Issues & G.K.'s Answers
Much of what G.K. Chesterton wrote was timeless.
"He is not of our time, but of all times," wrote A.G. Gardiner, editor of the London Daily News. More than 100 years after Chesterton first started writing for the Daily News, readers continue to find his words fresh and timely, in some ways written more for our day than his own. Consider:
"Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it."
"Defending any of the cardinal virtues now has all the exhilaration of a vice."
"Men do not differ much about what things they will call evils; they differ enormously about what evils they will call excusable."
"The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people."
Such writing doesn't need a lot of explanation. But Chesterton also wrote about many events in his lifetime with which modern readers may not be familiar.
Unlike many journalists, though, he was not a reactionary. His ideas were not formed in response to what happened in the world while he lived. Rather, he was an expansive thinker with a fully formed philosophy who was able to comprehend what was happening and warn against what could and would happen.
His response to the Boer War shows his layered thinking. Chesterton was a patriot, not a pacifist, but he felt compelled to criticize his country's role in this particular conflict.
The Boer War began in 1899 when Britain attempted to take over the small but gold- and diamond-rich South African country of Transvaal. The Boers, descendents of the Dutch and Germans who had settled there several generations earlier, were mostly farmers, but they were also experts ...