The Salvation by Compliment Club

When we were visiting my wife’s family over the summer, I found a used copy of Flannery O’Connor’s The Habit of Being, the collection of her letters. I’m enjoying reading them. She is intelligent and funny, and some of the letters had me laughing out loud. I’ve been reading a few at a time, keeping the book in our living room to read when I have some time (with a three-year old and a one-year old, free time is rare).

Yesterday morning, I read this letter. She pokes fun at a minister who, apparently, was popular at the time as an advice columnist.

A couple of weeks ago Ashley came down of a Sunday afternoon with [a friend] and they took in the architecture and had supper with me. Ashley was telling me that you are an admirer of Dr. Frank Crane [a newspaper columnist], my favorite Protestant theologian (salvation by compliment club). I was glad to hear this because I think the doctor ought to be more widely appreciated. He is really a combination minister and masseur, don’t you think? He appears in the Atlanta Constitution on the same page as the funnies. I like to hear him tell Alma A. that she can keep her husband by losing 75 pounds and just the other day he told a girl who was terrified of toads how not to let this ruin her life––know the truth & the truth shall make you free. However, his best column was where he told about getting the letter from the convict who had joined the compliment club. (81-2)

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