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Article on Chesterton

Plato to MacDonald to Chesterton, Tolkien and the Boys in the Pub.

Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby agingjb » 22 Jun 2009, 07:15

Lewis discusses the meaning of "gentleman" in the preface to Mere Christianity; as a parallel to what Lewis regards as, at best, imprecise usages of "Christian".
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Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby Adam Linton » 06 Jul 2009, 01:09

OK; I post this with considerable hesitation--as I think that this thread, in some respects, came to exemplify some Wardrobe issues with which I am concerned (having mostly to do with the R, S, & P forum, which I have discussed elsewhere). Aside from a couple of brief posts in support of John and JRosemary, I dropped out of this conversation a while ago.

I'm wondering, however, if conscience may not be leading me to say a couple of things.

First, some remarks about how one studies anything or anyone: specifically how to study--to the point of expertise--something or someone no longer around to observe or ask in person. Essentially one must read/research both in and around one's topic. And, if one is seeking to understand how two topics, "X" and "Y", relate, one has to do so in and around both "X" and "Y". Sorry to sound my own horn, here, but I am substantially trained in classic, traditional academic disciplines. So, I can tell you that it just won't cut it for someone to say, "I've read everything that 'X' wrote, so I can give an authoritative word on 'X and Y'." Furthermore, academic study requires us to be able to ask challenging questions even of figures we have good reason to love and respect--without prior commitments on our part that come hell or high water, in the end we will find a way to let the person we are studying off the hook.

This was warm-up to what I feel I need to say. Now, proceeding to the matter at hand: Chesterton and anti-Semiticism.

We are fortunate that anti-Semitism has been discussed and studied, in fact extensively researched, from a number of perspectives, for a long time. The language of anti-Semiticism has an observable, traceable history--its own sad "paradosis," as it were. Anti-Semiticism, of course, exists in a wide range of intensity, from silent by-stander, lower level maintainer of unflattering stereotypes, all the way to genocidal perpetrator. Of course, there are commensurate, differing degrees of moral culpability in these intensities. But all levels, even unintentional, even those occuring among those at lower levels who are outraged at the high-level manifest crimes, serve--in some way--to preserve/reinforce the fundamental negative bias, and hence help preserve the social matrices in which the horrible crimes (as well as the petty and not-so-petty oppressions) are possible. This does not mean that those who only repeat, mostly by way of being a part of their own cultures, negative anti-Semitic characterizations, are simply to be written off as evil. By no means! And where is it written that faulted people have no part in the world's healing? And we certainly are able to learn from, love, and respect imperfect beings.

It is my conviction that Christians never should have--and now can certainly not allow themselves--to excuse and equivocate in the face of anti-Semiticism. Love and honor our forebearers in faith; cherish their ongoing gifts to us--absolutely! But also name their failings for what they were. By doing both of these we offer them (and our tradition) the most genuine respect. We also need to acknowledge our tradition's real complicity in the whole heartbeaking story.

Reviewing this thread, including the direct, substantial quotes from Chesterton, himself--I have to say that it is indisputable to me that he participated in/perpetuated some anti-Semitic characterizations: very specific language and terminologies that have their well-identified, well-traced long history. This history is not neutral; it comes out of hostility and leads to hostility. So neither is the language neutral; it is, as it must be, reinforcing.

Additionally, I have to say that there are a couple of posts in this thread that I found (and find) troubling, as well. However, I'm grateful to John for having taken these on. And I'm grateful, as well, for Karen and JRosemary, for their contributions in the course of this discussion. For my part, I think that I've now said my peace.
we have not loosely through silence permitted things to pass away as in a dream
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Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby rusmeister » 06 Jul 2009, 18:19

Adam Linton wrote:OK; I post this with considerable hesitation--as I think that this thread, in some respects, came to exemplify some Wardrobe issues with which I am concerned (having mostly to do with the R, S, & P forum, which I have discussed elsewhere). Aside from a couple of brief posts in support of John and JRosemary, I dropped out of this conversation a while ago.

I'm wondering, however, if conscience may not be leading me to say a couple of things.

First, some remarks about how one studies anything or anyone: specifically how to study--to the point of expertise--something or someone no longer around to observe or ask in person. Essentially one must read/research both in and around one's topic. And, if one is seeking to understand how two topics, "X" and "Y", relate, one has to do so in and around both "X" and "Y". Sorry to sound my own horn, here, but I am substantially trained in classic, traditional academic disciplines. So, I can tell you that it just won't cut it for someone to say, "I've read everything that 'X' wrote, so I can give an authoritative word on 'X and Y'." Furthermore, academic study requires us to be able to ask challenging questions even of figures we have good reason to love and respect--without prior commitments on our part that come hell or high water, in the end we will find a way to let the person we are studying off the hook.

