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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood, “The River”, and “A View of the Woods” suggests the rise in consumerism, especially since WWII, has become an ‘alternative religion,’ causing the loss of traditional religious values such as compassion, humility, and authenticity. The false prophets of consumerism, such as tent revivalists, televangelists, and salesmen, place a higher value on the pursuit of objects than human connection and community. In O’Connor’s fiction, then, a post-religious culture in which consumerism reigns supreme threatens humanity. This loss of religion and the transition to a “post-Christian” world has previously been examined by scholars such as Quentin Schultze and John Collins. Collins argues that the “religionless religion” of consumerism threatens to destroy the Christian religion and its institutions. I agree with his arguments on the effects of consumerism on humanity, but my work is focused more on the destruction of basic human values, Christian or not, than on the loss of religious institutions. My work especially differs from Schultze’s, who argues that Christian institutions can–and even should–embrace the rise of televangelists and the use of mass media to further their message. I disagree because the blending of religious institutions with the market-driven focus of mass-media creates a dangerous distortion to the original message. While O’Connor characterizes her own work as “Redemption-based,” my focus is on the loss of human values having devastating effects on the future of society, politics, and human interaction; the practical effects, not the parochial effects. By focusing on this select topic in her works, I illuminate the deception of these consumerist ideals and the threats they ultimately pose to our order in civil society. In the end, it is our responsibility to recognize such deception and to not only not accept it as truth, but to actively oppose it as well.

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