Tag Archives: G.K. Chesterton

Why Chesterton and Revolution?

Someone asked me a question yesterday via the GKChestertonQuote.com site: If “revolution” is so often used as a leftist and communist idea, why would a Christian author like G.K. Chesterton issue a call to revolution like “Pray for Revolution?

To paraphrase Chesterton in Manalive, a revolution is always a  return. A revolution is a radical change, a re-turning to some ideal that was lost. As Christians, the idea is that what we have lost was Eden, what we hope for is the Kingdom of God. In our fallen world, to realize these ideals in the now, we must radically change ourselves in order for that to happen.

“To the orthodox there must always be a case for revolution; for in the hearts of men God has been put under the feet of Satan. In the upper world hell once rebelled against heaven. But in this world heaven is rebelling against hell. For the orthodox there can always be a revolution; for a revolution is a restoration. At any instant you may strike a blow for the perfection which no man has seen since Adam.” Orthodoxy

Revolution is not the sole property of any particular political ideal. Perhaps it is ultimately alien even for political ideals.

Near the end of Manalive, Innocent Smith has a conversation with a Russian revolutionist:

[Smith:] “I am a revolutionist. But don’t you see that all these real leaps and destructions and escapes are only attempts to get back to Eden– to something we have had, to something we at least have heard of? Don’t you see one only breaks the fence or shoots the moon in order to get HOME?”

“No,” I answered after due reflection, “I don’t think I should accept that.”

“Ah,” he said with a sort of a sigh, “then you have explained a second thing to me.”

“What do you mean?’ I asked; “what thing?”

“Why your revolution has failed.”

The more I read of Chesterton the more I see a revolutionary philosophy running through it; not a philosophy that is new and revolutionary, like independence in the American colonies or communism in the formerly imperial Russia, but a philosophy that is based on revolution itself as a fundamental truth of human history and philosophy. We cannot create an ideal heaven on Earth, so we must always be seeking to improve what we have.

To get started reading the revolutionary works of Chesterton I would suggest the essay “The Wind in the Trees” (From Tremendous Trifles), Orthodoxy (of which the seventh chapter is called “The Eternal Revolution,”) and Manalive.

There are hundreds more insights into Chesterton’s idea of revolution, but they are scattered throughout his works. Perhaps someday I’ll have a book actually on Chesterton on revolution, not just a book inspired by Chesterton’s idea of revolution.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

7 Most Popular G.K. Chesterton Quotes He Never Said

G.K. Chesterton is practically infinitely quotable, a fact that I have put to the test over the past several years curating the Daily Chesterton Quote site and service.

However, when you combine such a prolific writer with a legacy over a century old, plus the Internet, you stumble upon a few misattributed quotes. Some of these have become incredibly popular, taking on a life of their own; but there is no evidence that G.K. Chesterton actually said these things.

Even the well-read experts have mistakenly repeated the misquotes; I am almost certain I have repeated some of these myself.

I had thought of doing a series of Chesterton misquotes in a “Not said by Chesterton” series on GKChestertonQuote.com, but that could just add to the confusion.

“Love means loving the unlovable – or it is no virtue at all.”

The only place I can find attribution on this is the American Chesterton Society, which states it comes from Heretics – but searching the etext does not turn up any parts of the the exact phrase.

Everyone else cannot seem to find this quote in GKC’s works, even though it comes in a few different forms, such as, “Love means to love that which is unlovable, or it is no virtue at all; forgiving means to pardon that which is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all,” or ” To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless,” or “Love means to love that which is unlovable; or it is no virtue at all.”

The closest thing I have been able to find is in Orthodoxy: “Stated baldly, charity certainly means one of two things–pardoning unpardonable acts, or loving unlovable people.”

Update: Jonathan Watson pointed out that there is another similar quote in Heretics: “But charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.”

“Fairy tales are more than true — not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

This one really took on a life of its own, and in recent times. This brief, succinct, beautiful expression is actually first found in the epitaph of Coraline by Neil Gaiman.

