Some thoughts on our “natural” human reaction to God’s grace (from Flannery O’Connor, Dean Koontz, Mary Doria Russell, and Jesus of Nazareth)

unbelief-of-st-thomas-after-caravaggio-massimo-tizzano

“All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and the change is painful.”

– Flannery O’Connor

An excerpt from “A Catholic Thinker” blog article “The Mean Grace of Flannery O’Connor“:

“I think there is no suffering greater than what is caused by the doubts of those who want to believe. I know what torment this is, but I can only see it, in myself anyway, as the process by which faith is deepened. A faith that just accepts is a child’s faith and all right for children, but eventually you have to grow religiously as every other way, though some never do. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe. If you feel you can’t believe, you must at least do this: keep an open mind. Keep it open toward faith, keep wanting it, keep asking for it, and leave the rest to God.”

“This notion that grace is healing omits the fact that before it heals, it cuts with the sword Christ said He came to bring.”

“[The trendy “beat” writers] call themselves holy but holiness costs and so far as I can see they pay nothing. It’s true that grace is the free gift of God but in order to put yourself in the way of being receptive to it you have to practice self-denial.”

And when explaining (what I considered incomprehensible) “A Good Man is Hard to Find” to a friend,

“There is a moment of grace in most of the stories, or a moment where it is offered, and usually rejected. Like when the Grandmother recognizes the Misfit as one of her children (a child of God) and reaches out to touch him. It’s the moment of grace for her anyway – a silly old woman – but it leads him to shoot her. This moment of grace excites the devil to frenzy.”

Excerpt from “Odd Thomas” by Dean Koontz:

Most people desperately desire to believe that they are part of a great mystery, that Creation is a work of grace and glory, not merely the result of random forces colliding. Yet each time that they are given but one reason to doubt, a worm in the apple of the heart makes them turn away from a thousand proofs of the miraculous, whereupon they have a drunkard’s thirst for cynicism, and they feed upon despair as a starving man upon a loaf of bread. (page 142)

Excerpt from “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell:

God was at Sinai and within weeks, people were dancing in front of a golden calf. God walked in jerusalem and days later, folks nailed Him up and then went back to work. Faced with the Divine, people took refuge in the banal, as though answering a cosmic multiple-choice question: If you saw a burning bush, would you (a) call 911, (b) get the hot dogs, or (c) recognize God (Quoted in “Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places” by Eugene Peterson; page 177)

Excerpt from Mark 6:6 King James Version:

“And he marvelled because of their unbelief.” Jesus of Nazareth

(Whereas we marvel at belief.)

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2014

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Introducing “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” by Flannery O’Connor (with Sufjan Stevens)

 

good man

The purpose of this post is simply to provoke curiosity for Flannery O’Connor and her fictional work, as epitomized in her short story “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.”

The song by Sufjan Stevens is loosely based on the story and seems be a telling of the story through the character called “the misfit,” who is an escaped serial killer.

Ralph C. Wood says of O’Connor, “she observed that while lots of folks get killed in her work, nobody gets hurt.” (Flannery O’Connor and the Christ Haunted South, Ralph C. Wood; p. 39)

“It seems to me,” Flannery O’Connor declared, “that all good stories are about conversion, about a character’s changing.” Whether secular or religious in their origins and intentions, novels and stories having lasting merit always depict characters faced with moral challenges and spiritual quandaries that demand their transformation. Whether these tests are met for good or ill, the characters are changed: they are converted. The New Testament word for conversion – metanoia – literally means to alter one’s mind, to revolutionize the entire course of one’s life, to turn around, to travel in the opposite direction. In most of O’Connor’s stories the central character undergoes a painful confrontation with their own pride and presumption, behold themselves in the blinding light of divine grace and, if only at the last moment of their lives, come to radical conversion. Neither in her novels nor her stories does she take her protagonists beyond their sudden and drastic conversion; we are rarely shown the consequences of this total turnabout in their lives.”  (Wood; p. 217)

Once in the backyard
She was once like me
She was once like me
Twice when I killed them
They were once at peace
They were once like me

Hold to your gun, man
And put off all your beast
Put off all the beast
Paid a full of these, I wait for it
But someone’s once like me
She was once like me

I once was better
I put off all my grief
I put off all my grief
So I go to hell, I wait for it
But someone’s left me creased
Someone’s left me creased

Ralph C. Wood on reading Flannery O’Connor

Online version of “A Good Man is Hard To Find”

Wikipedia article (which contains a link for an audio reading of the story by Flannery O’Connor)

A live version of Sufjan and a big band doing “A Good Man…”  on Austin City Limits:

Comments are always welcome!

BMC @ Manifest Propensity, 2013

“A Poem of Apocalyptic Emancipation” – An autobiographical explanation of the meaning

New Earth

A little over fifteen years ago I composed “A Poem of Apocalyptic Emancipation” which I decided to post on this blog a few weeks ago. It was the narration of a struggle I had been having for some time as I wrestled with the clash of two worldviews that seemed to be colliding in my conscience. The struggle is epitomized in the title/subtitle of the poem:

“…And the things of earth will grow strangely dim.” 

(A Poem of Apocalyptic Emancipation) Continue reading

The ironies of life – “Strong Hand of Love” – by Mark Heard via Bruce Cockburn

strong hand

Here is one of the most simple and beautiful songs about life I have ever heard, written by the late Mark Heard and sung here by Bruce Cockburn on a tribute project to Mark following his passing. The overall theme of the song seems to be about the ironies of life. Continue reading

“Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons – An Interpretation: Narrative of a conversion

Knowing the potential perils of song interpretation, I nevertheless could not resist this song by Mumford & Sons that seems to be quite unique in popular culture in regard to its subject. I may be taking the song too literally, but I find this song to be a narrative of a spiritual conversion. Continue reading