On Tuesday evening, 22 April, the AHI hosted the third meeting of the Christopher Dawson Society. Professor Kathleen Marks, Assistant Professor of English at St. John’s University, led a discussion of Flannery O’Connor’s, “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and Dietrich Bonhoffer’s “Costly Grace.” Professor Marks, who received her Ph. D. from the University of Dallas in 2000, is the author of Toni Morrison’s Beloved and the Apotropaic Imagination (University of Missouri Press, 2002). Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor, organized resistance to Adolph Hitler and to his anti-Semitic policies, participating in the plot to assassinate him in 1944. Captured and imprisoned, Bonhoeffer was brutally tortured by the Gestapo before his execution by slow asphyxiation in April 1945.
Professor Marks’s pairing of O’Connor, the “hillbilly Thomist” and master of the “grotesque,” with Bonhoeffer, the martyred Lutheran theologian, proved inspired. She and the Dawson Society members probed the ways that O’Connor’s story reflected Bonhoeffer’s notions of “cheap” and “costly” grace. Discussion ranged widely, examining questions of sin, redemption, and the nature and meaning of grace in a fallen world.
The discussion, under Professor Marks’s clear-headed guidance, demonstrated to all the power of great literature to provoke searching meditations on the eternal verities, about fundamental questions about the human condition. The evening provided a fitting ending to the Dawson Society’s first semester of existence. Members of the Society include students and adults, academics and non-academics. They are looking forward to next year’s meetings, already in planning, which will bring other learned speakers to the Dawson Society and to the Alexander Hamilton Institute.
Dawson Society meetings are open to the public.