In the most recent issue of Dappled Things, Damian J. Ference provides an engaging assessment of the similarities between the works of Pope Benedict XVI and Flannery O’Connor. In his article, “No Vague Believer: The Specificity of the Person of Christ According to Flannery O’Connor and Benedict XVI,” Ference proposes that, although Benedict XVI and O’Connor are writing at different times and in different genres, they share a common thesis, namely:
That the person of Christ is not simply a religious figure, or prophet, or political leader, or moral teacher among many—but that he truly is the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and that all of human history and the entire meaning of human existence rises and falls specifically on him—without exception.
The specificity of God’s nature as both human and divine as it is revealed in the person of Jesus Christ is the point of convergence between Benedict XVI’s work and that of O’Connor’s, but the poignant comparison of these two authors comes to light with Ference’s demonstration that each author, in their respective literary genres, were combatting what Ference terms “vague belief.” Vague belief, he
writes, has usurped “specific belief” in Christ, and is characterized by the de-divinization of Jesus, diminishment of God’s personal nature, and triumph of spiritualism without doctrine, dogma or savior.
Ference argues that each author deals with the crisis of vague belief by, “addressing the power of God’s name and proposing an adequate understanding of the person of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior of the world.” While such an argument might be somewhat more traceable in Benedict XVI’s overt discussions of Christ, Ference gives memorable examples in O’Connor’s work to illustrate this point, unpacking the Christian symbolism in each passage.
Read Ference’s case for pairing these two authors here.