The Christ-Haunted South II
So. I am continuing to read from this book I have been mentioning and will be quoting from periodically, Flannery O'Connor and the Christ-Haunted South, by Ralph C. Wood. In his essay on Flannery's personal favorite story, "The Artificial Nigger," Wood writes, "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. It threatens him by showing him that he is out of danger.' Barth liked to tell of a Swiss horseman who became lost in a snowstorm and crossed frozen Lake Konstanz at full gallop before finally making it safely home. When told of the daring deed he had consciously done, the man broke down in horror and fright. Only after he was saved did he recognize his dire danger (emphasis mine)." That is the essential fact of the gospel, and the essential difference between knowing Christ and merely being a Christian (or the religion of your choice). The one looks back on what was done and lives accordingly: gratefully, graciously, humbly; the other does and looks forward to being repaid accordingly, which is a system doomed to fall flat on its face. In the story at hand, both the characters are a disaster to themselves and each other because each is only concerned with being entirely self-sufficient and with proving himself to be better than his companion. Read the story.