Tender is the Night, These Days

“One of the tendencies of this age is to use the suffering of children to discredit the goodness of God, and once you have discredited his goodness, you are done with him. The *Alymers whom (Nathaniel) Hawthorne saw as a menace have multiplied. Busy cutting down human imperfection, they are making headway also on the raw material of good. Ivan Karamazov cannot believe, as long as one child is in torment; Camus’ hero cannot accept the divinity of Christ, because of the massacre of innocents. In this popular pity, we mark our gain with sensibility and our loss in vision. If other ages felt less, they saw more, even though they saw with the blind, prophetical, unsentimental eye of acceptance, which is to say, of faith. In the absence of this faith now, we govern by tenderness. It is a tenderness which, long since cut off from the person of Christ, is wrapped in theory. When tenderness is detached from the source of tenderness, its logical outcome is terror. It ends in forced labor camps and in the fumes of the gas chamber.” Flannery O’Connor, Introduction to A Memoir of Mary Ann, 1961

*The Alymers is a generic reference to the husband/scientist in a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Birthmark.

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