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5/20/14

G.K. Chesterton's Christianity & The Nightmare of The Modern World

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874 – 1936) stood 6 feet 4 inches and weighed 290 pounds. During WWI he was asked by a lady why he was in London and not at the front fighting the Hun, to which he replied, "If you go round to the side, you will see that I am." Chesterton once told vegetarian George Bernard Shaw, "To look at you, anyone would think a famine had struck England." Shaw shot back, "To look at you, anyone would think you have caused it".
P. G. Wodehouse once described a very loud crash as "a sound like Chesterton falling onto a sheet of tin."

G.K Chesterton was as brilliant as he was a prolific polymath. He wrote about "philosophy, ontology, poetry, play writing, journalism, public lecturing and debating, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction." G.B. Shaw wrote that he "was a man of colossal genius."

Chesterton said that "The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." A Christian, he converted to Roman Catholicism from Anglicanism.


John Gray notes that Chesterton ridiculed the "Edwardian belief in progress," and that he "believed that things had gone downhill after the break-up of Christendom in early modern times. Like other early 20th-century reactionary thinkers - his friends Hilaire Belloc and T S Eliot, for example - Chesterton looked backwards not forwards for inspiration." Chesterton believed in "distributism," a view that "the future lay not with capitalism or socialism, but with the restoration of an earlier social order in which everyone was a property-holder."

Of Chesterton's Christianity, Gray notes of "The Man Who Was Thursday" that it is "subtitled A Nightmare, a coda that indicates [Chesterton's] unease. The novel gives the lie to his Christian faith in a meaningful universe. In an article published on 13 June 1936, the day before he died, he insisted that a nightmare was all that the book recounted: 'It was not intended to describe the real world as it was, or as I thought it was . . . It was intended to describe the world of wild doubt and despair, which the pessimists were generally describing at that date'."

Gray adds that "in the orderly Christian cosmos, in which Chesterton wanted to believe, nothing is finally tragic, still less absurd. The world is a divine comedy, the ultimate significance of which is never in doubt. In The Man Who Was Thursday, the world is illegible and may well be nonsensical. This was the nightmare he struggled, for the most part successfully, to forget." More

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