This has sparked quite a literary issue on the Internet, but Gaiman actually set the record straight on his blog:

It’s my fault. When I started writing Coraline, I wrote my version of the quote in Tremendous Trifles, meaning to go back later and find the actual quote, as I didn’t own the book, and this was before the Internet. And then  ten years went by before I finished the book, and in the meantime I had completely forgotten that the Chesterton quote was mine and not his.  I’m perfectly happy for anyone to attribute it to either of us. The sentiment is his, the phrasing is mine.

If you read enough Chesterton and his critics, GKC did the same thing; he could read an entire book in minutes, and often wrote from memory. While exceptional, it was not perfect. So Gaiman “pulled a Chesterton” while paraphrasing GKC.

It is worth mentioning that Gaiman is a big fan of Chesterton, and GKC has directly influenced Gaiman’s Sandman, Coraline, Good Omens, Neverwhere, and probably a lot of other books.

Here is the original that Gaiman cites, from The Red Angel in Tremendous Trifles – quoted a bit more at length than usual for context:

The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it– because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear. When I was a child I have stared at the darkness until the whole black bulk of it turned into one negro giant taller than heaven. If there was one star in the sky it only made him a Cyclops. But fairy tales restored my mental health, for next day I read an authentic account of how a negro giant with one eye, of quite equal dimensions, had been baffled by a little boy like myself (of similar inexperience and even lower social status) by means of a sword, some bad riddles, and a brave heart. Sometimes the sea at night seemed as dreadful as any dragon. But then I was acquainted with many youngest sons and little sailors to whom a dragon or two was as simple as the sea.

“A man knocking on the door of a brothel is looking for God.”

I heard this one most recently in a Bible study; but it was actually from author Bruce Marshall in The World, The Flesh, and Father Smith, in which the quote appears, “the young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.

Guess it sounded Chestertonian and someone got it mixed up.

“If there were no God, there would be no atheists.”

This is going to sound like nitpicking, but a single letter changes a word, and a changed word can change the meaning.

The correct quote, from the essay Too Simple to Be True, collected in Where All Roads Lead is “If there were not God, there would be no atheists.”

The misquote helps fuel the misconception that GKC’s point was that with out a Creator, there would be no one to deny Him. That is a bit pedantic for Chesterton, and the meaning of the quote is best expressed in the context:

“Atheism is, I suppose, the supreme example of a simple faith. The man says there is no God; if he really says it in his heart, he is a certain sort of man so designated in Scripture. But, anyhow, when he has said it, he has said it; and there seems to be no more to be said. The conversation seems likely to languish. The truth is that the atmosphere of excitement, by which the atheist lived, was an atmosphere of thrilled and shuddering theism, and not of atheism at all; it was an atmosphere of defiance and not of denial. Irreverence is a very servile parasite of reverence; and has starved with its starving lord. After this first fuss about the merely aesthetic effect of blasphemy, the whole thing vanishes into its own void. If there were not God, there would be no atheists.”

Chesterton’s point was not that atheists would not exist without God to create them, but to point out that atheism only subsists because it is a blasphemy or rejection of something real; after all, there is no serious organization or movement that is denying the existence of unicorns or leprechauns.

“Meaninglessness does not come from being weary of pain. Meaninglessness comes from being weary of pleasure.”

A reader asked me about this quote, which he had heard from Ravi Zacharias. It seems to be a repeat of the Gaiman fairy tale quote, where someone beautifully paraphrased a longer, more involved Chesterton quote.

G.K. Chesterton did state in The Everlasting Man:

“Pessimism is not in being tired of evil but in being tired of good. Despair does not lie in being weary of suffering, but in being weary of joy. It is when for some reason or other the good things in a society no longer work that the society
begins to decline; when its food does not feed, when its cures do not cure, when its blessings refuse to bless. We might almost say that in a society without such good things we should hardly have any test by which to register a decline; that is why some of the static commercial oligarchies like Carthage have rather an air in history of standing and staring like mummies, so dried up and swathed and embalmed that no man knows when they are new or old.”

and in Charles Dickens (which I wrote about here):

“There are some men who are dreary because they do not believe in God; but there are many others who are dreary because they do not believe in the devil… The full value of this life can only be got by fighting; the violent take it by storm. And if we have accepted everything we have missed something — war. This life of ours is a very enjoyable fight, but a very miserable truce.”