This was warm-up to what I feel I need to say. Now, proceeding to the matter at hand: Chesterton and anti-Semiticism.

We are fortunate that anti-Semitism has been discussed and studied, in fact extensively researched, from a number of perspectives, for a long time. The language of anti-Semiticism has an observable, traceable history--its own sad "paradosis," as it were. Anti-Semiticism, of course, exists in a wide range of intensity, from silent by-stander, lower level maintainer of unflattering stereotypes, all the way to genocidal perpetrator. Of course, there are commensurate, differing degrees of moral culpability in these intensities. But all levels, even unintentional, even those occuring among those at lower levels who are outraged at the high-level manifest crimes, serve--in some way--to preserve/reinforce the fundamental negative bias, and hence help preserve the social matrices in which the horrible crimes (as well as the petty and not-so-petty oppressions) are possible. This does not mean that those who only repeat, mostly by way of being a part of their own cultures, negative anti-Semitic characterizations, are simply to be written off as evil. By no means! And where is it written that faulted people have no part in the world's healing? And we certainly are able to learn from, love, and respect imperfect beings.

It is my conviction that Christians never should have--and now can certainly not allow themselves--to excuse and equivocate in the face of anti-Semiticism. Love and honor our forebearers in faith; cherish their ongoing gifts to us--absolutely! But also name their failings for what they were. By doing both of these we offer them (and our tradition) the most genuine respect. We also need to acknowledge our tradition's real complicity in the whole heartbeaking story.

Reviewing this thread, including the direct, substantial quotes from Chesterton, himself--I have to say that it is indisputable to me that he participated in/perpetuated some anti-Semitic characterizations: very specific language and terminologies that have their well-identified, well-traced long history. This history is not neutral; it comes out of hostility and leads to hostility. So neither is the language neutral; it is, as it must be, reinforcing.

Additionally, I have to say that there are a couple of posts in this thread that I found (and find) troubling, as well. However, I'm grateful to John for having taken these on. And I'm grateful, as well, for Karen and JRosemary, for their contributions in the course of this discussion. For my part, I think that I've now said my peace.


I think this is just going around in circles, Adam.
I would agree that it doesn't necessarily follow, as you say, "I've read everything that 'X' wrote, so I can give an authoritative word on 'X and Y'." However, since the case I am speaking about is my own, I have inside knowledge, and know that it DOES follow. (I also hold advanced degrees in literature, and have some special training of my own.) But what I said about context is incredibly important, and it's something that, from the conclusions you have drawn, I concur that you just don't have. You have to read a) a work in its entirety, not merely the Gopnik soundbites, and b) the quantity of material written by someone, and read by others, really does give a much more thorough context for understanding what he's saying. Without that context, you're approaching the text like Philadelphia lawyers trying to find something to poke a hole in. With that context, you understand what he's trying to say, even if there are spite of inaccuracies of expression (which we are all guilty of at times), because you've seen him express it 50 other times in several dozen other works.

I don't have anything else to say, because it's already been said. I see no reason to repeat the reasoned defense that has already gone before. I think it good that these concerns be raised, and answered, as they are every decade or so, but if you are still unsatisfied, then there's nothing to say. The cure is to read more Chesterton. :smile:
"Eh? Two views? There are a dozen views about everything until you know the answer. Then there's never more than one."
Bill "The Blizzard" Hingest - That Hideous Strength
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Re: Article on Chesterton

Postby astrid » 12 Sep 2009, 22:53

In his life and friendships GK was deeply pro Jewish and loved his Jewish friends. It was a time when the political correctness of our day, if indeed it is political correctness, was simply not there. Agatha Christie saying :censored: with no bat of an eyelash, people were outspoken and said things even about their own peoples and cultures.
I am a Jewess descended from the house of David and I am a great fan of Chesterton's works and i have read and own many. I have never read a thing that offends me. I am a writer and a great deal of time I must do research to get at a thing from all angles.
I did this with GK and and quite satisfied he was not an anti semite and meant no harm by his words. Perhaps you have never sat among a larg party of Jews and listened to them talking about gentiles and wht not. It could curl your hair, providing you have some. :)
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