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Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Chesterton, Reality and the Gender Benders

Jun 13, 2018

When lunacy abounds – as it so much does in the West today – we need a restoration of reason and common sense. When so much of our collective leadership is afflicted with moral and mental illness, then we need a tonic to get us back to where we belong.

Some of the earlier writers can be counted on to help us out in this regard. And one of the best in all this is G. K. Chesterton. He seemed to have an answer for any old or new foolishness. He not only rebuts old superstitions and irrationalities, but he anticipates new ones as well.

So no matter how novel the new craziness may seem, it is likely that Chesterton has already addressed it somewhere. He knows there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to all the wild and reckless thoughts we concoct as we pretend God does not exist and as we imagine that we can just make things up as we go along.

The recent madness emanating from the trans cult would have been a perfect foil for Chesterton. He would easily have destroyed the lunacy that lies behind it. Indeed, without it having raised its ugly head a century ago, Chesterton still could write about it.

To help you see his prophetic thinking on such matters, let me refer you to just a sentence or two from just one chapter, from just one of his books. But before getting to that sentence, let me first sing some praises for the book. I refer to what I have long maintained as being my all-time favourite book: Orthodoxy.

I have previously written about it and quoted from it often. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2011/01/24/notable-christians-g-k-chesterton/

Before getting to that particular quote, let me cite another writer whose book I just recently picked up. Ralph Wood’s The Nightmare Goodness of Chesterton (Baylor University Press, 2011) devotes various chapters to some of his books. In his chapter on Orthodoxy he says this:

Though Chesterton died when the twentieth century was barely a third finished, we still dwell in his epoch. Our age belongs to him because he was its true physician, both probing our illnesses and prescribing our cure. Orthodoxy remains his most prophetic book because it foresees both the insane rationalism and the lunatic irrationalism that engulf late modern life, with nightmarish results.

He also reminds us of how others thought of this work:

Graham Greene described Orthodoxy as “among the great books of the age,” calling Chesterton “a man of colossal genius.” Dorothy L. Sayers was inspired to reclaim her natal Christianity mainly by reading Orthodoxy…. Even H. L. Mencken, perhaps the most antithetical figure imaginable, praised Orthodoxy as “Indeed, the best argument for Christianity I have ever read – and I have gone through, I suppose, fully a hundred.”

Anyway, back to the words of Chesterton that I had in mind which can apply so readily to the modern transgender insanity. He simply makes the same point that others, going back at least to Aristotle, have made. His two sentences are these:

“You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes.” Yep. Or in today’s case, you can free a girl from wearing a dress; but you cannot free her from her own DNA.

No amount of wishful thinking and hoping to identify as something or someone you are not can change things. Reality cannot be twisted so easily. But let me offer the entire lengthy paragraph in which these brief sentences are found. They come from chapter 3 of Orthodoxy, “The Suicide of Thought”:

All the will-worshippers, from Nietzsche to Mr. Davidson, are really quite empty of volition. They cannot will, they can hardly wish. And if any one wants a proof of this, it can be found quite easily. It can be found in this fact: that they always talk of will as something that expands and breaks out. But it is quite the opposite. Every act of will is an act of self-limitation. To desire action is to desire limitation. In that sense every act is an act of self-sacrifice. When you choose anything, you reject everything else. That objection, which men of this school used to make to the act of marriage, is really an objection to every act. Every act is an irrevocable selection exclusion. Just as when you marry one woman you give up all the others, so when you take one course of action you give up all the other courses. If you become King of England, you give up the post of Beadle in Brompton. If you go to Rome, you sacrifice a rich suggestive life in Wimbledon. It is the existence of this negative or limiting side of will that makes most of the talk of the anarchic will-worshippers little better than nonsense. For instance, Mr. John Davidson tells us to have nothing to do with “Thou shalt not”; but it is surely obvious that “Thou shalt not” is only one of the necessary corollaries of “I will.” “I will go to the Lord Mayor’s Show, and thou shalt not stop me.” Anarchism adjures us to be bold creative artists, and care for no laws or limits. But it is impossible to be an artist and not care for laws and limits. Art is limitation; the essence of every picture is the frame. If you draw a giraffe, you must draw him with a long neck. If, in your bold creative way, you hold yourself free to draw a giraffe with a short neck, you will really find that you are not free to draw a giraffe. The moment you step into the world of facts, you step into a world of limits. You can free things from alien or accidental laws, but not from the laws of their own nature. You may, if you like, free a tiger from his bars; but do not free him from his stripes. Do not free a camel of the burden of his hump: you may be freeing him from being a camel. Do not go about as a demagogue, encouraging triangles to break out of the prison of their three sides. If a triangle breaks out of its three sides, its life comes to a lamentable end. Somebody wrote a work called “The Loves of the Triangles”; I never read it, but I am sure that if triangles ever were loved, they were loved for being triangular. This is certainly the case with all artistic creation, which is in some ways the most decisive example of pure will. The artist loves his limitations: they constitute the thing he is doing. The painter is glad that the canvas is flat. The sculptor is glad that the clay is colourless.