“When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”

Wikiquotes has explanation of this and the other form it takes, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.”

This quotation actually comes from page 211 of Émile Cammaerts’ book The Laughing Prophet : The Seven Virtues and G. K. Chesterton (1937) in which he quotes Chesterton as having Father Brown say, in “The Oracle of the Dog” (1923): “It’s the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense.” Cammaerts then interposes his own analysis between further quotes from Father Brown: “‘It’s drowning all your old rationalism and scepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; and the name of it is superstition.’ The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything: ‘And a dog is an omen and a cat is a mystery.'” Note that the remark about believing in anything is outside the quotation marks — it is Cammaerts.

“What is Wrong With the World?” “Dear Sirs, I am.”

This seems to be the ultimate Chesterton myth, in the truest sense of the word. It was even the inspiration for a documentary entitled  I Am that came out a few years ago. However, while it might be full of truth and Chestertonian wit, no one can find it.

The Times and other English papers have been searched through their archives, and yet no one can find the fabled essay request or the incredibly short response from GKC. It could be that the letter was written and not published, but as of the time of this writing no one seems to be able to find the source of the story or any evidence that it is true.

Many theories surround the fact that Chesterton did write a book called What is Wrong With the World. In the dedication, GKC writes:

“I originally called this book “What is Wrong,” and it would have satisfied your sardonic temper to note the number of social misunderstandings that arose from the use of the title. Many a mild lady visitor opened her eyes when I remarked casually, “I have been doing ‘What is Wrong’ all this morning.” And one minister of religion moved
quite sharply in his chair when I told him (as he understood it) that I had to run upstairs and do what was wrong, but should be down again in a minute. Exactly of what occult vice they silently accused me I cannot conjecture, but I know of what I accuse myself; and that is, of having written a very shapeless and inadequate book, and one quite unworthy to be dedicated to you. As far as literature goes, this book is what is wrong and no mistake.”

In a review of the book, St. John Ervine wrote, “‘The book is called ‘What’s Wrong with the World,’ by G.K. Chesterton: it should have been called, ‘What’s Wrong with the World’ is G.K. Chesterton’.”

If there are any new sources that are discovered that validate these quotes, however, I would very much like to hear about it! If you want to do your own research on Chesterton quotes, check out the G.K. Chesterton search engine here.

 

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

A Want of Something to Do: Guest Post by G.K. Chesterton

This post is an excerpt from G.K. Chesterton’s personal notebook, published for the first time in his biography by friend and publisher Masie Ward. According to Ward, he did not yet consider himself a Christian, but noted the disparity between modern Christians chasing a cause (in this case Socialism) and Christianity as Christ preached it. 

Now, for my own part, I cannot in the least agree with those who  see no difference between Christian and modern Socialism, nor do I  for a moment join in some Christian Socialists’ denunciations of  those worthy middle-class people who cannot see the connection. For I  cannot help thinking that in a way these latter people are right. No  reasonable man can read the Sermon on the Mount and think that its  tone is not very different from that of most collectivist speculation  of the present day, and the Philistines feel this, though they cannot  distinctly express it. There is a difference between Christ’s  Socialist program and that of our own time, a difference deep,  genuine and all important, and it is this which I wish to point out.

