G.K. Chesterton on Charles Dickens and Moral Psychology

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“If flattered or let alone, our kindliest fault can destroy our kindliest virtue. A thing may begin as a very human weakness and end as a very inhuman weakness … A man may begin by being too generous to pay his debts, and end by being too mean to pay his debts. For the vices are very strangely in league, and encourage each other.”

 

From Chapter VIII: The Time of Transition in Charles Dickens by G.K. Chesterton

“…In the character of Skimpole, Dickens displayed again a quality that was very admirable in him — I mean a disposition to see things sanely and to satirise even his own faults. He was commonly occupied in satirising the Gradgrinds, the economists, the men of Smiles and Self-Help. For him there was nothing poorer than their wealth, nothing more selfish than their self-denial. And against them he was in the habit of pitting the people of a more expansive habit — the happy Swivellers and Micawbers, who, if they were poor, were at least as rich as their last penny could make them. He loved that great Christian carelessness that seeks its meat from God. It was merely a kind of uncontrollable honesty that forced him into urging the other side. He could not disguise from himself or from the world that man who began by seeking his meat from his neighbour without apprising his neighbour of the fact. He had shown how good irresponsibility could be; he could not stoop to hide how bad it could be. He created Skimpole; and Skimpole is the dark underside of Micawber.

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The Myth of Autonomy

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Most of us are familiar with the famous phrase no man is an island. What many might not know is that it was penned during a time of extreme illness and suffering. Staring at his own possible death, John Donne famously wrote that “no man is an island,” that all mankind are connected in God, bound to each other like a continent. The death of one person then, like a bit of land swept out to sea, affects us all. Bioethicist Gilbert Meilaender would agree with Donne, writing that “the lives of fellow citizens may be bound together in such a way that all are aggrieved by the death of one.”[1] He goes on to note that such sentiments might seem strange to moderns, coming across like quaint relics from a time when religion was more than merely a set of opinions to be held in private. To think that what one does in private, especially if one dies, somehow has an effect on everyone? This seems to fly in the face of our experience today. This is because we live in an age that is preoccupied with autonomy.

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Abortion and Radical Dualism

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On January 23, 2019, amidst cheers and applause, New York State passed legislation that added abortion rights to their state constitution. The crowd chanted “Free abortion on demand! We can do it! Yes, we can!” The World Trade Center joined the celebration by lighting its spire pink, the color of Planned Parenthood (ironically, while the memorial below bears the names of the unborn children who lost their lives in the attacks on 9/11). To those of us that oppose abortion, the jubilee cut right to the heart. Abortion is no longer regarded as a necessary evil, but something to be celebrated, even shouted from highest rooftops. What caused such a shift?

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A Reflection on Personhood, Peter Singer, and Abortion

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Sharran Sutherland: “I am hoping that by sharing these pictures of my precious little boy that it might just make one person who is contemplating abortion decide to let their child live.”  Read more here.

“He has been with us in the darkness of the womb as He will be in the darkness of the tomb.”  ~Gilbert Meilaender, “Bioethics: A Primer for Christians”

It is revealing to look at how metaphors change throughout history, for these most often reflect shifts in the ways we look at the world and ourselves. Consider how the expressions for “having children” have changed. Older metaphors contained in them a sense of reverence for the process: “begetting” in ancient Israel, “genesis” in ancient Greece, and “procreation” in premodern times here in the West. Today, we “employ a metaphor of the factory, ‘re-production,” perhaps “impressed with the machine and the gross national product (our own work of creation),” observes philosopher Leon Kass.[1] A phenomenon so deeply rooted in our biology is spoken of in mechanical and impersonal terms that seem at odds with our humanity. This is just another hint that the two-story view of the human being – with its splitting of body and mind, biology and will – has insinuated itself into our discourse. This is another outworking of the two-story view of truth in our world today (see the footnote for an explanation).[2] Nowhere is this bifurcation of the human person more apparent than in the case of abortion and the personhood theory used to justify it.

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Abortion, Religion, and Science

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“In truth, there are only two kinds of people; those who accept dogma and know it, and those who accept dogma and don’t know it.” ~G.K. Chesterton

Scene: Sociology 101 at a local community college.

Professor: Today, we will continue our discussion of religion and politics in America. I’m going to make an assertion that might offend some of you, but I will open the floor for discussion. Here it is: the Christian majority in this country has routinely sought to tear down the sacred dividing wall that separates Church and State and impose their religious views on others through the passage of laws. Perhaps the most egregious instance of this is the case of the so-called Pro-life voter and their desire to control women’s bodies.

Student, raising her hand: Professor, may I provide a rebuttal?

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“By the Babe Unborn” by G.K. Chesterton

12 WEEK OLD HUMAN FETUS

“By the Babe Unborn”

by G.K. Chesterton

If trees were tall and grasses short,

As in some crazy tale,

If here and there a sea were blue

Beyond the breaking pale,

If a fixed fire hung in the air

To warm me one day through,

If deep green hair grew on great hills,

I know what I should do.

In dark I lie; dreaming that there

Are great eyes cold or kind,

And twisted streets and silent doors,

And living men behind.

Let storm clouds come: better an hour,

And leave to weep and fight,

Than all the ages I have ruled

The empires of the night.

I think that if they gave me leave

Within the world to stand,

I would be good through all the day

I spent in fairyland.

They should not hear a word from me

Of selfishness or scorn,

If only I could find the door,

If only I were born.