Tag Archives: revolution

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.

Pigs, America, and Property in Revolution

This past weekend, we marked the anniversary of American independence, with much fanfare and perhaps some somber remembrance.  One of the items that tends to circulate is a list of the sacrifices faced by the signatories of the Declaration.

While some of the extreme losses are exaggerated, as Snopes.com points out, some of the more trivial sacrifices were left out. Serving on the Continental Congress was not a profitable measure by any means; the business and family life of the Founding Fathers suffered in their absence, while they directed their energy and attention to something they thought was more precious.

In our family, it is a tradition to watch the musical 1776 around this time, which attempts to portray the mental anguish of John Adams, among others, during the few fateful months in the summer of ’76.

In the remarkable timing that is God’s, I heard a challenging sermon on the driving out of the demons and casting of them into swine in Matthew 8. In the biblical account, Jesus cast out demons from two men that were terrorizing a region. So fierce were they, that passage on that road was impossible. Jesus allowed the demons to take possession of a heard of swine, which were destroyed. At this, the people of the area pleaded with Jesus to leave them.

The core of the sermon on this story was that the people feared the loss of their possessions more than what Jesus had to offer them. He delivered two of their neighbors from demons, liberated the area from the violent actions of the men which restricted travel, and who knows what else He could have brought them in the way of salvation. Instead, the people were afraid of what else they might lose, besides their herds of swine.

Are we afraid of the loss of our possessions, our welfare, and our material security as we try to follow Jesus? If we are, we risk pushing Him away. Like the American Founding Fathers, we must be willing to risk everything that we might give our all to following the greatest of causes – the pursuit of the Kingdom of God. The revolution to seek the Kingdom will cost us dearly, are we really ready to make those sacrifices?

 

Photo Courtesy Timothy J 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.

The Wind, The Trees, and Revolution – G.K. Chesterton Guest Post

This essay, which appears in the volume Tremendous Trifles, is an important one to me and the idea of Eternal Revolution for (at least) two great reasons. First, it explains the idea that revolution is never the actions of mankind, for the revolution must always start as a spiritual movement towards an ideal. Second, it reminds us that it is right and just to pray for revolution. 

 

