"I sought among them for a man that might set up a hedge, and stand in the gap before me in favor of the land." Ezekiel 22:30

Monday, December 30, 2013

G.K. Chesterton on Pope Francis

G.K. Chesterton has written some amazing things about our new Holy Father, Pope Francis.

I know what you're thinking: "But Chesterton has been dead for, like, a hundred years, right?"

Yes, he has been. But brilliant writers are brilliant for many reasons, especially their ability to describe events they weren't even around to experience. They can accomplish this feat because great writers have tremendous insight into the human experience and psychology. And guess what? Human nature doesn't change.

So what did ol' Gilbert have to say about Papa Francesco? Here's a wonderful excerpt from his brilliant work Orthodoxy in which he describes Christianity by use of metaphor:
Suppose we heard an unknown man spoken of by many men. Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape. Outrageously tall men might feel him to be short. Very short men might feel him to be tall. Old bucks who are growing stout might consider him insufficiently filled out; old beaux who were growing thin might feel that he expanded beyond the narrow lines of elegance.
Does this sound in the least familiar? Does it not describe in some ways the predicament of Christianity in it's purest form? But even more appropriate for our time, it seems to describe the situation of our beloved Pope Francis where the liberal press fawns over him, declares him "Man of the Year" and then shirks back when he it is publicized that he opposes adoption by homosexual couples.

Oh the shock! The horror! The outrage! This Pope must be, of all things... Catholic!?

In other news, water is still wet.

The quote above was from a chapter which Chesterton titled "The Paradoxes of Christianity" but he might as well have called it "An Outline of Christianity by Metaphor", or "A Description of Pope Francis", or even "A Description of How Every Pope and Catholic Should Be." The possibilities are endless really. Christianity, but specifically the Catholic faith which Gilbert practiced, does not fit in a box. It is not easily defined. It is neither "right" nor "left"; "conservative" or "liberal." It is no more brutal than it is merciful; no more complex than it is beautifully simple.

Chesterton goes on to say:
[I]t is exactly this which explains what is so inexplicable to all modern critics of the history of Christianity. I mean the mostrous wars about small points of theology, the earthquakes of emotion about a gesture or a word. It was only a matter of an inch; but an inch is everything when you are balancing. The Church could not afford to swerve a hair's breadth on some things if she was to continue her great and daring experiment of the irregular equilibrium. Once let one idea become less powerful and some other idea would become too powerful. It was no flock of sheep the Christians shepherd was leading, but a heard of bulls and tigers...
Beautiful, no? 
This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There was never anything so perilous or exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad... It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own.
If you think you "get" Pope Francis, if you're confused, or just aren't sure what to think, might I suggest you find a copy of Orthodoxy and read it yourself. The book is flowing and poetic, albeit dense at first. If you can't stay awake during the first few chapters, skip to the sixth chapter "The Paradoxes of Christianity."

Trust me and read the chapter. Only then will you begin to understand.

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