GK Chesterton "Revised"

I read a very recent blog by Mark Shea about “new” writings from GK Chesterton that were written in the latter quiet period of his life. They seem way out to me especially the piece about the Eternal Feminine, which basically stated that God should not be referenced in the masculine. References to Mother earth, etc etc were made that sounded all so New Age it was disturbing. Here’s a quoted portion from the text. 'Chesterton, now on the cutting edge of gender theology, moves past the outdated status quo ideals of mere “fairness” which characterized earlier and more timid forms of feminist thought. Instead, he articulates the most up-to-the-minute demands for “a radical re-envisioning of the Sacred in light of Womyn in mortal conflict with patriarchy.” This “re-envisioning” goes far beyond a flat political demand for a resignation of the patriarchal Church hierarchy. Chesterton, with his typical insight, goes to the heart of the struggle and calls for the destruction of all male imagery related to the Deity. It is, he insists, “the concept of the Father which has destroyed our primeval bonds with Holy Mother Earth, led to our present environmental crisis and created all oppression.”
(Read more: ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/chesterton-a-spirit-of-vatican-ii-bibliography/#ixzz3PQ5szZuT)
Also referred to was Spiritual Alternatives by Chesterton which indicated Vatican II declared all faiths “equal”.
These articles were in Mark’s blog in the National Catholic Register online dated 1/18/15.
Please help me to understand. I am not a Chesterton authority but followed Dale Alequist’s show for several years and found Chesterton’s defense of the Faith refreshing and inspiring. Now it seems he has made a 180 degree turn. Am I misunderstanding? Please help.

Chesterton died in 1936. The essay cited is obviously a parody.

I think you misinterpreted what Mark Shea was doing. Basically, it was intended as a piece of sarcasm aimed at SOME modern Catholic theologians from SOME modern Catholic universities who WOULD re-write Chesterton if they had the opportunity.

Chesteron did die in the mid-1930s, he is NOT currently living a reclusive life and he is NOT publishing any “new Chesterton” works which are NOT under the editorial control of those modern Catholic theologians.

Essentially, the blog post was a barb aimed at the nonsense that passes as modern theology at some places of “higher” learning. See the red text from the blog post belo, esp. underlined sections

Many people know that G.K. Chesterton, … fell strangely silent in the mid-1930s and ceased to publish for nearly 50 years. As a result, some speculated he might have died. However, the last few years have seen a fresh outpouring of new and markedly different material from that now-reclusive knight of Christendom. These new writings have been communicated to the outside world through the mediation of an elite team of American theologians from several major Catholic universities. These men and women assure us that these writings authentically embody the thought of “the New Chesterton”–a Chesterton who is now (under their careful editorial supervision) deeply reflective of “Spirit of Vatican II” sensibilities and trends.

Read more: ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/chesterton-a-spirit-of-vatican-ii-bibliography/#ixzz3PQEtP9v4


He died in 1936; Vatican II occurred in 1965, IIRC?

Apparently, it’s a parody. Mark Shea does these from time to time. He also did a parody Gospel story about a woman who lied - back when there was an uproar about how Lila Rose is such a terrible liar.

Thank you for posting the link; I think I’ll enjoy reading it.

Thanks for explaining what the blog failed to make apparent.

I was reading it wondering, why is he making up stuff and trying so hard to make it sound as though someone has discovered previously-unpublished works by Chesterton.

Not knowing or investigating when he died I now feel so silly for not getting the intent of this piece by Mark Shea. None of it made sense so I am glad to say “Whew” and eat a little crow! Thanks all for setting me aright.

That doesn’t sound like something from the ‘Apostle of common sense’ !

As others pointed out this was satire. But even if Chesterton wrote something wonky that is OK. He wrote a lot and it is possible for him to be wrong on something. The truth in his writing isn’t based on the man but from the ideas expressed. Having said that I can’t recall anything Chesterton wrote that I’d consider wonky in the least.

Others have pointed out this is a parody.

However, as a kid in the 50s I remember this joke about a guy who dies, goes to heaven, but they are able to revive him, and he tells them: “She’s Black.”

Sometime during my early religious education as a Protestant (before I converted to Catholicism), I learned that associating a gender with God was not right; it sort of limited God, made Him out to be in our human image…whether the association was with male OR female, that God was beyond that distinction.

When I went thru Catholic catechism in the early 70s some of my co-students (Catholics getting a refresher course) were appalled when I told them that and clung very strongly to God as male. And, of course, Jesus used the term “father,” and was himself a male.

However, in reading John of the Cross in the early 90s, he basically says if you have some conception of God (whatever it may be), you’re wrong. God is beyond human conceptions, beyond our finite and tiny ability to understand. ((sort of like "the cloud of unknowing.))

However, it does make it a lot easier to have some conception of God for when we’re not putting much thought into it, so I guess it’s okay to go along with God as male, God our Father.

Another thing I read in Catholic Digest back in the 70s after converting – it was on angels and mentioned that since they are spiritual beings they do not have a gender. Later in my Carmelite group in the 90s I mentioned that, then said I had always thought of angels as female. To which a member got really angry and asked “Who told you that!” “No one,” I replied, “I had a picture near my bed when I was a small kid of an angel protecting a little boy and girl from a storm, and it looked like a woman.”


BTW, I have some objection to one of the Ahlquist Chesterton episodes, and that is the very nasty way he smears environmentalists. It starts out with a skit in which some environmentalists are protesting the planned filling in of a swamp (wetlands) and building homes. The protesters wanted to keep it a swamp in order to save some rare species, but a pregnant woman speaking against them was saying she wanted to build her home there for herself and her baby.

I think many fail to understand environmental issues. Wetlands are very important as flood control and for purifying water, not just as a home for various species. If a person builds their home in a filled in swamp, there is a risk of being flooded out. Or if the fill had been quite substantial, then there is a risk that others nearby on not-as-high ground would be flooded out.

