One of the saddest characters in The Fault in our Stars is Patrick, the support group leader. As a survivor of testicular cancer, Patrick attempts to offer hope and encouragement to the young patients in his support group. Hazel, the narrator, repeatedly refers to him as “ball-less” Patrick. I believe he symbolizes a particular brand of what I’d like to call “castrated Christianity.”
It’s not hard to see why Hazel is fed up with Patrick and his insipid platitudes. He leads his young charges in serenity prayers, and admonishes them all to live their “best life today,” but he does nothing to help them really connect with God. He has confused what is the literal basement of a church building for the “literal heart of Jesus.” He remains silent about the subject of sin, a malady far more deadly than cancer, for which Christ’s blood is the only cure. To the dying, he offers only stale cookies and weak lemonade, not the bread and wine of holy communion.
Those facing cancer, or any form of profound suffering, don’t need more platitudes or positive affirmations. They need to know that God is real and personal, not distant or indifferent to their needs. They need to know that He cares about them as individuals, that He wants to walk with them through their suffering.
None of us gets out of this world alive. That’s why Jesus came: to demonstrate the true love and compassion of God, to rescue us from our broken world, to reconcile us to God through His own death, to prove that He Himself is the resurrection and the life, the only cure for our terminal affliction.