Common Sense Apostle
& Cigar Smoking Mystic, (part 2)
The Kingdom Called "The Family"
There are two central truths that Chesterton defends: the Family and the
Faith. All of modern society is waging a war on these two truths. The
attack on the family is an attack on life itself, and the attack on the
faith is an attack on the Creator of life.
Chesterton argues that the family is the basic unit of society, like the
cell is to the body. If you break apart the cell into smaller parts you
destroy the body. Thus, if we emphasize individual rights, we always undermine
the family, and we end up giving control to an outside and unnatural force:
the State. He says the only people who have a standard by which to criticize
the state are those to whom the family is sacred. The family is like a
little kingdom that creates and loves its own citizens. "The first
things must be the very fountains of life, love and birth and babyhood;
and these are always covered fountains, flowing in the quiet courts of
Chesterton says he has more sympathy with the "ordinary jolly burglar"
than with the cynical architect of the modern state, who "instead
of stealing decently for his family, wants to steal the very idea of a
family from his fellow-men." That is exactly what has happened. The
very idea of family has been stolen. There are enemies of the family who
are trying to destroy it merely by redefining it, calling for homosexual
marriage, calling for non-marriage, calling anybody living with anybody
doing anything they want a family. The major victims in this assault on
the family are the children, who have been abused, neglected, or worst
of all, snuffed out.
Chesterton recognizes a triune attack on the family: divorce, feminism
and sexual immorality. Divorce is the most obvious attack, but ironically
because it is so obvious it has become the most ignored. We have resigned
ourselves to accept divorce almost nonchalantly, as if it were something
normal. Marriage has lost its meaning because the vow has lost its meaning.
Divorce is only half the problem of divorce. The other half of it is re-marriage.
Chesterton points out that if the marriage vow can be conveniently broken
and then made again with someone else, it sort of takes the romantic element
out of the vow, emptying the vow of its importance. This is what Chesterton
calls the "superstition" of divorce: the notion that vows suddenly
mean something in a second marriage when they evidently did not mean anything
in a first marriage. "The most obvious effect of frivolous divorce
will be frivolous marriage."
While divorce literally rips apart the family, feminism and sexual immorality
are more subtle enemies that undermine the family both from the inside
and the outside.
Feminist Weakness vs. Feminine Power
The basic problem of feminism is the misconception that men and women
are equal. It may come as a shock to some people, but there is in fact
a difference between men and women. Chesterton says, "The difference
between man and woman accounts for almost everything important that has
happened. We must realize that when we try to make man and woman alike."
He says that of the two sexes, the woman is in the more powerful position.
The woman controls the home, that fundamental unit of society. If you
control the home, you control society. Chesterton says, "When I think
of the power of woman, my knees knock under me." Ironically, the
feminists, by giving up their power in the home, gave up all their power.
When they moved into the workplace, most women certainly became like most
men in that they became wage slaves, but they did not gain anything, and
they certainly did not gain power. It was a distinct step downward. "What
is called the economic independence of women is the same as what is called
the economic wage-slavery of men."
Feminists lost the privilege of raising their children to a day-care industry
or a public school. Or they did something even worse: they killed their
No Birth, No Control, No Progress
Chesterton spoke out eloquently against birth control, first of all attacking
the dishonesty of the very term itself. It is called birth control, when
in fact it isnt birth and it isnt control. In one of his many
prophetic utterances Chesterton says, "I might inform those humanitarians
who have a nightmare of new and needless babies (for some humanitarians
have that sort of horror of humanity) that if the recent decline in the
birth-rate were continued for a certain time, it might end in there being
no babies at all; which would console them very much."
