Sunday, August 29, 2010

Readings: On Breaking the Vicious Cycle

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As quoted in Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, novelist Alice Walker on O’Connor’s oeuvre:

[E]ssential O’Connor is not about race at all, which is why it is so refreshing, coming, as it does, out of such a racial culture. If it can be said to be “about” anything, then it is “about” prophets and prophecy, “about” revelation, and “about” the impact of supernatural grace on human beings who don’t have a chance of spiritual growth without it.

Ralph C. Wood, author of Flannery O’Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, in his discussion of the meaning of the short-story “The Artificial Nigger,” writes of one of the two central characters,

“Mr. Head’s discovery is scandalous because he fathoms the mystery of the gospel in ways that are offensive even to many alleged Christians. He is shown the mercy that is beyond adequate naming because – in ways unknown to Nietzsche – it is beyond good and evil, utterly transcending morality. …The pattern of forgiveness as preceding and enabling repentance is the pattern everywhere present in Scripture, from Hosea’s refusal to divorce his prostitute wife to Christ’s words from the Cross. Jesus asks God to forgive those who are crucifying him, not because they have begged his pardon, but because he wants to break the chain of anger and vengeance that has entrapped them [emphasis added]. To have given the crowds their due, cursing them in judgment, would have been to seal them in the vicious and unbreakable circle of sin. "

Wood continues:

“Far from achieving anything akin to what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called ‘cheap grace’ – a false reliance on God’s forgiveness as an excuse for living a self-indulgent and untransformed life – Mr. Head sees that, precisely to the extent that he has been forgiven, he is also judged and found horribly wanting.
[…]
“The staggering paradox is that God imprisons us, said Karl Barth, by flinging wide our cell door: the gospel ‘accuses [mankind] by showing that all the charges against him have been dropped.”

This is a lesson that might be learned by those misguided “patriots” and idiot Tea-Baggers who are opposing the construction of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” And it might even be well learned by those flag-waving Americans who feel it is absolutely necessary to seek vengeance against the Muslim world for the 9/11 attacks by invading their lands and killing tens of thousands of people -- most of whom are totally innocent of any crime against America.

Choose peace: break the cycle of hatred and vengeance.
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