Thursday, January 21, 2010

Chesterton's Revolution, Part II

Chesterton's solution is revolutionary. I quote it at length:

"If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution."

This is a radical solution, yet is it not fundamentally human?

He concludes, "That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed."

My first reaction was, "Amen!" But as I reflected further, I realized the revolutionary nature of his resolution may be worse than the disease. Chesterton's revolutionary stand ultimately rests in either violent upheavel, gospel transformation, or delusion. As Jacques Ellul argues, violent revolution only begets more violence. Chesterton himself argues that government "is force," as Ellul argues. This hardly seems productive. Gospel transformation alone may be the remedy. Where does this leave us? Penitent, prayerful, and proselytizing.

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