He warned that the birth control would lead to abortion and it would be
considered a sign of "progress." Progress is a meaningless term
that is praised by a secular society. You cannot have actual progress
until you define your goal or your ideal; then you can determine whether
or not you are moving closer to achieving it. But the world considers
a thing "progressive" not by what it is moving towards but by
what it is moving away from. If a tradition is destroyed, it is called
"progress." Progress is a slippery word that keeps changing
its shape. In his prophetic book Eugenics and Other Evils, Chesterton
says that evil always takes advantage of ambiguity. "Evil always
wins through the strength of its splendid dupes
and there has in
all ages been a disastrous alliance between abnormal innocence and abnormal
Feminism is certainly an example of the disastrous alliance between innocence
and evil. Feminists complain of real wrongs against women, but then make
an alliance with an evil that is much worse. They glorify something called
"choice" (another ambiguous word) and convince themselves that
killing babies has something to do with dignity. The feminists are "splendid
dupes," who have given up the freedom and power they had in the home
to become wage slaves in the workplace, and who have given up Gods
most sacred gifts of birth and motherhood while claiming they are exercising
The Clear Danger of Ambiguous Education
Another ambiguous word is "Education." It is held up as an ideal,
but like "progress," the word has become meaningless, and another
way to dupe people. Chesterton says, "A great curse has fallen upon
modern life with the discovery of the vastness of the word Education."
The public school has replaced the primary functions of the family. It
has separated children from their parents. And it has separated children
from the truth. Education, says Chesterton is supposed to be simply truth
in the state of transmission, passing what has been learned from one generation
to the next. "It ought to be the oldest things that are taught to
the youngest children, the assured and experienced truths that are put
first to the baby.
But in a school today the baby has to submit to a system that is younger
than himself." Amazingly, he said that in 1910, in his unnervingly
relevant book, Whats Wrong with the World. He warned that the state
would have unimaginable power if it controlled education. He also warned
that while we were debating about the theoretical merits of birth control,
it would be imposed into a practical program before we were even aware
of it, and it would be "applied to everybody and imposed by nobody."
Birth control, of course, paves the way to sexual immorality, which is
another destructive force against the family. In 1926, Chesterton warned
that the next great heresy would be an attack on morality, especially
sexual morality. "The madness of tomorrow is not in Moscow, but much
more in Manhattan." Indeed, Soviet Communism collapsed under its
own official weight (as Chesterton predicted it would) and really did
not turn out to be the ultimate threat to free world. But the sex industry,
under the mantle of Capitalism, is a silent, slippery beast that slithers
in the dark and has its tentacles everywhere and is destroying our society.
Nothing in our entertainment industry honors marriage and the family.
It always mocks what is good and dresses up evil and calls it good. "The
world," says Chesterton, "has abandoned morality plays; and
can only be truly earnest over immorality plays."
Enslaved to Entertainment and Employment
A big part of the problem is that entertainment is an "industry."
We have lost the ability to entertain ourselves. We have become passive.
Chesterton says that a society is in decay when it employs "a professional
to dance for them, a professional to fight for them, and a professional
to rule them." When we dont do basic things for ourselves,
it means we have lost our freedom. We have even lost that fundamental
freedom of thinking for ourselves.
The entertainment industry is only one element of the whole industrial
machine that has ground up the family in its so-called wheels of progress.
One of the most neglected of ideas of Chesterton (along with all his other
neglected ideas) is Distributism. Distributism simply is another defense
of the family. It is the idea that families should be self-sufficient
and not be dependent either on the feds or on a factory. Wage slavery
should not be confused with freedom. A wage-slave is still a slave. The
opposite of employment, says Chesterton, is not unemployment; it is independence.
The point is that all these forces conspire against the family, attacking
it from all sides, and sometimes for opposite reasons: divorce, feminism,
immorality, big government, big business. Everything in the modern worldour
entertainment, our literature, our newspaperstries to cover up the
basic truth that Chesterton defends, that the "real habitation of
Liberty is the home." Chesterton defends self-employment and self-sufficiency
because he believes it is the best way to protect the family. "If
individuals have any hope of protecting their freedom, they must protect
their family life."
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