From the pope's letter, "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)": "It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convince...more From the pope's letter, "Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel)": "It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights. We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize."
One of the ways in which G. K. Chesterton really impresses me throughout this little book of essays is in his deep understanding of the right relationship between Christians, and social and economic concerns. Too often we tend to catch on to something, such as democratic-republican government, and make it part of our religion. We sometimes act similarly about capitalism, forcing ourselves to defend its faults as though it was straight out of the Bible instead of straight out of the Enlightenment. Or we may go in another wrong direction, and say Christians should have no concern in "worldly" affairs. One system is as bad as another and all of them are fundamentally none of our business.
The truth is that neither of these standpoints correctly represents Christianity, which is in its nature, both extremely other-worldly, and extremely concerned with this world also. Chesterton put it quite well in the essay "When the World Turned Back": "We must not hate humanity, or despise humanity, or refuse to help humanity; but we must not trust humanity; in the sense of trusting a trend in human nature which cannot turn back to bad things." We should, by all means, be actively involved in all the concerns entailed by the command to love our neighbors as ourselves, whether politically or socially or what-have-you, but we should never come to a place where we forget that any man-based system is capable of going wrong.
In this little book, Chesterton wrote words that should be the motto on the door of every Christian activist: "Try a Monarchy if you think it will be better; but do not trust a Monarchy, in the sense of expecting that a monarch will be anything but a man. Be a Democrat if you like (and I shall always think it the most generous and the most fundamentally Christian ideal in politics); express your sense of human dignity in manhood suffrage or any other form of equality; but put not your trust in manhood suffrage or in any child of man. There is one little defect about Man, the image of God, the wonder of the world and the paragon of animals; that he is not to be trusted. If you identify him with some ideal, which you choose to think is his inmost nature or his only goal, the day will come when he will suddenly seem to you a traitor."
As Chesterton suggests in the title of the book, it is the world that is shallow, and Christianity that has the well of truth. We may acknowledge that the puddles of the world may hold some good water, and we may pour into them of the "living water," but we should never mistake the puddles for the well.
"I remember that I died laughing through that whole book. I went back and read it again for fun."
Okay, so I didn't think The Elements of Style was tha...more"I remember that I died laughing through that whole book. I went back and read it again for fun."
Okay, so I didn't think The Elements of Style was that funny--that was a classmate of mine. My own reaction to Strunk and White was horror. I had never known there could be so many wrong ways to use words; many of the wrong ways were habits for me. I had thought my writing was concise, but S&W convicted me of wordiness. Those two men were stern teachers to me.
After my initial humility at finding I regularly made over thirty stylistic errors began to wear off, I argued with several of the rules. Strunk is (in my opinion) too strict about the correct use of "however," and a few other rules are outdated as well. Yet in spite of those rules that are going the way of the wall phone, The Elements of Style remains a classic guide to clear English prose. It is a rare book that gives so much useful instruction in so few pages, but perhaps if more of us take to heart the command to "omit needless words," then more such succinct gems will be written. (less)