I had earlier in the 70s heard good things about Chesterton from a philosophy prof friend, but that Ahlquist episode really made me question Chesterton and doubt his goodness. I wouldn’t blame Chesterton, because they didn’t really know about a lot of environmental issues back then (in the pre-40s), and people didn’t understand about wetlands. But people do understand about them very well today, so the onus is on Ahlquist, not on Chesterton, for smearing environmentalists like me, who really just want the best for everyone and are appalled at the harms thru environmental destruction we are foisting on esp the poor and future generations.

I’ll keep an open mind about Chesterton for now. I don’t have time to read what he himself had to say without being filtered (perhaps wrongly I hope) thru Ahlquist. I don’t want to be whiggish; I would suggest any negative comments Chesterton may have made about environmental science, ecology, environmentalism or environmentalists (it would have been conservationists and preservationists back then, Teddy Roosevelt, John Muir, etc) be viewed in the light of the lack of environmental knowledge back then, and that Chesterton perhaps even further lacked expertise in what knowledge there was in such areas of life.

I just got an article “G. K. Chesterton and the Environmental Ethic” (O’Hara, F. 1990. The Chesterton Review 16(3/4): 239-243. It greatly restores my good attitude toward Chesterton, who wrote in 1932:

“Three things at least, peculiar to the present time, prevent us from identifying that hope with a revival or riot of vegetation. First, the beautiful condition to which a few centuries of progress have reduced half the landscapes of the land. Remembered summer does not shine along the grass in Pudsey or Wigan, because there is no grass to shine. The natural life of things does not proclaim the Resurrection in Sheffield and Huddersfield, because the life of things is not natural. . . . Nature cannot help us now, even as a symbol; for industrialism has destroyed the natural.”

Note that in those days the type of environmentalism was conservationism and preservationism, since pollution and other great environmental harms we’re facing today were not very severe.

However, Chesterton HAS indeed been revised – by Ahlquist! And Ahlquist’s (and EWTN’s) revision is perhaps more dangerous than the parody in him in the OP, because refusal to face up to the environmental problems of today (which seems to be a trend here at CAF) could put many human lives at risk, not to mention much more severe harm to God’s creation.

It appears that you are advocating a particularly narrow view regarding what the “trend here at CAF” involves. Simply because a number of individuals dispute the tenets of MMGW does not, ipso facto, make them destructionist in ideology or action with regard to the environment. It is not an all or nothing proposition based entirely upon acceptance of MMGW.

Disputing a claim that MMGW is occurring does not automatically mean that those doing the disputing are compelled to deny that what humans, on the whole, are doing is destructive of the environment. Nor does it mean that merely because they disagree with you on this one particular issue that they must, necessarily, be completely opposed to your views on all other issues where the environment is concerned.

This is disingenuous of you to paint with such broad strokes hoping to shame those who disagree with you on that one issue into taking your side on it.

Your last two posts appear to have more the character of rants than expressing a reasonable position.

Pardon me while I duck behind the couch while I wait for your reply. :manvspc:

OK, I am coming in here a day late and a dollar short - someone enlighten me. Who is Ahlquist?:coffeeread:

Don’t feel bad, I had to google him just now.

Dale Ahlquist who is president of The American Chesterton Society.

Thanks, and Lord grant me enough time to read all I want to read…

Yes? Just supposing AGW is real and its impacts harmful and dangerous (as nearly all the climate scientists and Pope Francis, BXVI and JPII claim)? Then how would one refer to those persons and to Ahlquist, who basically denounces environmentalism?

I’m thinking Chesterton would be on the side of mitigating AGW and the host of other serious environmental problems that are harming and killing people … just supposing they’re real.

It seems to me if he were concerned about conservationist/preservationist issues in his day as the quote I gave suggests (which were the major environmental concerns then), he would also be concerned about how environmental problems of today are harming and killing people…with tremendous risks and threats facing us on into the future from our actions of today.

I’m not a Chesterton scholar, but if he were a man of prudence, assuming he thought prudence was a virture, he’d be an environmentalist today, if he were with us…and Ahlquist and a number of CAFers would probably be out there picking him apart instead of promoting his writings.

Moving past what I’ve written, I’m really into understanding the cultural roots of our environmental crisis (as well as its social and psychological dimensions). I think Chesterton would have been too.

Historian Lynn White in 1967 suggested those roots lie in Christianity. However, I’m thinking they lie in Enlightenment thinking (which was opposed to Christianity in many ways) – stressing individualism (over community, group, or family), freedom (with technology now giving us more, or the greater illusion of freedom from others & society), material success, private property (over the common good), rights (over duties), and nature as passive resources to exploit (pre-ecology view).

I’m thinking Christianity (as well as most other traditional religions) stressed duties and a more people-oriented ethic, duties such as the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule (not to be overshadowed and thwarted by “rights,” leaving the bullies and stronger evil-doers more “rights”), and at least in ancient Judaism a land ethic, a “sabbath for the land,” etc.

I’m thinking “dominion” does not mean ownership or dominance to dispose of or exploit according to how one feels or decides, but a kingship of responsibility to care for. I know we’re lacking a positive understanding of “king” here in America, since we overthrew the yoke of monarchy and consider kings to be greedy thugs, but I’m thinking “king” and “queen” have as their main function stewardship…in situations in which there is a need for some greater, wiser power than oneself to protect and help individuals and the whole community. We humans, being smarter than others of God’s earthly creatures, were to tend them, not destroy them. We were place in the Garden to tend and keep it.

If anyone has any insights about the roots of our environmental destruction and anti-environmentalism that exonerate Christianity, please let me know. I’m working on a paper about it.

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