Reflections on Peter Leithart’s “Why Protestants Can’t Write”

Here is a wonderful piece by Peter Leithart, “Why Protestants Can’t Write.” In it he focuses on Flannery O’Connor, who insisted that we look at the world as it is, this world, not another world of all beauty and inspiration. “Writers who see by the light of their Christian faith will have, in these times, the sharpest eyes for the grotesque, for the perverse, and for the unacceptable. In some cases, these writers may be unconsciously infected with the Manichaean spirit of the times and suffer the much discussed disjunction between sensibility and belief, but I think that more often the reason for this attention to the perverse is the difference between their beliefs and the beliefs of their audience. Redemption is meaningless unless there is case for it in the actual life we live, and for the last few centuries there has been operating in our culture the secular belief that there is no such cause.”

O’Connor was that most unusual of people, a Southerner who was also a Roman Catholic. As an RC her writing was expressive of a sacramental theology, that the physical world as it is can reveal, can be, the divine. Thus, the writer does not ignore the real world to inspire us with beauty or a moral tale. The story to be told is the real world. Christ will be there.

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