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It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

This statement should be approached by a modern American thinker in the same way one drives to the top of Pike's Peak: gradually in sprirals, ever higher around the mountain. In my first post on this quotation, I gave a brief introduction to Chesterton the man. Today I want to introduce briefly his political/social thought. I'll begin with some quotations from his writings.

First, from the Father Brown story "The Crime of the Communist" Father Brown speaking:

. . . I told you that heresies and false doctrines had become common and conversational; that everybody was used to them; that nobody really noticed them. Did you think I meant Communism when I said that? Why, it was just the other way. You were all as nervous as cats about Communism; and you watched Craken like a wolf. Of course, Communism is a heresy; but it isn't a heresy that you people take for granted. It is Capitalism you take for granted; or rather the vices of Capitalism disguised as a dead Darwinism. Do you recall what you were all saying in the Common Room, about life being only a scramble, and nature demanding the survival of the fittest, and how it doesn't matter whether the poor are paid justly or not? Why that is the heresy that you have grown accustomed to, my friends; and its every bit as much a heresy as Communism. That's the anti-Christian morality or immorality that you take quite naturally. . . . (more below)

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"It cannot be too often repeated that what destroyed the Family in the modern world was Capitalism." G.K. Chesterton in "Three Foes of the Family" found in the collection of his essays The Well and the Shallows.

Chesterton was much too brilliant a thinker and a writer to dismiss anything he says. I want to do a few posts in reflection on that quotation. But first, some background.

G.K. Chesterton wrote widely and prolifically, amounting to about 100 volumes. I copy this brief biography from this website on Chesterton.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of May, 1874. Though he considered himself a mere "rollicking journalist," he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature. A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people--such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells--with whom he vehemently disagreed.

Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War. His 1922
Eugenics and Other Evils attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself. In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once "reactionary" views.

His poetry runs the gamut from the comic
"The Logical Vegetarian" to dark and serious ballads. During the dark days of 1940, when Britain stood virtually alone against the armed might of Nazi Germany, these lines from his 1911 Ballad of the White Horse were often quoted:

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.

Though not written for a scholarly audience, his biographies of authors and historical figures like Charles Dickens and St. Francis of Assisi often contain brilliant insights into their subjects. His "Father Brown" mystery stories, written between 1911 and 1936, are still being read and adapted for television.
His politics fitted with his deep distrust of concentrated wealth and power of any sort. Along with his friend Hilaire Belloc and in books like the 1910
What's Wrong with the World he advocated a view called "Distributism" that is best summed up by his expression that every man ought to be allowed to own "three acres and a cow." Though not known as a political thinker, his political influence has circled the world. Some see in him the father of the "small is beautiful" movement and a newspaper article by him is credited with provoking Gandhi to seek a "genuine" nationalism for India. Orthodoxy belongs to yet another area of literature at which Chesterton excelled. A fun-loving and gregarious man, he was nevertheless troubled in his adolescence by thoughts of suicide. In Christianity he found the answers to the dilemmas and paradoxes he saw in life. Other books in that same series include his 1905 Heretics and its sequel Orthodoxy and his 1925 The Everlasting Man.

Chesterton died on the 14th of June, 1936 in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. During his life he published 69 books and at least another ten have been published after his death. Many of those books are still in print.

Next time, Chesterton's political theory.

This link is to the American Chesterton Society

This is a link to the website of a magazine dedicated to his thought and writings.
When my wife and I were newlyweds in the late '70s, the retired couple in the next trailer invited us over for supper. Most of the evening was spent listening to their sales pitch for past-life regression hypnosis along with stories of their "past lives." They were into some sort of Americanized verzion of some sort of Buddhism. Then the woman said, "That's why I am so against abortion, it breaks the karmic cycle."

From listening to the MSM, one would assume that all pro-life activists were right-wing evangelical and Roman Catholic fanatics. While I suspect that the largest group of anti-abortion Americans fit into that category, it certainly does not cover everyone.

Check out these sites:

Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League Homepage

Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians

Libertarians for Life

Feminism & Nonviolence Studies

A Buddhist Look at Abortion

Jews for Life

Pagans for Life