Monday, June 02, 2008

On Wise Blood

I recently finished Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood. It was very good, if not excellent. It is one of two books that I have read in my life that read like a papal encyclicals. The other is The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. By reading like an encyclical, I mean that they communicate theological ideas as effectively and as profoundly as any Church document.

Wise Blood is the tale of a young man, Hazel Motes by name, of Christian upbringing recently released from the Army. Hazel wants to find freedom, and doesn’t want anything to do with Christ. He begins The Church Without Christ to help others (or maybe just himself) stay far away from Him.

There is a great passage towards the beginning of the book, when Hazel is taking a cab to a woman’s house after seeing her address on a bathroom wall. The cab driver thinks he looks like a preacher, and tries to let him know that this woman doesn’t have much to do with preachers. Hazel tries to explain that he is not a preacher. The cabbie says he’s not sure, but there’s something about Hazel that looks like a preacher. Hazel Motes makes it absolutely clear that he doesn’t believe in anything at all. The cabbie then replies that that’s what’s wrong with preachers these days, that they don’t believe in anything.

The book is an interesting reflection on the idea that the worst things are good things that have been corrupted. Hazel Motes is supposed to be a preacher, and his attempted rejection of Christ leads him to some despicable behavior. But, like most of us, he just can’t get away.

I highly recommend Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.

No comments: