Common Sense Apostle
& Cigar Smoking Mystic, part 3
The Religion of Irreligion
The attack on the family is directly connected to the attack on the Faith.
That is because the family is directly connected to the Holy Family. Every
father is Joseph: a craftsman, a protector, a provider. Every mother is
Mary: a servant, a model, an intercessor. Every child is Jesus: a visitor
from heaven, entrusted for a time to his parents. Marriage is a sacrament.
It is reveals a religious truth: that love is unconditional and that love
The attack on the family is above all an attack on a religious truth.
And it is an attack on the religion that has revealed this truth: the
Roman Catholic Church. Defending the faith means defending the family.
But it also means defending the faith, its precepts, its practices, its
purity. The attacks come from all sides and are both subtle and overt.
Chesterton says, "What is really working in the world today is Anti-Catholicism
and nothing else."
What we are fighting is a new and false religion, much more powerful but
much less noble than that against which our civilization strove in the
Crusades. But in the clearest minds it may almost be called a religion
of irreligion. It trusts itself utterly to the anarchy of the unknown;
and, unless civilization can sober it with a shock of disappointment,
it will be for ever inexhaustible in novelties of perversion and pride.
This "religion of irreligion" is the most subtle of all the
attacks on the Church, the idea that it doesnt matter what you believe,
and therefore it is best to not even talk about it. Chesterton says religious
freedom is supposed to mean that we are free to discuss our religion.
In practice, however, it means that we are barely allowed to mention it.
We have ironically reached the point where all we can talk about is the
weather, and we call that free speech and "the complete liberality
of all creeds."
Chesterton says, "The opponents of Christianity would believe anything
except Christianity." We have indeed seen the most bizarre sects
and cults taken seriously while the Church is ridiculed.
One Holy, Whole Catholic Church
He also recognizes that every Protestant "sect" is indeed a
"section" of the wholeness of the Catholic Church. Every heresy
has taken some part of the truth and discarded the rest. Thus, the Lutherans
became obsessed with "faith alone," Calvinists with the sovereignty
of God, Baptists with the Bible, Seventh Day Adventists with the Sabbath,
and so on. Meanwhile they stand outside the Church and throw stones from
all sides. The Catholic Church is attacked for being too austere or too
gaudy, too material or too spiritual, too worldly or too otherworldly,
too complicated or too simplistic. Catholics are criticized for being
celibate but also for having too many babies, criticized for being unfair
to women but also because "only women" go to Mass.
The modernists complain that the Catholic Church is dead, and complain
even louder that it has so much power and influence. The secularists admire
Italian art while despising Italian religion. The world rebukes Catholics
for their sins, and worse still, for confessing their sins. Protestants
say Catholics dont take the Bible seriously and then criticize them
for being so literal about the Eucharist. Yet, as Chesterton points out,
they take off their hats in churches even while denying that Christ is
present on the altar.
Ultimately every attack on the Church is an attack on the priesthood and
the Eucharist. Every attack on the Church is an attack on Christ, God
who came in the flesh, and who founded a Church and who held up the bread
and the cup and said, "This is my body. This is my blood."
Chesterton says there is only the Catholic Church and its enemies. Long
before his conversion he said that if every man lived a thousand years,
"every man would end up either in utter pessimistic skepticism or
as member of the Catholic creed." He knew that everyone outside of
the Church is either moving toward it or away from it. Just like everyone
outside of heaven. We are making our choice for or against God.
Chesterton defended the Church even when he was still an outsider. Ironically,
today we sometimes have to defend the Church against insiders, against
Catholics who would undermine their own faith. Chesterton says there have
been times in the Churchs history when it has been too much wedded
to the world. But when it has been wedded to the world, he says, it has
always found itself widowed by the world.
When Chesterton died in 1936, Pope Pius XI called him a Defender of the
Faith. He is still a defender of the faith, an apologist for right reason
and divine revelation, as his words are still effective weapons against
the attacks that come from all sides. He flings his opponents off with
ease. He is still a maker of converts, turning his enemies into friends,
his opponents into allies, wrestling with angels and refusing to let go.
(Originally published as "G.K. Chesterton: Oversized Apologist in an UnderFaithed
World" in Envoy
magazine, volume 7.3.)
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Dale Ahlquist is the president and co-founder of the
Society. He is the creator and host of the television series, G.K.
Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense, on EWTN. Dale is the publisher
Magazine, author of The Chesterton University Student Handbook, editor
of The Gift of Wonder: The Many Sides of G.K. Chesterton, associate
editor of the Collected
Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius). He has been called one
of the most respected Chesterton scholars in the world and has delighted
audiences around the country with his variety of talks on the great English
writer. He is a graduate of Carleton College (B.A.) in Northfield, Minnesota,
and Hamline University (M.A.) in St. Paul, Minnesota. He lives near Minneapolis
with his wife and five children. Like Chesterton, Dale is a Catholic convert
and a joyful defender of the Catholic Faith. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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