Nation of Lost Souls

posted by Christine Lavallee on April 3rd, 2007

A Good War Is Hard to FindIn An Ethic for Christians, William Stringfellow wrote: “The unique aspect of biblical faith is that immediate, mundane history is beheld, affirmed, and lived as the true story of the redemption of time and Creation. Biblical ethics constitute a sacramental participation in history as it happens, transfiguring the common existence of persons and principalities in this world into the only history of salvation which there is for humanity and all other creatures.”

It strikes me that this idea of redemption lies at the heart of David Griffith’s essays in A Good War Is Hard to Find. As he describes our “common existence” he seems to desire for Christians to act rather than react, to act justly, tenderly, humbly, rather than react violently either through ouright violence or through complicity with violence born of apathy, boredom, or believing in the euphemistic language used to describe it.

Griffith often alludes to what we should do rather than illustrating it, preferring to illuminate the monster within us all and leave us to our mea culpas. In the best essay here, “City of Lost Souls” (which starts with Faulkner and ends with Abu Ghraib), he comments on the anemic strand of Christianity predominant in America today, saying it could be due to two things: our turning away from a biblical understanding of virtue towards a legal and amoral one, and the multiplicity of Christian churches which prevents agreement on how Christ meant us to live can be found.

Griffith quotes Flannery O’Connor on the lost soul of America: “Redemption is meaningless unless there is cause for it . . . and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.” That is, we deny Original Sin.

This observation is poignant an true. But most of Griffith’s time is spent describing violent books, movies, and events, and this isn’t necessary for those who know themselves to be sinners, kept from committing the worst atrocities only by the grace of God. Though Griffith does a good job depicting political situations from a Christian perspective, the explicit violence in this book isn’t necessary; simply reading about these things makes me feel complicit in this violent culture.

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