I don't doubt that it will be possible to trace some roots of Realism in
Christianity. The very notion of the Word Made Flesh resonates with
implications. Even so, it seems to me that the main and obvious thrust of
Realism goes the opposite direction. Realism posits that this world
matters intensely. But Christianity (at least after Paul came along) is so
deeply rooted in the Platonist assumption that this ephemeral world is far,
far less important than Beyond. By and large, Realism doesn't give a hoot
what happens "Over Jordan."
Hal, I just returned from a trip across your Midwest, where one billboard
after another admonished me to remember that this world is merely a kind of
launch pad for Eternity. That view, it seems to me, is not the predominant
assumption behind the best passages of Flaubert, James, Twain, Howells,
Crane, Norris, etc.
My view is conveyed wonderfully in Browning's "Fra Lippo Lippi"--a poem
about a painter who is expected to keep grinding out 'ascetic' portraits of
saints yearning toward Heaven, when his every impulse draws him toward the
tumultuous life of the streets around him.