I am sitting under tall trees, with a great wind boiling like surf about the tops of them, so that their living load of leaves rocks and roars in something that is at once exultation and agony. I feel, in fact, as if I were actually sitting at the bottom of the sea among mere anchors and ropes, while over my head and over the green twilight of water sounded the everlasting rush of waves and the toil and crash and shipwreck of tremendous ships. The wind tugs at the trees as if it might pluck them root and all out of the earth like tufts of grass. Or, to try yet another desperate figure of speech for this unspeakable energy, the trees are straining and tearing and lashing as if they were a tribe of dragons each tied by the tail.
As I look at these top-heavy giants tortured by an invisible and violent witchcraft, a phrase comes back into my mind. I remember a little boy of my acquaintance who was once walking in Battersea Park under just such torn skies and tossing trees. He did not like the wind at all; it blew in his face too much; it made him shut his eyes; and it blew off his hat, of which he was very proud. He was, as far as I remember, about four. After complaining repeatedly of the atmospheric unrest, he said at last to his mother, “Well, why don’t you take away the trees, and then it wouldn’t wind.”
Nothing could be more intelligent or natural than this mistake. Any one looking for the first time at the trees might fancy that they were indeed vast and titanic fans, which by their mere waving agitated the air around them for miles. Nothing, I say, could be more human and excusable than the belief that it is the trees which make the wind. Indeed, the belief is so human and excusable that it is, as a matter of fact, the belief of about ninety-nine out of a hundred of the philosophers, reformers, sociologists, and politicians of the great age in which we live. My small friend was, in fact, very like the principal modern thinkers; only much nicer.
In the little apologue or parable which he has thus the honour of inventing, the trees stand for all visible things and the wind for the invisible. The wind is the spirit which bloweth where it listeth; the trees are the material things of the world which are blown where the spirit lists. The wind is philosophy, religion, revolution; the trees are cities and civilisations. We only know that there is a wind because the trees on some distant hill suddenly go mad. We only know that there is a real revolution because all the chimney-pots go mad on the whole skyline of the city.
Just as the ragged outline of a tree grows suddenly more ragged and rises into fantastic crests or tattered tails, so the human city rises under the wind of the spirit into toppling temples or sudden spires. No man has ever seen a revolution. Mobs pouring through the palaces, blood pouring down the gutters, the guillotine lifted higher than the throne, a prison in ruins, a people in arms–these things are not revolution, but the results of revolution.
You cannot see a wind; you can only see that there is a wind. So, also, you cannot see a revolution; you can only see that there is a revolution. And there never has been in the history of the world a real revolution, brutally active and decisive, which was not preceded by unrest and new dogma in the reign of invisible things. All revolutions began by being abstract. Most revolutions began by being quite pedantically abstract.
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.”
The great human dogma, then, is that the wind moves the trees. The great human heresy is that the trees move the wind. When people begin to say that the material circumstances have alone created the moral circumstances, then they have prevented all possibility of serious change. For if my circumstances have made me wholly stupid, how can I be certain even that I am right in altering those circumstances?
The man who represents all thought as an accident of environment is simply smashing and discrediting all his own thoughts– including that one. To treat the human mind as having an ultimate authority is necessary to any kind of thinking, even free thinking. And nothing will ever be reformed in this age or country unless we realise that the moral fact comes first.
For example, most of us, I suppose, have seen in print and heard in debating clubs an endless discussion that goes on between Socialists and total abstainers. The latter say that drink leads to poverty; the former say that poverty leads to drink. I can only wonder at their either of them being content with such simple physical explanations. Surely it is obvious that the thing which among the English proletariat leads to poverty is the same as the thing which leads to drink; the absence of strong civic dignity, the absence of an instinct that resists degradation.
When you have discovered why enormous English estates were not long ago cut up into small holdings like the land of France, you will have discovered why the Englishman is more drunken than the Frenchman. The Englishman, among his million delightful virtues, really has this quality, which may strictly be called “hand to mouth,” because under its influence a man’s hand automatically seeks his own mouth, instead of seeking (as it sometimes should do) his oppressor’s nose. And a man who says that the English inequality in land is due only to economic causes, or that the drunkenness of England is due only to economic causes, is saying something so absurd that he cannot really have thought what he was saying.
Yet things quite as preposterous as this are said and written under the influence of that great spectacle of babyish helplessness, the economic theory of history. We have people who represent that all great historic motives were economic, and then have to howl at the top of their voices in order to induce the modern democracy to act on economic motives. The extreme Marxian politicians in England exhibit themselves as a small, heroic minority, trying vainly to induce the world to do what, according to their theory, the world always does. The truth is, of course, that there will be a social revolution the moment the thing has ceased to be purely economic. You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
I get up from under the trees, for the wind and the slight rain have ceased. The trees stand up like golden pillars in a clear sunlight. The tossing of the trees and the blowing of the wind have ceased simultaneously. So I suppose there are still modern philosophers who will maintain that the trees make the wind.

 

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.

Revolution Starts With You

It is all too easy to push off changing the world to things that “society,” “the future,” or even worse, “the government” ought to do.

You may have noticed we don’t talk a lot here on Eternal Revolution about current politics, if at all. Most of us can’t affect the power plays of the ruling class other than with our votes and the occasional participation in notification campaigns.

Leaving change to something society must do is lazy and cowardly. It reduces your requirement to change things in your life, in your world, and in your sphere of influence. The Eternal Revolution, like the Kingdom it is restoring, exists in its smallest, most nuclear form within you and your family.

Jesus did not call society to change. Rather, he said specifically that men’s hearts must change first. When teaching socio-economics, his command was “Go and sell what you have and give the money to the poor.” It was a a personal call to action, not a suggestion to join a political action committee.

Many of us would rather cut off a hand than quit a job, for instance. Even a morally questionable job, even though we are told to sever the ties that lead us to sin – even if it be a hand or an eye. Most of us fear criticism of our fellow man more than doing the right thing.

Most of the changes we need to make are not drastic, world-changing actions in the public eye. Looking to your personal economy. Look first to care for those who you have a divine charge to take care of – your children, your family, your neighbor. The revolution starts there. Don’t skip ahead.

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.