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Thursday, September 22, 2011



I'm glad it wasn't just me that occasionally raised an eye-brow while reading this article. It also claims that "Chesterton was a lifelong Christian", but that's certainly not the story as related by the Big Man himself.

Gail F

Sounds like Parini is humor impaired.

Gabriel Finochio

Thank you for the article link. Professor Parini's analysis of Orthodoxy is quite mistaken as well. That book is much more polemic and principled than even Heretics, and yet Parini says that it does not possess "theological rigidity and moral stricture." He must not have been paying attention to Chesterton's strict parsing of culture and rigid praising of Christianity. Mr. Parini also blunders about, quite blindly, by suggesting that Chesterton's admirers prefer him to be "priggish" and "conservative". Perhaps Mr. Parini has never visited the American Chesterton Society, nor picked up a copy of the Chesterton Review or Gilbert Magazine. If he even made an attempt do so, he may have astonishingly discovered quite the opposite to be true: that Chesterton's influence, by virtue of his Faith, has encouraged his readers to advocate Liberty and Reason.


I noticed the same misreading.

But then I decided it was for the better; Mr. Parini's invitation to read Chesterton widely -- if slightly off in its description -- is far more likely to introduce wholly secular people to Chesterton than anything that a Catholic reader might do. A slight misreading that makes Chesterton seem more secular and modern than he was might be exactly what the doctor ordered to get him taken more seriously.

And Gabriel, Parini is right about Orthodoxy. It defends Christianity, but Christianity as the answer to certain constitutive desires and instincts that make up the person. It is not a theological tome; it is a book about reality. Sure, Chesterton take a position, but the point of the book is not to defend particular theological positions. It is to defend Orthodoxy as the place where the things that make us human find a home. In an age of "point/counterpoint" apologetics, I can see why Parini describes it the way he does.

Gabriel Finochio

Chris, the nature of Orthodoxy is autobiographical; which makes its literary approach naturally oblique and baroque; but it is no less dialectic and didactic than Chesterton's other work. In fact, the brilliance of the book is the subtlety of the book. Chesterton's ability to focus on a point without over-emphasis and over-analysis gives the reader a sense of levity; but the gravity of the material is all there. And he deals with virtually every angle and aspect of a moral/theological position that the reader also feels a sense of completeness and closure. Orthodoxy is a theologically and morally paradoxical refutation of the modern world, and its rigidity and stricture provide the unseen basis by which that edifice is built.

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