Thursday, June 07, 2007

Uncle Dr. Thursday

Strong Meat
I am quite busy just now, both with my usual employment, and with preparations for ChesterCon07. So I shall not write today, but rather give you a piece of "strong meat" from the pen of GKC. It is quite a bit different in tone - and you may find it surprising, or even shocking. You may be inspired to comment, or to prepare a talk for a future ChesterCon. It is good to recall such things, because we must always remember our dear Uncle Gilbert wielded a mighty weapon - his pen - in defence of truth and good and light.

We are called to that same war - for those of us who are baptised, we are vowed to it!

Please pray for me and all Chestertonians who will meet in St. Paul next week. I hope to report as I find time to do so.

Paradoxically yours,
Uncle Thursday.
Suppose we were at war, like the Children of Israel, with a Phoenician State vowed to the worship of Moloch, and practising infanticide by flinging babies into the fire. If we used strong words about smiting such enemies hip and thigh, I think it would be unreasonable in essence, though it might sound reasonable in form, for some sage to say to us: "Are there no good Phoenicians? Do not Phoenician widows mourn for their warriors? Is it probable that even Phoenician mothers are born without any motherly instincts?" The answer is that all this misses the main fact; which is a very extraordinary fact. The wonder is not that some Phoenician mothers love their babies, but that most Phoenician mothers burn their babies. That some mothers revolt against it is most probable; that many mothers have so many feelings urging them to revolt against it is almost certain. But Moloch is stronger than the mothers - that is the prodigious fact for the spectator, and the practical menace for the world. When Moloch's image is fallen, and his Land laid waste; when his worship has passed into history and remains only as a riddle of humanity - then indeed it may be well worth while to analyse the mixed motives, to reconstruct in romance or criticism the inconsistencies of cruelty and kindness. But Moloch is not fallen; Moloch is in his high place, and his furnaces consume mankind; his armies overrun the earth, and his ships threaten our own island. The question on the lips of any living man is not whether some who burn their children may nevertheless love their children, it is whether those who burn their children shall conquer those who don't. The parallel is practically quite justifiable; what we are fighting has all the regularity of a horrible religion. We are not at war with regrettable incidents or sad exceptions, but with a system like the system of sacrificing babies; a system of drowning neutrals, a system of enslaving civilians, a system of attacking hospital services, a system of exterminating chivalry. We do not say there are no exceptions; on the contrary, we say there are exceptions: it is our whole point that they are exceptions. But it is an almost creepy kind of frivolity that we should be speculating on the good exceptions at a moment when we ourselves are in peril of falling under the evil rule.
[GKC, ILN July 20 1918 CW31:333-334]


  1. NEVER tick off Gilbert Keith Chesterton!

  2. He didn't get angry in print often, but when he did, it was, as we used to say in the Marines, "time to stand the 'eff' by."

    Nothing like reading Chesterton when he's got a full head of steam.


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