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G.K. Chesterton
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 the home."

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 children.

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 isn’t birth and it isn’t 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 sin."

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 God’s most sacred gifts of birth and motherhood while claiming they are exercising "reproductive freedom."

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, What’s 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 don’t 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 world—our entertainment, our literature, our newspapers—tries 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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