Let us take two types side by side, or rather the same type in the  two different atmospheres. Let us take the “rich young man” of the  Gospels and place beside him the rich young man of the present day,  on the threshold of Socialism. If we were to follow the difficulties,  theories, doubts, resolves, and conclusions of each of these  characters, we should find two very distinct threads of  self-examination running through the two lives. And the essence of  the difference was this: the modern Socialist is saying, “What will  society do?” while his prototype, as we read, said, “What shall I  do?” Properly considered, this latter sentence contains the whole  essence of the older Communism. The modern Socialist regards his  theory of regeneration as a duty which society owes to him, the early  Christian regarded it as a duty which he owed to society; the modern  Socialist is busy framing schemes for its fulfilment, the early  Christian was busy considering whether he would himself fulfil it  there and then; the ideal of modern Socialism is an elaborate Utopia  to which he hopes the world may be tending, the ideal of the early  Christian was an actual nucleus “living the new life” to whom he  might join himself if he liked. Hence the constant note running  through the whole gospel, of the importance, difficulty and  excitement of the “call,” the individual and practical request made  by Christ to every rich man, “sell all thou hast and give to the  poor.”

To us Socialism comes speculatively as a noble and optimistic  theory of what may [be] the crown of progress, to Peter and James and  John it came practically as a crisis of their own Daily life, a  stirring question of conduct and renunciation.

We do not therefore in the least agree with those who hold that  modern Socialism is an exact counterpart or fulfilment of the  socialism of Christianity. We find the difference important and  profound, despite the common ground of anti-selfish collectivism. The  modern Socialist regards Communism as a distant panacea for society,  the early Christian regarded it as an immediate and difficult  regeneration of himself: the modern Socialist reviles, or at any rate  reproaches, society for not adopting it, the early Christian  concentrated his thoughts on the problem of his own fitness and  unfitness to adopt it: to the modern Socialist it is a theory, to the  early Christian it was a call; modern Socialism says, “Elaborate a  broad, noble and workable system and submit it to the progressive  intellect of society.” Early Christianity said, “Sell all thou hast  and give to the poor.”

This distinction between the social and personal way of regarding  the change has two sides, a spiritual and a practical which we  propose to notice. The spiritual side of it, though of less direct  and revolutionary importance than the practical, has still a very  profound philosophic significance. To us it appears something  extraordinary that this Christian side of Socialism, the side of the  difficulty of the personal sacrifice, and the patience, cheerfulness,  and good temper necessary for the protracted personal surrender is so  constantly overlooked. The literary world is flooded with old men  seeing visions and young men dreaming dreams, with various stages of  anti-competitive enthusiasm, with economic apocalypses, elaborate  Utopias and mushroom destinies of mankind. And, as far as we have  seen, in all this whirlwind of theoretic excitement there is not a  word spoken of the intense practical difficulty of the summons to the  individual, the heavy, unrewarding cross borne by him who gives up  the world.

For it will not surely be denied that not only will Socialism be  impossible without some effort on the part of individuals, but that  Socialism if once established would be rapidly dissolved, or worse  still, diseased, if the individual members of the community did not  make a constant effort to do that which in the present state of human  nature must mean an effort, to live the higher life. Mere state  systems could not bring about and still less sustain a reign of  unselfishness, without a cheerful decision on the part of the members  to forget selfishness even in little things, and for that most  difficult and at the same time most important personal decision  Christ made provision and the modern theorists make no provision at  all. Some modern Socialists do indeed see that something more is  necessary for the golden age than fixed incomes and universal stores  tickets, and that the fountain heads of all real improvement are to  be found in human temper and character. Mr. William Morris, for  instance, in his “News from Nowhere” gives a beautiful picture of a  land ruled by Love, and rightly grounds the give-and-take camaraderie  of his ideal state upon an assumed improvement in human nature. But  he does not tell us how such an improvement is to be effected, and  Christ did. Of Christ’s actual method in this matter I shall speak  afterwards when dealing with the practical aspect, my object just now  is to compare the spiritual and emotional effects of the call of  Christ, as compared to those of the vision of Mr. William Morris.  When we compare the spiritual attitudes of two thinkers, one of whom  is considering whether social history has been sufficiently a course  of improvement to warrant him in believing that it will culminate in  universal altruism, while the other is considering whether he loves  other people enough to walk down tomorrow to the market-place and  distribute everything but his staff and his scrip, it will not be  denied that the latter is likely to undergo certain deep and acute  emotional experiences, which will be quite unknown to the former. And  these emotional experiences are what we understand as the spiritual  aspect of the distinction. For three characteristics at least the  Galilean programme makes more provision; humility, activity,  cheerfulness, the real triad of Christian virtues.

