North Korean propaganda mural (from here)

I am in the process of reading HERETICS by Gilbert K. Chesterton.  Who was he?

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) cannot be summed up in one sentence. Nor in one paragraph. In fact, in spite of the fine biographies that have been written of him, he has never been captured between the covers of one book. But rather than waiting to separate the goats from the sheep, let’s just come right out and say it: G.K. Chesterton was the best writer of the 20th century. He said something about everything and he said it better than anybody else. But he was no mere wordsmith. He was very good at expressing himself, but more importantly, he had something very good to express. The reason he was the greatest writer of the 20th century was because he was also the greatest thinker of the 20th century. (from here)

Was Chesterton that great? Well, he certainly has a fan club, and it is worth reading what that fan club has to say. I am certainly becoming a fan. Unfortunately, Chesterton fame does not match the assessment above. Why? I think the reason is that Chesterton was an advocate of Christianity and Catholicism. So whatever Chesterton’s merits, secular public school systems don’t have much interest in propagating what he wrote.

Because our public school system picks and choose what we learn, we know much less about our past than we should. Instead of letting state selected academics decide what we should read about our past, we each should strive to read the works that were famous and influential in their time. Hence, I am looking into Chesterton and sharing what I find.

What is HERETICS about? We live in an era that lauds heresy. Chesterton strenuously objected to that.

For these reasons, and for many more, I for one have come to believe in going back to fundamentals. Such is the general idea of this book. I wish to deal with my most distinguished contemporaries, not personally or in a merely literary manner, but in relation to the real body of doctrine which they teach. I am not concerned with Mr. Rudyard Kipling as a vivid artist or a vigorous personality; I am concerned with him as a Heretic—that is to say, a man whose view of things has the hardihood to differ from mine. I am not concerned with Mr. Bernard Shaw as one of the most brilliant and one of the most honest men alive; I am concerned with him as a Heretic—that is to say, a man whose philosophy is quite solid, quite coherent, and quite wrong. I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.

Suppose that a great commotion arises in the street about something, let us say a lamp-post, which many influential persons desire to pull down. A grey-clad monk, who is the spirit of the Middle Ages, is approached upon the matter, and begins to say, in the arid manner of the Schoolmen, “Let us first of all consider, my brethren, the value of Light. If Light be in itself good—” At this point he is somewhat excusably knocked down. All the people make a rush for the lamp-post, the lamp-post is down in ten minutes, and they go about congratulating each other on their unmediaeval practicality. But as things go on they do not work out so easily. Some people have pulled the lamp-post down because they wanted the electric light; some because they wanted old iron; some because they wanted darkness, because their deeds were evil. Some thought it not enough of a lamp-post, some too much; some acted because they wanted to smash municipal machinery; some because they wanted to smash something. And there is war in the night, no man knowing whom he strikes. So, gradually and inevitably, to-day, to-morrow, or the next day, there comes back the conviction that the monk was right after all, and that all depends on what is the philosophy of Light. Only what we might have discussed under the gas-lamp, we now must discuss in the dark. (from here)


Currently, I am reading what Chesterton had to say about Mr. Rudyard Kipling. Here is an excerpt that I find oddly relevant to the debate on our Second Amendment rights.

Now, Mr. Kipling is certainly wrong in his worship of militarism, but his opponents are, generally speaking, quite as wrong as he. The evil of militarism is not that it shows certain men to be fierce and haughty and excessively warlike. The evil of militarism is that it shows most men to be tame and timid and excessively peaceable. The professional soldier gains more and more power as the general courage of a community declines. Thus the Praetorian guard became more and more important in Rome as Rome became more and more luxurious and feeble. The military man gains the civil power in proportion as the civilian loses the military virtues. And as it was in ancient Rome so it is in contemporary Europe. There never was a time when nations were more militarist. There never was a time when men were less brave. All ages and all epics have sung of arms and the man; but we have effected simultaneously the deterioration of the man and the fantastic perfection of the arms. Militarism demonstrated the decadence of Rome, and it demonstrates the decadence of Prussia. (from here)

Guns are just tools. Our trunks and cars can be just as lethal. We routinely take aspirin and other drugs that are far more dangerous, if misused. We fill our homes with electrical devices we have to understand to use safely.  Yet guns, especially guns that look like military weapons even if they lack the capabilities of such weapons, now require banning?  When many people seem quite capable of keeping semiautomatic weapon safely in their homes — have done so for generations — what is the problem? Why do guns now require banning? What is the source of this irrational fear? Whatever it is, it does not seem to be something entirely new.