The modern gender benders do want to free the tiger from his stripes, no matter how foolish that might be to even try. They want the triangle without its three legs or three inner angles. They want to pretend reality does not exist, and that their mere whims and wants can create reality.

The delusional world of the trans activists is just part of the larger world of delusion we find all over the West. Madness reigns. Of course who said that so much of modern thought is rational, or logical, or even based on reality? Chesterton goes on to show the futility of modern thinking – or aspects of it. One more largish quote is in order here:

But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then he writes another book (about the sex problem) in which he insults it himself. He curses the Sultan because Christian girls lose their virginity, and then curses Mrs. Grundy because they keep it. As a politician, he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then, as a philosopher, that all life is waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie, and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie. He calls a flag a bauble, and then blames the oppressors of Poland or Ireland because they take away that bauble. The man of this school goes first to a political meeting, where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts; then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting, where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.

OK, I may not have said all that much here on the transgender issue, but hey, any excuse will do to run with Chesterton one more time. And anything I can do to introduce others to the man and his writings is worth running with as well. Happy reading, and happy thinking!

[1651 words]

13 Responses to Chesterton, Reality and the Gender Benders

  • True wisdom.

  • Yes Chesterton was a prophetic voice for our times, I have loved his writing a long time now and thank you for the reminder to go and read Orthodoxy again!

    Another great prophetic voice is C.S. Lewis, his Abolition of Man is a warning that should have been heeded long ago in our schools! And The Weight of Glory article of his is an encouragement all thinking Christians should carry with them.

  • Hi Bill. I’ve ordered a whole bunch of books, largely through your articles and readings, but sadly, I missed out including Chesterton. I will surely place this one on top for the next order. Thank you. I did order C.S.Lewis, the Abolition of Man, and looking forward to sinking my mental teeth into that. Cheers.

  • Bill,
    Your type of books have too much logic and rational thinking for the progressive left to reason with these ideas. This is the reason these people lobby for change using their personal story, despite laws and regulations are designed for a nation of people not an individual. Australians are exposed to the schizophrenic laws which confuse people’s thinking, especially murder is confused with choice. The secular legislators are wanting to legislate laws to control religious institutions and their beliefs. The progressive left failed to think that genuine Christians have their choice to reject a corrupt civil registered marriage practice for themselves and their family because the 2017 amended Marriage Act and no fault divorce laws are filled with deception and lies.

    There are Australians who marry for status, money, inheritance, immigration, welfare benefits and independence by having access to a no fault divorce, but genuine Christians don’t become “one flesh” (marriage) for any of these Australian government marriage benefits nor so they can participate in marital rape nor family violence. The people who identify as “transgender” can’t explain a reason for changing their physical body, especially when they believe “male” and female” are only a social construct.

    The death-care practice, sexual orientation and gender identity aren’t based on any logical nor rational reason. The Victorian government has decided to allow mother’s their choice to intentionally kill their unplanned/unwanted baby with her legal consent. Also, the Victorian government has decided it is the terminally ill patient’s choice to end their life with their legal consent. The Australian Federal Parliament decided it was the people’s choice to have a “same-sex marriage” with their legal consent. Australian governments are unable to discriminate harmful sexual behaviours and practices from healthy sexual behaviours and practices, because they believe in choice and legal consent will some how make an informed decision.

    There is no medical procedure nor treatment which will change xx female chromosomes into xy male chromosomes. When a person is dead and their body is naked the truth is revealed. A xx female chromosome person with a “male” name doesn’t change their female DNA. The feeling of feminine doesn’t make a person a biological female, but xx female chromosomes does make females identify as “feminine.” A “one flesh” isn’t the same behavioural practice as a civil registered marriage. Genuine Christians will need to use Biblical scripture to define and regulate their “one flesh” in order that secular legislators can’t create laws which would control religious freedom, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech. There is now confusion between the churches role with participating in “one flesh” (marriage) and the governments role in law and order of harmful sexual relationships such as “adulterous marriages,” “same-sex marriages,” “Harlot marriages,” child marriages, cuffing marriages, and all other sexually immoral marriages.

  • Well, to add to this lunacy, I have recently been acquainted with a statement saying a student has come out with their gender struggle issue who was born male but has always identified as female. The rest of the message goes on to say that we as a community must support this individual and that bullying or harassment will not be tolerated, this statement I unequivocally and completely agree with. Furthermore, it goes on to describe that respect, regardless of gender, appearance, religion, ability or ethnicity is a sign of a strong community, again, I unequivocally agree, and I believe most descent people would also. However, the disturbing part of this piece was the assertion that this child has “always” been this way is beyond words. So to say that a new-born child identifies as a different sex is apparently a logical statement now! Hopefully, it was a Freudian linguistic slip inserting the modifying adverb ‘always’, tragically I don’t think so. As a Christian, through Christ’s example, we are called to love and treat everyone with respect, and I endeavour to do this as passionately and humanly possible. However, I assume I will be labelled a ‘hater’ or ‘transphobic’ for not agreeing with the statement that the child has always been that way. If I were to make a statement similar to the excerpt in your article from Chesterton, I would certainly be labelled a hater. Heaven forbid a logical and rational statement such as, one cannot change their chromosomes simply because they happen to ‘identify’ as a different sex is not possible. I will be praying for this child and the parent/s that this gender dysphoria disorder can be overcome. One has to wonder though, how much parental influence was involved with this decision.
    Could you recommend a book on this issue I could read to be better prepared.