Humility is a grand, a stirring thing, the exalting paradox of  Christianity, and the sad want of it in our own time is, we believe,  what really makes us think life dull, like a cynic, instead of  marvellous, like a child. With this, however, we have at present  nothing to do. What we have to do with is the unfortunate fact that  among no persons is it more wanting than among Socialists, Christian  and other. The isolated or scattered protest for a complete change in  social order, the continual harping on one string, the necessarily  jaundiced contemplation of a system already condemned, and above all,  the haunting pessimistic whisper of a possible hopelessness of  overcoming the giant forces of success, all these impart undeniably  to the modern Socialist a tone excessively imperious and bitter. Nor  can we reasonably blame the average money-getting public for their  impatience with the monotonous virulence of men who are constantly  reviling them for not living communistically, and who after all, are  not doing it themselves. Willingly do we allow that these latter  enthusiasts think it impossible in the present state of society to  practise their ideal, but this fact, while vindicating their  indisputable sincerity, throws an unfortunate vagueness and  inconclusiveness over their denunciations of other people in the same  position. Let us compare with this arrogant and angry tone among the  modern Utopians who can only dream “the life,” the tone of the early  Christian who was busy living it. As far as we know, the early  Christians never regarded it as astonishing that the world as they  found it was competitive and unregenerate; they seem to have felt  that it could not in its pre-Christian ignorance have been anything  else, and their whole interest was bent on their own standard of  conduct and exhortation which was necessary to convert it. They felt  that it was by no merit of theirs that they had been enabled to enter  into the life before the Romans, but simply as a result of the fact  that Christ had appeared in Galilee and not in Rome. Lastly, they  never seem to have entertained a doubt that the message would itself  convert the world with a rapidity and ease which left no room for  severe condemnation of the heathen societies.

With regard to the second merit, that of activity, there can be  little doubt as to where it lies between the planner of the Utopia  and the convert of the brotherhood. The modern Socialist is a  visionary, but in this he is on the same ground as half the great men  of the world, and to some extent of the early Christian himself, who  rushed towards a personal ideal very difficult to sustain. The  visionary who yearns toward an ideal which is practically impossible  is not useless or mischievous, but often the opposite; but the person  who is often useless, and always mischievous, is the visionary who  dreams with the knowledge or the half-knowledge that his ideal is  impossible. The early Christian might be wrong in believing that by  entering the brotherhood men could in a few years become perfect even  as their Father in Heaven was perfect, but he believed it and acted  flatly and fearlessly on the belief: this is the type of the higher  visionary. But all the insidious dangers of the vision; the idleness,  the procrastination, the mere mental aestheticism, come in when the  vision is indulged, as half our Socialistic conceptions are, as a  mere humour or fairy-tale, with a consciousness, half-confessed, that  it is beyond practical politics, and that we need not be troubled  with its immediate fulfilment. The visionary who believes in his own  most frantic vision is always noble and useful. It is the visionary  who does not believe in his vision who is the dreamer, the idler, the  Utopian. This then is the second moral virtue of the older school, an  immense direct sincerity of action, a cleansing away, by the sweats  of hard work, of all those subtle and perilous instincts of mere  ethical castle-building which have been woven like the spells of an  enchantress, round so many of the strong men of our own time.