Why did Chesterton think Kipling worshiped militarism? Consider the next paragraph.

And unconsciously Mr. Kipling has proved this, and proved it admirably. For in so far as his work is earnestly understood the military trade does not by any means emerge as the most important or attractive. He has not written so well about soldiers as he has about railway men or bridge builders, or even journalists. The fact is that what attracts Mr. Kipling to militarism is not the idea of courage, but the idea of discipline. There was far more courage to the square mile in the Middle Ages, when no king had a standing army, but every man had a bow or sword. But the fascination of the standing army upon Mr. Kipling is not courage, which scarcely interests him, but discipline, which is, when all is said and done, his primary theme. The modern army is not a miracle of courage; it has not enough opportunities, owing to the cowardice of everybody else. But it is really a miracle of organization, and that is the truly Kiplingite ideal. Kipling’s subject is not that valour which properly belongs to war, but that interdependence and efficiency which belongs quite as much to engineers, or sailors, or mules, or railway engines. And thus it is that when he writes of engineers, or sailors, or mules, or steam-engines, he writes at his best. The real poetry, the “true romance” which Mr. Kipling has taught, is the romance of the division of labour and the discipline of all the trades. He sings the arts of peace much more accurately than the arts of war. And his main contention is vital and valuable. Every thing is military in the sense that everything depends upon obedience. There is no perfectly epicurean corner; there is no perfectly irresponsible place. Everywhere men have made the way for us with sweat and submission. We may fling ourselves into a hammock in a fit of divine carelessness. But we are glad that the net-maker did not make the hammock in a fit of divine carelessness. We may jump upon a child’s rocking-horse for a joke. But we are glad that the carpenter did not leave the legs of it unglued for a joke. So far from having merely preached that a soldier cleaning his side-arm is to be adored because he is military, Kipling at his best and clearest has preached that the baker baking loaves and the tailor cutting coats is as military as anybody. (from here)

Banning our tools is not the answer. Overbearing gun control is not the answer. The answer is insisting upon self-discipline because we care about each other.


  1. If the liberal mind really cared about preserving life, they would wake up to the legal killing of innocents in the operating room, aka abortion, where the silent triggers of the ‘tool guns’ slay more in a day than a crazed killer in a thousand years.

    Like most things, the close minded and incompetent brain does not allow to see its own ignorance. But guns? Ha, take them off the Hollywood elite and their bodyguards, watch how that works. Oh wait, their lives are more valuable than yours and worthy of protection.

    What do we need? More laws so the criminals can laugh. It’s not funny though.

    1. @ColorStorm

      As far as I can tell, the only reason the elites “fear” guns is because the elites want to control who has them. There is really nothing new about this. People always think their group is so “right” that their group ought to be able to boss around everyone else. Close minded and incompetent brains forget we belong to God, not the elites or some vaguely defined “majority”.

      What once made America great is that we realized why we were form as a republic. We were formed as republic, not a democracy, to restrain our government, even when the majority approves, from violating the God-given rights of the minority. Now we have trouble persuading the people who run this nation that we even have God-given rights. What a sad state we have fallen to!

  2. I have heard much of Chesterton’s writing, but haven’t dug into his works yet… You’ve given me a “teaser” and I’m definitely going to have to start reading now. Thank you! God bless you, Tom!

  3. “Prince of the paradox”, although you may find that his overuse of this literary device gets a little tedious after a while.

    I’m kind of a fan of Chesterton, and a fan of Chesterton’s frenemy, George Bernhard Shaw.

  4. Kind of a fun meme floating around, Tom. It says, “you don’t have to like guns, that’s your right. You don’t have to believe in God, that’s your choice, But when someone breaks into your house the first thing you’re going to do is call for some guns and start praying they get there in time.”

    I like the concept because it reveals our hypocrisy and cuts through all the bravado and talk. The argument we are having isn’t about guns at all, it’s about who is worthy to wield authority and responsibility in our culture. Who is qualified to be a grown up? It’s worrisome when we start to collectively believe someone else should be the grown up because we aren’t qualified ourselves. Unfortunately that same attitude is permeating many of our cultural problems. We are wrestling with who the grown up should be, forgetting that we are not a nation of dependent children.

    1. We are wrestling with who the grown up should be, forgetting that we are not a nation of dependent children.

      Had not thought of it that way, but it seems close to the truth. Refusing to grow up is essentially the basis for Socialism.

