February 19, 2007

"to be an enemy of a man's creed but a friend to the man himself"

I was noodling around looking for a Chesterton quote, and came upon this great little essay by Paul Cella, from 2003: What Threatens Us. I think I read it back when, and it's worth re-reading. It's partly about how modern secularist society just can't "see" faith, and can't therefore get any feel for the threat posed by Islam. And that we need to consult men who did understand, such as GK Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. Both of whom were astonishingly prescient, both of them predicting the future rise of Islam at a time when Moslem lands were impoverished backwaters, and seemed to "rational" types to be of no account whatsoever.

I liked this part in particular, since last Sunday's lesson was on the old "loving your enemy" thing. Ouch. Hard, if you take this stuff seriously, especially if your enemy is a jihadi who would torture and kill you just for the heck of it. (Or, far worse, if your enemy is a leftizoid nihilist whose non-creed is eating like acid at the roots of our beloved civilization.)

...In this, "ChesterBelloc" again reveal narrowness of the modern world's bluster about tolerance and pluralism: having repudiated in a glib and small-minded way the power of faith on the minds of men, the modern mind makes itself ignorant as mud, and walks about the world in a kind of daze. The hardest thing for the Modern Age to do is actually see a thing other than itself.

Chesterton and Belloc saw in Islam precisely the sort of spiritual energy which was proving evanescent in the West even in their time. Belloc, for example (and probably Chesterton too, although I myself do not recall reading it) emphatically declared Islam a heresy -- a heresy which derived its strength from the affirmation of some true doctrines of Christianity while denigrating fatally other true doctrines. A heresy is not necessarily evil; it is simply wrong; staggeringly, definitively, but plausibly wrong. This sort of judgment is very nearly impossible today: it provokes the charge of crankishness, or even bigotry. But therein lies our suffocating narrowness. We have resolutely undertaken to amputate some of our mental faculties; like the faculty of distinguishing a creed from its adherents. The rigid secularist cannot see the creed, only its followers. But it is, I think, a solid fact, no matter what modern insularity avows, that a man may be an implacable enemy of Islam and still a friend of Muslims.

Modern multiculturalism denies this fact. And I will grant it this small concession; that it is no easy mental task to be an enemy of a man's creed but a friend to the man himself. Not easy, but possible -- and indeed necessary. In this sense secularism, along with its accomplice multiculturalism, is a capitulation or abdication of responsibility; it is the surrender of clever poltroons. In the face the challenge of charity, the challenge propounded by the awesome equality of the Christian creed: "love your neighbor as yourself," the modern world resigns itself to dull platitudes....

Mr Cella blogs here. Some recent interesting posts concern his A Reactionary’s Shorter Catechism, which is thought-provoking, to say the least...

Posted by John Weidner at February 19, 2007 5:43 PM
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