The third merit, which I have called cheerfulness, is really the  most important of all. We may perhaps put the comparison in this way.  It might strike many persons as strange that in a time on the whole  so optimistic in its intellectual beliefs as this is, in an age when  only a small minority disbelieve in social progress, and a large  majority believe in an ultimate social perfection, there should be  such a tired and blasé feeling among numbers of young men. This, we  think, is due, not to the want of an ultimate ideal, but to that of  any immediate way of making for it: not of something to hope but of  something to do. A human being is not satisfied and never will be  satisfied with being told that it is all right: what he wants is not  a prediction of what other people will be hundreds of years hence, to  make him cheerful, but a new and stirring test and task for himself,  which will assuredly make him cheerful. A knight is not contented  with the statement that his commander has hid his plans so as to  insure victory: what the knight wants is a sword. This demand for a  task is not mere bravado, it is an eternal and natural part of the  higher optimism, as deep-rooted as the foreshadowing of perfection.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Fight With All Your Weapons

Some years ago an acquaintance confided in me about some relationship problems he was having. As a couple, he and his wife were drifting apart. Since we had talked before about Japanese culture, my advice took the form of a quote from the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi’s Book of Five Rings:

“Students of the Ichi school Way of strategy should train from the start with the sword and the long sword in either hand. This is a truth: when you sacrifice your life, you must make fullest use of your weaponry. It is false not to do so, and to die with a weapon yet undrawn.”

A relationship with another person, especially as a spouse in marriage, is one of self-sacrifice. To make the most of it, you have to utilize every weapon, or tool, at your disposal. It is not right to go half-way, holding back in such an arrangement. Rather than fearing that your significant other may not return your renewed passion to spend time with them, or pursue their interests, it is false to refrain from the attempt yourself.

This makes sense for more than just love and war; too often we hold back from using everything God has given us in living or promoting his Gospel, doing our daily work, or even in taking care of ourselves. We have already been counseled by our Lord not to bury our talents.

Part of making the best use of what we have is to keep such tools, talents, assets, and skills ready for whatever Providence sends our way. G.K. Chesterton writes in his book Heretics:

“A man who believes something is ready and witty, because he has all his weapons about him. He can apply his test in an instant.”
A well-armed Christian – that is one who is fully convinced of what he believes, is ready for anything in life. He needs only to put to use those convictions, even quickly making decisions about the most important things.
As a Christian, are you ever-aware of the armaments of your faith? Or do you squander opportunities to exercise the commands of your Lord? Put your weapons to use, and do not hold back!
Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Being Christian is More than Being Moral

 

About three years ago, Phil Vischer, creator of Veggie Tales, gave an interview about Big Idea’s bankruptcy and what he learned from the company’s failure and his ambitions.

The things he said still ring true, perhaps even more. So it’s worth repeating here:

After the bankruptcy I had kind of a forced sabbatical of three or four months of spending time with God and listening to Him. I looked back at the previous 10 years and realized I had spent 10 years trying to convince kids to behave Christianly without actually teaching them Christianity. And that was a pretty serious conviction. You can say, “Hey kids, be more forgiving because the Bible says so,” or “Hey kids, be more kind because the Bible says so!” But that isn’t Christianity, it’s morality…

So I was acting like a big barracuda when in reality I’m a brainless, spineless bag of goo. And I only get my form when I stay in the current of God’s will and allow Him to carry me where He wants me to be. And that was such a huge shift for me from the American Christian ideal. We’re drinking a cocktail that’s a mix of the Protestant work ethic, the American dream, and the gospel. And we’ve intertwined them so completely that we can’t tell them apart anymore. Our gospel has become a gospel of following your dreams and being good so God will make all your dreams come true. It’s the Oprah god. So I had to peel that apart. I realized I’m not supposed to be pursuing impact, I’m supposed to be pursuing God. And when I pursue God I will have exactly as much impact as He wants me to have…

If you are involved in a ministry, you really ought to read Phil’s epiphany here. But the above paragraphs have meaning to all of us.

Being Christian does not merely mean we are moral people. The 10 Commandments are a starting point, not the sum of the rules of life. Sure, none of us have a 100% success rate at keeping the commandments, but if you’ve been rather successful lately you can hardly consider that “Christian living.”

