Tag Archives: chesterton

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April Poetry Dare | Day 13: “The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton

April is National Poetry Month, to celebrate, Tweetspeak is offering a Poetry Dare, in which participants are asked to read a poem a day for the month of April. Post daily to your blog or favorite social media platform what poem you read. You can find poems at websites like Poetry Foundation, or in books like One Hundred and One Famous Poems.

Today I read:

“The Donkey” by G.K. Chesterton

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Review: Rallying The Really Human Things: Moral Imagination In Politics Literature & Everyday Life

Rallying The Really Human Things: Moral Imagination In Politics Literature & Everyday Life
Rallying The Really Human Things: Moral Imagination In Politics Literature & Everyday Life by Vigen Guroian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I met Dr. Guroian at a conference last summer where he gave a seminar on the original Grimm’s Cinderella. It was pretty amazing, which moved me to buy a copy of the book under review. I finally got around to reading it this summer. I’m sorry I waited.

Dr. Guroian writes in an attempt to revive, rally, recover the moral imagination. I’m not sure how to define the term, something I’m still working through in my own mind. It has been around awhile (since Edmund Burke, I believe). But it is an important idea, one I am ever more convinced we are in need of rallying.

In the first part of the book, Dr. Guroian goes through a series of examples of folks (Flannery O’Connor, Russell Kirk, and G.K. Chesterton) who have done much work toward the recovery of the moral imagination.

“A vision of the good has far greater power to move men and women to do the right thing than all the horrible images we may conjure up to terrify them into doing it.”

In part two, he discusses the moral imagination: what it is, how it is affected, it’s status in our own age.

“The moral imagination is the distinctively human power to conceive of men and women as moral beings, that is, as persons, not as things or animals whose value to us is their usefulness.”

In parts three and four, he discusses the moral imagination and how a recovery of it would affect our thoughts on marriage, abortion, childhood, honor, sex, politics, human rights, and more.

“in every society, power must be humanized and used morally in order that free and civilized life might prosper.

We humanize and understand how to use power morally through the use and exercise of our moral imagination. Rallying the Really Human Things may in fact help to rally us around the moral imagination and move us toward a humanized and right use of power.

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The Power to Move People

Vigen Guroian argues that “modern morality is consequentialist.”

In other words, we don’t commit adultery because of the negative consequence of divorce. We teach someone not to engage in unprotected, unmarried sex because of the negative consequence of an unwanted pregnancy or a venereal disease. We teach our children not to drink and drive because of the negative consequence of a DUI or an accident.

The problem, however, is that people aren’t moved–not for the long term–by negative consequences, or the stick approach. We need to know the good, the true, the beautiful to move us toward the moral. We need the carrot.

This is because the stick argument can be subverted. I can persuade myself to go through with an act of adultery if I can be convinced that I can successfully avoid the negative consequence of divorce. Once I’ve worked my way around the negative consequence, I’ve worked my way around that particular “version” of morality.

It isn’t necessary to argue, however, that the carrot approach, holding up the goodness, truth, and beauty of a right moral choice is more effective or compelling. It is necessary, however, to see that the carrot approach is “more wholesome,” says G.K. Chesterton.

Reject the consequentialism of modern morality and embrace the wholesomeness of Biblical morality. Move your child to be chaste, not because venereal diseases are the negative consequence, but because Mary is a wholesome example to them. Move your men to love their wives, not out of fear of divorce, but because Christ loved the Church. Do we want simply to avoid the horrible, or to be like the wholesome?

Love Transforms

Earlier today, Pastor Rick Warren tweeted the following:

Rick Warren Tweet

G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, wrote this:

Men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her.

They are clearly saying the same thing: Love transforms.

The Bible says much of the same, we love Christ because He first loved us. Christ’s love for us transformed us into lovers of Him, something we weren’t before the love He showed us. Similarly, Chesterton argued that the love of her people transformed Rome into something great, and as Warren is stating that love transforms (creates, to use his word) the loved into beautiful people.

This must be what Paul has in mind in Ephesians 5.25-29:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the assembly and gave Himself up on its behalf, that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the washing of the water in the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious assembly, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such things, but that it be holy and without blemish. So, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies, (he loving his wife loves himself), for then no one hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as also the Lord the assembly. (Emphasis added.)

Paul tells us that Christ’s loving the Church makes her more beautiful. And, for this reason husbands ought to love their wives. For what reason? For the reason that his love will make his wife beautiful, too! Thus, the husband’s love nourishes and cherishes his wife, just as Christ’s does the Church.

Paul, Chesterton, and Warren agree: Love transforms.

Review: The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare

The Man Who Was Thursday: A NightmareThe Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a fun book and a confusing book, all at the same time.

Chesterton was his classic self. The book is about a detective who is investigating anarchists and through odd circumstances gets himself elected to the highest council of anarchists. However, in the process of doing so he swears an oath that prevents him from reporting the anarchists to the police. Trying to figure out how to stop the anarchists without breaking his oath becomes his goal.

The main character, Gabriel Syme, is a fun character. He is horrible at planning, but great at improvisation. Listening to him to try to plan something is laughable, while watching him act improvisationally is impressive.

Chesterton’s commentary on society, the police, and anarchy are thought-provoking, as his commentaries usually are. His descriptions of scenery and people throughout the book are exciting. This is not because his descriptions are especially vivid, but because the analogies and metaphors he uses instead create the picture he intends in your mind better than adjectives ever would have.

The end of the book is where it begets confusion, however. Chesterton turns what has hitherto been a fun detective story into a spiritual allegory that I just cannot follow. I’ve even asked lit junkies about it and they don’t seem to understand it either. But, maybe, just maybe, I haven’t asked the right people. I’m sure there is an article somewhere on the internet that has it all figured out, but I sure don’t.

It is still a fun book though, and I hope the knowledge that it has a confusing ending doesn’t keep folks from reading it.

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Review: Saint Francis of Assisi

Saint Francis of AssisiSaint Francis of Assisi by G.K. Chesterton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

G.K. Chesterton puts forth a masterful piece of literary work describing the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He first puts St. Francis and his life into historical perspective. Why was his asceticism necessary? Why was the world then ready for someone who could love nature the way he did? Chesterton answers these questions.

Next, he describes what drove St. Francis to his life and then his life. At this point, he has said nothing of those things that would be considered supernatural or miraculous, only what he did that is incontrovertible. He then puts perspective into why St. Francis would throw himself into the fire of the Mohammedans. And, the import of the events and words of his death.

He next addresses the controversy that arose after his death, between the differing factions among the Franciscans and the role the papacy played in that. Finally, he touches on the miracles, why they were left out of this biography, and why they shouldn’t have needed to be.

Chesterton is wonderful, as always.

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