Tuesday, May 19, 2009

New Books and Old Books, from Steyn to Chesterton

Consistent with the oft-repeated axiom from C.S. Lewis that the reading of new books should be punctuated with the reading of old books in order to avoid the temptation to "chronological snobbery," two books, one in each category, have ruled the reading corner of late.

The first, a relatively new one, America Alone by Mark Steyn (2005?)(been trying to get this one into my queue for a while) is a wakeup call to post-Christian America and the post-Christian church. With Europe as the model, we are offered a step-by-step analysis of the trends weakening us and the cultural suicide of the world as we know it on both sides of the pond. Some quotables...

On the false promise of secularism:
The meek's prospects of inheriting the earth are considerably diminished in a post-Christian society....[quoting Kathy Shaidle] It is secularism itself which is part of the problem, not the solution, since secularism is precisely what created the European spiritual and moral vacuum into which Islamism has rushed headlong.
On the paralyzing effect of European (now American) Socialism:
The trouble with the social democratic state is that when government does too much, nobody else does much of anything.
On the destructiveness of multiculturalism:
But if you think you genuinely believe that suttee [the Indian cultural practice of burning of the living widow along with the deceased husband] is just an example of the rich tapestry of indigenous cultures, you ought to consider what your pleasant suburb would be like if 25, 48% of the people really believed in it too. Multiculturalism was conceived by the Western elites not to celebrate all cultures but to deny their own; it is, thus, the real suicide bomb.
And there is much more, some of it quite entertaining despite the ominous topic. Which brings me to book two, much older, but in a similar vein and as timely as a stimulus package or an auto industry takeover. At Twin Cities Chesterton Society meetings, we've been reading and discussing the outstanding (large) biography of GKC by Maisie Ward (1942). Gilbert Keith Chesterton is a treasure chest of not just his story, but his vision of the world. A major component consists of early unpublished writing, correspondence and quotations. Enormously clever and joyful on many topics and many levels, GKC watched, wrote, waved his sword/walking stick in the air and cried out against England's initial embrace of precisely what we are now embracing—the diminution of religion, tradition and liberty, and the incremental arrival of the the Servile State. A couple of quotes:
We do not want, as the newspapers say, a church that will move with the world. We want one that will move the world. We want one that will move it away from many of the things towards which it is now moving; for instance, the Servile State. It is by that test that history will really judge, of any church, whether it is the real Church or no. —GKC
[Chesterton]...did not think, then or ever, that any increase of comfort or security was a sufficient good to be bought at the price of liberty. —Maisie Ward


Dan said...

I read America Alone a while back. It will probably be a little more interesting given the news in the last few days.

I love the CS Lewis quote. I honestly find myself sceptical of "modern" books, especially on history.

I would love to sit silently and listen to the discussions that go on in your Chesterton Society meetings. Do you have a suggestion for a first read of Chesterton?

Dan said...

Oh... just wanted to get your prognosis on the Senate seat. I'm thinking that the Minnesota Supreme Court is probably pretty liberal and will toss law under the bus for the sake of the liberal agenda and go the way of the FL Supreme Court in 2000.

terryd said...

On Chesterton, people often say "Orthodoxy," his best known non-fiction book is the one to start with. I think "Tremendous Trifles," a series of his shorter essays, gives the best introduction to his wit and way of seeing the world.
On the MN Senate Race Debacle, I think the MN Supreme Court will do exactly as you suggest, and find itself incapable of more than a cursory glance at state law and will find that it would be better for us send Franken to Washington.