Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Whats Missing In Christianity

I started reading G. K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy” last night. What I can’t figure out is how come I’m 53 years old and am just now discovering this book. You get to a point in life when you take on the conceit that you are reasonably “well read”, whatever the heck THAT means, then you stumble on the giant of a man that was Chesterton and you realize what a complete Philistine you actually are. I’m only 60 pages in and already I know that I’m reading a work of genius. I will do a complete review of this thing once I’m finished, but finishing will take some work. Humbly, I must admit that I have to read some sentences and a few entire paragraphs twice, even three times before it sinks in to my thick and slow head. But just about the time that I’m feeling stupid and over matched, he comes through with a line so hilarious, so engagingly witty, I at once feel totally comfortable and at home. Which brings me to a point that dawned on me in a flash 20 pages in, it’s what Christianity is missing, and has been missing for most of my life, a public, boisterous, joyful, intelligent wit.

Chesterton publicly debated the celebrated atheists of his day like H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw, and Bertrand Russell. Even though they disagreed about nearly everything, they were able to remain friends and live together in mutual respect. Most who attended these debates declared Chesterton the winner, even and especially his opponents, who couldn’t possibly compete with his infectious and garrulous personality and his biting yet disarming charm and wit. At 300 pounds, Chesterton took lots of abuse for his appearance, but did so with disarming humor like the time during World War I, when spotted walking down the street by a woman in London and asked accusingly, “Why aren’t you out at the front?!” He replied, “Dear lady, if you go round to the side, you will see that I am!” Once, when debating the views of Oscar Wilde he said, “ Oscar Wilde says that sunsets can’t be and shouldn’t be valued because we can’t pay for them. But Oscar Wilde is wrong because we can pay for them…by not being Oscar Wilde.” Chesterton was famously absent minded, which only added to his likability.
He once sent his wife an urgent telegram, “Am at Market Harborough. Where should I be?” To which
she relied, “Home.”

When people from the Christian community actually do try to engage the world today they do so in a dour, finger-pointing sort of way, hands wringing at the rampant immorality in our decadent world. While there is a ton of immorality out there, and in many ways our decadence owes Sodom and Gomorrah an apology, I long for a new Chesterton, who with intellect, clear thinking and brilliant wit, can make the case for biblical Christianity, and make a few friends along the way.

To be continued…