About the same time I read something that cited Phil’s article, I came across a quote from G.K. Chesterton on morals as goals. In his biography of George Bernard Shaw, Chesterton went on a tangent (as he does) about Nietzsche  and the superman.

“If he [the superman] is simply to be more just, more brave, or more merciful, then Zarathustra sinks into a Sunday-school teacher; the only way we can work for it is to be more just, more brave, and more merciful — sensible advice, but hardly startling.”

Phil realized that Bob and Larry were teaching mere moral virtues – in essence, nothing more than Zarathustra, Nietzsche’s prophet taught. No different, really, in the principles that any philosophy teaches, except from where we claim the authority came. So long as you follow the rules we have in common, what does it matter who gets the credit for authorship?

We are called to do more than just live moral, righteous lives. We’re called to love, trust God, and believe his promises. Charity, faith, and hope, in other words.

Jesus said to love our enemies, not just our friends. Not tolerate them, not endure them, not to “not hate” them, but to love them. We are told not to worry about tomorrow, or ask after what we shall eat, or wear beyond today – ask only for our daily bread. We are to hope in impossible things; those Israelites that walked across the Red Sea, with a pillar of fire in their midst, spent 40 years in the desert because when they got to Caanan they thought it would be “impossible” for God to keep his promise.

Instead, we Christians have given enough cause for governments to consider us a hate group, since our condemnation of others is more visible than our love of the unlovable. We have 401(k) plans, storing up our riches for rainy days or restful retirements. We don’t really act like we believe the promises God made to us, even when we profess that we do. We mix prudence with worldly financial advice and pass it off as ‘Christian’ even when it contradicts Christ’s instructions (Luke 12:13-21).

Be careful that you’re not drinking the American (or Western) cult cocktail of worldly Christianity. Keep striving to follow Jesus’ instructions – especially the ones that seem ridiculous and hard. Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect, not just good enough that others think you’re a good person.

Photo courtesy George Bannister on Flickr.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.

Pray for Revolution

 

If you’ve ever received an email from me, I use a non-standard closing: “Pray for Revolution.” It’s a phrase that appears throughout the site here at Eternal Revolution and there is even a shirt design using the phrase. I realized I never explained the source anywhere on this site.

I admit, it is an unusual prayer request. It comes from Chesterton’s essay The Wind in the Trees, collected in Tremendous Trifles.

The wind is up above the world before a twig on the tree has moved. So there must always be a battle in the sky before there is a battle on the earth. Since it is lawful to pray for the coming of the kingdom, it is lawful also to pray for the coming of the revolution that shall restore the kingdom. It is lawful to hope to hear the wind of Heaven in the trees. It is lawful to pray “Thine anger come on earth as it is in Heaven.”

Chesterton’s point in the essay is that just just as the invisible force of the wind moves the trees, so too does the invisible forces of spirit come before the violence and madness of human revolt. “No man has ever seen a revolution,” G.K.C. summarizes.

It is certainly not the popular interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer. Yet as with most Chesterton quotes, once he points out the odd interpretation in makes a great deal of sense. We pray for the coming of the kingdom. We pray for His will to be done on earth. And what He said he came to bring was a fire that would consume the earth.

Does that fire consume the earth now? Does it even consume you? Is there a zeal, a passion, burning in your soul like the bush that spoke to Moses, or that pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the desert?

If not, then pray for the revolution. Pray for the turning (volution) again (re) of your heart and mind back to the things of God. Turn away, again and again, from the things of this world.

All we can directly effect with our own will is our own person. The eternal revolution for which we pray every time we say the Our Father is therefore first and foremost an internal revolution. When properly burning within us, it will catch on to the world around us.

Nurture the flame of the spirit within yourself. Discipline your self, your mind, and your heart to follow the Lord’s will more and more closely every day.

And pray for revolution.

Paul Nowak is a husband and father of 7, who also happens to be a writer and author. He has written The Way of the Christian Samurai among other books.