G.K. has a way of framing the question of Francis in a way that I haven’t quite read before. Francis is a difficult character to wrap one’s mind around in the best of circumstances, especially because he lived so long ago in quite different times. And much of the information that we have is, at best, second hand.
But I think that G.K. is making a good attempt at filling in the gaps. Particularly provocative is his idea that the West itself (Christendom) did a bit of necessary “wandering in the desert” in the Dark Ages. His idea (roughly paraphrasing) is that we needed to purge ourselves of something. And then, when purged, we were ready to once again engage nature, and appreciate it (and life) more fully, because we had put our Pagan-centered view of nature as the be-all end-all of life behind us.
Chesterton covers all this in just the first few pages. He believes that we need to understand not just the time of Francis of Assisi, but the context of that time — that is, what led up to Francis’ time. What happened before.
And then — boom — it hits me. We are, I believe, clearly devolving to a Pagan society. Many call it “secular,” but it’s the same thing. We see it in the environmental wacko movement in particular. It’s a love for nature as nature and nothing more. Man thus becomes degraded, as Chesterton said the Greeks and others became degraded (and he said that they realized it at the time) and thus the pre-Christian age welcomed the change to a transcendent theistic vision of reality.
Are we now not a degraded society with abortion, gay marriage, socialism, “social justice,” and the very corruption of our political systems in the West by “secular” types? Have they not in Europe, in particular, become a “secular” people (as Mark Steyn chronicles in “America Alone”) and are dying out as a civilization? In essence, the churches are empty but the welfare lines and abortion clinics are full.
To Chesterton, Francis represented, in part, a return to a healthy love of nature because nature was not the end thing. It was seen in the context of a creator and thus could be loved even more. You can hug a rock or a tree, as some environmental wackos do, but those are clearly empty calories compared to a view that takes in something larger than nature.
To have a “secular” government as America does is all fine and dandy. That’s a good thing. But many have been propagandized into believing that therefore a “secular” society and people is to be the standard as well. And although I’m not a Christian, I can see where the West is heading right now. And it is not a “secular” world we are building but a bit of a nasty Pagan one.
Food for thought, and I expect more nourishment to come as I work my way through what gives every indication of being a thoughtful biography of Francis of Assisi by G.K. And your comments and thoughts are particularly welcome on what is indeed a large subject.
Some, of course, would say that becoming a Pagan society is a good thing. That’s one issue. One may agree with that or not. The other central issue is, of course, whether or not you think we actually are becoming a Pagan world. To me it is utterly self-evident that we are. And I would argue that for any or all of the excesses of Christendom, we have very little to look forward to in a Pagan world of the socialist “secular” Left (even if that Left is Christian and calls their worldly ways “social justice”). • (2333 views)