I wanted to pick up a couple of themes that have crossed my screen in the last week, mostly because they tie into current events quite well. The first one is covered by Journey to Easter in his superb G. K. Chesterton on Suicide and Martyrdom.
He is comparing Christianity to Buddhism and whilst both have within them those who want to act violently, that is not the general ethos.
Let’s read a little of his:
[…]here he [Chesterton] clears the ground with respect to suicide and martyrdom by examining the nature of human courage:
‘Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. “He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,” is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers. It might be printed in an Alpine guide or a drill book…
…A soldier surrounded by enemies, if he is to cut his way out, needs to combine a strong desire for living with a strange carelessness about dying. He must not merely cling to life, for then he will be a coward, and will not escape. He must not merely wait for death, for then he will be a suicide, and will not escape. He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine. No philosopher, I fancy, has ever expressed this romantic riddle with adequate lucidity, and I certainly have not done so. But Christianity has done more: it has marked the limits of it in the awful graves of the suicide and the hero, showing the distance between him who dies for the sake of living and him who dies for the sake of dying.’
Orthodoxy (1999), pp.134-135, Hodder and Stoughton.
‘Not only is suicide a sin, it is the sin. It is the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence; the refusal to take the oath of loyalty to life. The man who kills a man, kills a man. The man who kills himself, kills all men; as far as he is concerned he wipes out the world…
…The thief compliments the things he steals, if not the owner of them. But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it. He defiles every flower by refusing to live for its sake. There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer. When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury: for each has received a personal affront.’
The act of suicide has great symbolic power – it says to the world ‘I do not want you – I reject all that I have known and seen, as well as all that I might know and see; I prefer oblivion to any more of the vast array of things, good or bad, that the world might offer.’ It is a deeply symbolic act of negation and rejection of life, and is reflective of a despair that itself is, however one wishes to break it down, born out of pride – out of an overemphasis on the self, to the exclusion of the rest of reality.
G. K. Chesterton on Suicide and Martyrdom | Journey Towards Easter.
To me that reads even more as a description of radical Islamists, who seem to be uniformly alienated, depraved suicides. And here is the basis of the fact that Christianity is a religion of life and radical Islam a religion of death, and destruction. I don’t think anything can bring such opposites beliefs to a common ground–one: must be victorious and the other defeated.
Chalcedon in his excellent Les evenements says this:
The Liberal leader, Nick Clegg, has rightly said that there is ‘no right not to be offended’. Absolute free speech has long been abrogated in this country, and ironically, it seems to be some of those most discriminated against in the past who are the advocates of censorship of ‘hate speech’ now. This is a shame, because, as Mr Clegg says, increasingly the real divide in the world is between open societies and closed ones. One can say, as I would, that freedom of speech should be exercised with responsibility, but is it freedom if someone cannot be irresponsible?
Mr. Clegg is, of course, absolutely correct, as is Chalcedon. If one is not free to exceed limits, one is not truly free.
On that same article, Zeke (private blog) made this comment:
[…]I am keenly aware of the fragmenting of society (and sadly within families), and now that we live in a “global village” of instant mass communication, where everyone’s (it seems) thoughts and opinions are transmitted around the globe, we see a fragmenting that goes beyond the borders of individual countries. May I suggest that this fragmenting might be the result of the lose, or lack, of a living, breathing faith in the one redeemer of the world, Jesus Christ? By that I mean not just a faith in the mind, but in the heart. […]
And he too is correct but, I would submit there is more to it. In the US (and I suspect the UK) what we laughingly call the elites (Washington Beltway + NYC and the Westminster Bubble) are, I think, significantly more secular than the rest of the country. This may be the result of careerism run rampant. It seems like we didn’t have this problem when it was just not really possible to have a financially rewarding career in government service. As late as Truman and Eisenhower we had Presidents who came out of the presidency no better off than they went in, and the same holds true for our legislators.
Could it be that playing identity politics, and promising everything to everyone makes it hard to retain whatever Christianity (if any) one started out with? If so, and I think it is, we need to change the basic rules, however hard that may be. After all, we’re Britons and Americans, we made the world free, it would be sad to sell our own freedom for this particular mess of pottage.
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