  • Thanks Jonathan. Around a half dozen good books on the issue have appeared over the past few years. Perhaps one of the best is this:

    billmuehlenberg.com/2018/02/21/review-harry-became-sally-ryan-anderson/

  • Thanks Bill. I went back to your previous articles and found Dr Ryan Anderson. I will certainly get a copy so I can be armed, as you said with the right information, sound science, and compassionate concern in this idealogical war.
    Cheers

  • The mines of doubt and scepticism are indeed as deep as the proverbial Abyss itself. It is unbelief that is blind, not true faith. The “It ain’t necessarily so” creed ultimately ends up questioning the very validity of human reason itself, thus destroying any possibility of meaningful language or thought. When men wilfully cast their minds adrift on the turbulent seas of their own wild fancies, it is not surprising that the outcomes frequently prove fatal to themselves, and often to those attracted to their alleged new-found liberties.

  • Thanks Bill. I have just downloaded Chesterton’s entire collection on Kindle for less than $3. The Everlasting Man is not on it, but I got that for about $1.26. He is brilliant. Thanks for reminding us again. LOVE the opening of Orthodoxy!

  • Thanks Bruce. Yes I saw that: 50 GKC books for el cheapo on Kindle:

    www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00ALKPW4S/ref=pe_397940_286462840_em_1p_0_ti

    I don’t do Kindle but my wife does so I told her to get them! I already have at least 40 Chesterton books – REAL books that is!

  • Philosophy 101 “cogito ergo sum”, “I think therefore I am”.
    This is supposedly the only thing that cannot be doubted logically because “that there are thoughts” cannot be doubted.

    Lovely ivory tower stuff, but nobody lives that way… well, maybe we should doubt that now.

    I’m certain that our philosophy teacher didn’t doubt that he had to go down the stairs for lunch. He could have doubted; stairs, second floor, gravity, body, lunch, etc etc.

    No doubt he would appreciate the attention from the paramedics had he been serious for one second.

    Chesterton’s tactic of reflecting the opposite consequence is great.

  • Thanks for this article, Bill. Chesterton was truly a man for all seasons — his writings are timeless, because truth is unchanging.

    Thanks too for allowing comments well above your nominal 100 word limit, as wise contributors have provided much food for thought, and material for letters to the editor, etc.

    Being male or female is not just about bodily organs. Your biological sex is literally written in each one of the 30 trillion cells of your body. Your biological sex is determined by two chromosomes, because one came from your female mother (always X), and the other from your male father (the second X for females; the Y for males).

    Chesterton would have told the LGBTIQA mob that no-one is born gay, because the union of male and female is literally written all over you. The fact of having a mother and father is literally written in every cell of your body, except in the cells your body produces to allow you to become a mother or father as the case may be. When the sperm and egg unite, they cease to be what they were, joining as the “one flesh” of a new life.

    Moreover, the fact of you DNA even existing shows that an act of natural sexual intercourse has occurred to produce you. Half of your DNA comes from your father who gave you life; the other half from your mother who gave you birth. “Same-sex marriage” is a total nonsense.

    And if people were born gay, the LGBTIQA mob would demand “life equality” and “baby law reform” to uphold the right to life of ‘gay’ babies.

    Chesterton’s work reinforces the importance of logic, reason, evidence, and critical thinking. In a recent email, Tasmanian MP David O’Byrne says abortion “should be accessible to all Tasmanian women”. Does this mean he’s going to impregnate all Tasmania women, so they can access their right to abortion?

    Tasmania’s Reproductive Health Act, which O’Byrne voted for, falsely defines ‘woman’ as ‘female of any age’. How will an 8-year-old or 80-year-old woman exercise her right to abortion? What about transgender women? Surely a man who self-identifies as a woman, should have the same right to abortion as any other woman?

  • Thank you, Mr Muehelenberg, for this article. You touched upon a treasure when you pointed us back to G.K. Chesterton. I fished out an old copy of ‘Orthodoxy’ which I read in my teens; its just as sane and sound (and as amusing) now as when he wrote it. Back in the 80s I visited his grave and home at ‘Top Meadow’. Poignant and uplifting it was. I can see in this Transgender contagion the kind of abhorrent lunacy he talks about so presciently. Kindest good wishes to you. Keep up the fight.

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