t see you as indispensable, valuable and worthy of immense love.
But Augustus was a good person, and he deserved to go to Heaven! No, Heaven isn’t set up like that. You don’t have DO anything to earn it; you simply have to accept it as a gift from a loving God and Savior. Of course, there is that sticky part about acknowledging a loving God and Savior, but that is much easier than keeping a tally on a cosmic scale and hoping your good deeds “outweigh” your bad.
So, is Augustus in Heaven? No, Augustus is a fictional character. However, there are millions of real Augustuses and Hazel Graces in our world who struggle to find meaning in their lives and live without hope or certainty of better things to come. There is so much more than Something, and they’re missing it.