Theological Influences: Flannery O'Connor | 4/22/2019 | Staff
max1max1 (Posted by) Level 4
It's hard to describe the theological influence Flannery O'Connor has had upon me. Mainly because Flannery wrote fiction, and it's hard to describe the theological impact of fiction. The impact is more imaginative than propositional. Flannery isn't lecturing about ideas, she's telling stories.

But stories shape the imagination, and that, in turn, affects how you think. It's just hard to describe, in a logical way, the trajectory of this influence.

Way - Flannery - O'Connor

But let me try to briefly sketch one way Flannery O'Connor has affected me.

To state the matter plainly, Flannery O'Connor killed the progressive Christian in me.

Death - Wise - Blood - Hazel - Motes

That death occurred reading Wise Blood and hearing Hazel Motes preach about "The Church of Christ without Christ."

"My God," I thought upon reading that, "that's progressive Christianity."

Christianity - Lot - Christians

At least it described what I had felt was happening to my "progressive Christianity." And I think what was happening with me is diagnostic of what happens with a lot of progressive Christians.

Let me try to describe a bit of what I'm talking about.

Christianity - Moralism - Edge - God - Person

Progressive Christianity tends to preach moralism, often with a political edge. That is to say, God doesn't matter all that much, just so long as you are good person. Tolerant, inclusive, fighting against oppression. Being a Christian has little to do with Christ, but everything to do with being a humanist. And everything within Christianity that gets in the way of humanism--from the Bible to atonement theologies--must be pushed to the side or reinterpreted so as to support humanistic pieties and progressive politics.

Flannery O'Connor attacks this humanism and moralism in her fiction by casting atheists as moral exemplars and Christians--often in the guise of backwoods, fire and brimstone prophets and preachers--as less than admirable. Her contrast is clear: the atheist might be good, but he is not right. The message: Christianity is more than morality and piety,...
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