by Matt Bianco
I’ve been reading a lot of works by and about the great Southern author, Flannery O’Connor, as you can tell by another recent post of mine. I recently had a chance to read and contemplate one of her short stories, “A Good Man is Hard to Find.”
That this story is a critique of the conflation of being American and being Christian should be recognizable, but O’Connor’s subtlety may be just enough for some readers to miss it. Many Americans tend to identify as people who believe in God, maybe even in Christ, just by virtue of the cultural milieu of their day. Americans believe in God, I am an American, therefore I believe God. You can even hear an Aristotelian syllogism in that.
This kind of American Christianism, however, is not incarnated in the life of these Americans. This Christianism is something you assent to, mentally, but it doesn’t affect the way you think or act. Jesus is a word that is used only in the church building–unless you’re angry–and your faith is something you do on Sundays or maybe even just with your heart.