Monday, 3 December 2012

Chesterton on Christian virtues gone mad

I came across this remarkable reflection the other day by Chesterton. As is (or should be) well known, Chesterton was not a man for a loss of words. Unlike most men, however, his words usually made an effective point.  The following is timeless: whether it applies to the fickle Jews of the Old Testament, or the modern day Catholic - true religion also is about common sense. A good thing isolated from another good thing becomes a bad thing. The virtues are a "package deal"; detach one from the rest and it becomes a distortion, a caricature. Justice without mercy becomes cold, malignant, ruthless and so on. 

This total lack of common sense in our society was also recently reflected in the "gotcha on a technicality" mentality vis-a-vis Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. This is not a political blog, but the story of the removal of an elected official by what amounts to a judicial coup is reflective of a society that lacks common sense. And a senseless society sooner or later will run after sensation: usually of some fascistic nature. 

"When a religious scheme is shattered it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad. The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful."

"Orthodoxy", by G.K Chesterton 


Freyr said...

We can't have a mayor who is overweight, likes football and is the antithesis of the genteel liberality that the good folks in the Beaches stand for. I can only assume that you are not getting enough tofu in your diet. A short stay in one of our rehabilitation facilities will set your thinking straight. Come along now... this is for your own good.

Freyr said...

Pay no attention to the previous post. It is obviously the work of a troll who needs to be restrained and sedated. This post is brilliant in that it highlights the main danger associated with divorcing one virtue from all the rest. The real question is one of submission. The passions need to be in submission to the intellect and the whole needs to be in submission to God. Compassion in thrall to the emotions means that only those things that elicit an emotional response are worthy of compassion. In the last mayoral race both Ford and Smitherman had reputations for not getting along with others. However Smitherman is prettier than Ford.