In her "Christ-haunted" South, Flannery O'Connor encountered many faith-based Christians who, in their horror of sin, shielded themselves with sanctimony from their own faults. One character who portrays this type of Christian is the grandmother in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." Selfish and prejudicial, the grandmother is very unChristian in...
both her thoughts and demands. For instance, she brings her cat against the wishes of her son Bailey; she persuades him to digress from his route and drive down the road that leads to their nemesis. For, she wishes to visit an old plantation that she believes is on this road when, in reality, it is in another state. As they drive along, the grandmother looks out the window and comments, "Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!....Wouldn't that make a picture, now?"
Then, when the cat jumps upon Bailey, he loses control of the vehicle and the family has an accident, leaving them stranded on the road where they become the victims of the Misfit. However, it is this grotesque character who effects the redemption of the grandmother, who recognizes in him her spiritual depravity, exclaiming, "Why, you're one of my babies. You're one of my own children!" And, it is in recognizing this kinship with such a sinner as the Misfit that the grandmother attains grace without sentimentality. In what O'Connor herself terms "the reasonable use of the unreasonable" there is a greater vision of spirituality than with the faith-based beliefs and sanctimony of the Evangelical Christians.
Another O'Connor story, "The Life You Save May Be Your Own," is one that critics view as a
paradigmatic example of O’Connor’s almost obsessive concern with religious themes—specifically, an individual’s ability to find opportunities for salvation and redemption in everyday life.
Both Mrs. Crater and Shiftlet trade the spiritual as represented by the innocent Lucynell for the material although they give lip service like many false Christians to God as, for instance, Shiflet claims he likes to watch sunsets in the country where he could see "the sun go down every evening like God made it to do.’’
Possessing an almost obsessive concern with an individual’s ability to find opportunities for salvation and redemption in everyday life, Flannery O'Connor found those sanctimonious Christians who believed themselves sanctified as little more than repellent and hypocritcal.