Friday, January 10, 2003

Some interesting thoughts from Percy Walker and the Christian Scandal ...No, not that scandal

"Don't you know where tenderness leads? . . . It leads to the gas chamber." He'd like to give Miss O'Connor the credit, Percy responds, but it wasn't a conscious use. He had in mind his own experience of the German people as "extremely sentimental," possessed of a "tremendous tenderness." And he emphasizes here, as he does in other interviews, the comparison implied in his last novel between the Western liberal and the Weimar Republic liberal in relation to the effects of Weimar tenderness as executed in Nazi Germany and our own obsession with the right to abortion. "Nothing offends the American liberal more than being compared to the German liberals of the Weimar Republic."

The "Christian scandal," Percy says in this interview, is its "emphasis on individual human life." Without that scandalous emphasis, anything goes, including the gas chambers. The importance of encounter of person with immediate existence, the accommodation to this place and this time, which is so heavy a theme in recent literature of the American South, is exactly the issue...

The liberal response of tenderness, then, which makes the Louisiana child and the Iowa child hardly distinguishable in their manifestations in time and place, begins with a denial of personhood in its fundamental actuality... the Des Moines child and the Louisiana child are identities, not persons, a manipulation possible through the sentimentality attaching to an abstraction, "child."...

And some quotes from Flannery O'Connor
"When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness [i.e., Christ] its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced-labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber."

“He [the average Catholic reader] forgets that sentimentality is an excess, a distortion of sentiment usually in the direction of overemphasis on innocence, and that innocence, whenever it is overemphasized in the ordinary human condition, tends by some natural law to become its opposite.”

I think that the Church is the only thing that is going to make the terrible world we are coming to endurable; the only thing that makes the Church endurable is that it is somehow the body of Christ and that on this we are fed. It seems to be a fact that you suffer as much from the Church as for it but if you believe in the divinity of Christ, you have to cherish the world at the same time that you struggle to endure it."


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