      1. They don’t make em like they use to Tom! Chesterton always has put me in the mind of Churchill— not for a common religious belief mind you as Churchill was politician and statesman and defender of the Realm while Chesterton rose to be an undeniable Defender of the faith— and that being not merely a catholic faith but a globally Christian faith— each man knew how to work the english language like a piercing sword driving Home important point after point

  5. This following statement interested me in regards to the present guns debate.

    “There was far more courage to the square mile in the Middle Ages, when no king had a standing army, but every man had a bow or sword.”

    Compare it to a King Solomon proverb.

    Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself; and discover not a secret to another. (Proverb 259:9)

    Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself,…. Between thee and him alone; lay the matter before him, and hear what he has to say for himself, by which you will better judge of the nature of the cause; try to compromise things, and make up the difference between you, which is much better than to commence a lawsuit; at least such a step should be taken first; see Matthew 5:25;

    and discover not a secret to another; if the thing in controversy is a secret, do not acquaint another person with it; keep it among yourselves, if the affair can be made up without bringing it into a court of judicature; besides, by communicating it to others, you may have bad counsel given, and be led to take indirect methods: or, “the secret of another”, or, “another secret do not discover” (b); if you know anything scandalous and reproachful of your neighbour and his family, you are contending with, which does not concern the cause in hand, do not divulge it, as persons from a spirit of revenge are apt to do, when they are quarrelling or litigating a point with each other.

    What’s My Point

    Too many people, in my opinion, no longer believe they should become involved in problems or disputes. They rely on police, military, lawyers, or judges to defend themselves or their causes.

    Over time, they become depended on others to defend them instead of themselves.

    Perhaps over time this leads to another form of dependency on government and lessening of self- reliance and even courage?

    If you live in a dangerous neighborhood, you would understand better how long it takes for a policeman to come to your aid if you are face to face with a threat of bodily harm.

    That is one reason, the Supreme Court sided with the Chicago man who challenged his right to have a gun in his home to defend himself and won over the city ordinance that made it unlawful to own a gun.

    Over time, dependency on others leads to less courage on your own?
    In regards to secret, it goes two ways.

    People living in a dangerous neighborhood keep secret rather than become witnesses against bad guys for fear of reprisal.

    That is a different kind of secret than the Proverb eludes which is someone makes public a dispute, the problem can worsen and never be resolved between the parties.

    When parties become involved in disputes, some parties become gangs who have guns,. Then the problems worsen and the neighborhoods become even more dangerous to live in.

    If you become a witness against a gang today with guns, woe is thee if you do not have courage and a gun. Perhaps that’s why AR_15 are becoming more popular to good and bad guys buying them.

    Question becomes do guns create , or prevent anarchy?

    Do guns help preserve individual courage and independence, and/or freedom?

    Regards and goodwill blogging.

    1. Thanks for a thoughtful comment.

      Question becomes do guns create , or prevent anarchy?

      Do guns help preserve individual courage and independence, and/or freedom?

      Experience seems to indicate that armed people leave each other in peace. Bullies bully people who either cannot or don’t have the courage to defend themselves. Maniacs tend to be scarce, and even those people tend to turn up where they can kill people who either cannot or don’t have the courage to defend themselves.

      When I go door-to-door, campaigning for the candidates I support, I run into lots of people who resent the mere fact I have knocked on their door. This is before I have said or done anything. Why? Well, I can understand their annoyance to some extent. We get a fair number of solicitors, but these days solicitors mostly harass us with our ring tones, not our door bells. So this is an overreaction, but why? I think too many people just want to climb into the little womb they have made for themselves and hide there, and they grow frustrated when they cannot do that.

      You say:

      They rely on police, military, lawyers, or judges to defend themselves or their causes.

      Apathy is perhaps the major issue of our day. When news becomes entertainment, it ceases to inform. Instead, the news media just becomes another one of the vehicles powerful interests use to manipulate the relative few willing to take the time to vote.

      Our current situation thus borders on suicidal. What makes the apathetic think they can rely upon people they are so determined to know nothing about?

      Fortunately, I still encounter people who have some idea of what is going on. Do they all agree with me? No, but I would rather have disagreement than apathy. What does Jesus ask for from us first? Eyes that can see and ears that will hear. The lukewarm, those neither hot nor cold — those who do not care — those He spits out.

      1. I did my share of door knocking in a campaign. It is an enlightening experience. What amazed me even more is how easily it was to obtain signatures in comparison of people who acturally came out to vote.

        Made me wonder if they just signed to get rid of me and avoid any conversation or perhaps a conflict.

        Too many people are becoming apathetic recluses in their communities, in my opinion.

        Regards goodwill blogging and good luck for you candidate.

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