Thursday, June 16, 2011


I was distressed to find two or three running paragraphs of prejudice against Jews in GK Chesterton's short story "Dukes," written in 1909. It was standard Jew-pedlars and pawnbrokers, moneygrubbing, no-true-gentleman sort of thing, common among the educated classes of England in that time, but it still caught me by surprise.

The Wikipedia article references the debate, and Chesterton's opinions on "The Jewish Question" of the day. He was anti-capitalist (as well as anti-socialist) and saw the Jews of Europe as the spearhead of this. He thought their culture separate from European Christendom and that they should have a homeland in Palestine. He was an immediate opponent of Hitler and National Socialism. Jewish groups were later clear that he was "not an enemy."

But still. It was pretty rank. One hopes that had he lived in another time he might not have adopted opposition he did. Yet one also hopes that Christians show more ability to rise above the evils of their era better than other folks.

Two Quick Updates. I am definitely going to post something on Distributism - not its history, but how some similar thoughts are playing out today.

Second, my life has been gradually invaded by knitters. My DIL first, but then kitten, hbd chick, and now BtEG. What is this knitting hegemony which occurs unannounced? Is the apocalypse held at bay by skeins of yarn?


Barb the Evil Genius said...

If he was anti-capitalist and anti-socialist, what was he? I'm not up on various shades of governing.

james said...

Distributist. I never delved into their ideas to figure out how one gets from here to there, or how the necessity of armies changes the picture.
Somewhere (The Trouble with the World?) he claimed that urgency was the excuse for specialization and for kings--when your neighbor is attacking you need somebody to organize defense in a hurry (somebody you obey!); when your house is on fire you really want some firemen, etc. This undermines his Distributism a little.

Wrt prejudice, in a book of his I read years ago, he described a visit to Rome and an enthusiastic priest he met who, describing church growth abroad, said perhaps one day soon there'd be a black pope. Chesterton immediately said that he wasn't ready for that, "and then I remembered the dusky third king, and was ashamed."

Kitten said...

I was wondering the same BtEG.

I found the same fairly casual anti-sematism in some of Agatha Christie's books. It always jarred, I think _because_ it was so casual.

Lelia Rose Foreman said...

Oh. Dear.

I think a distributist would like that so many in America own stocks in funds?

I like the quote about the black pope. I do wish Chesterton could have thought of our Jewish Saviour and also been ashamed.

Anonymous said...

I think a case might be made that the older he got the more his casual, cultural anti-Semitism got worn off by his Catholic (in both senses) view. I would be interested in knowing at what point of his life (before or after his conversion) these particularly blatant opinions were written.

Texan99 said...

Always hatin' on the knitters. I take it personally even though I can't master knitting and instead am an inveterate crocheter. I crochet for hours most days. I don't understand how anyone can get through a day without it. Don't you have any OCD tendencies at all?

Kitten said...

I'm hoping I get to take the blame for BtEG.

On a purely personal level, there's nothing like a ball of yarn to prevent a localized apocalypse.

hbd chick said...

Is the apocalypse held at bay by skeins of yarn?

heh. (^_^) dunno about the apocalypse, but knitting (and prolly crocheting, too) is apparently good for the little grey cells. and you get socks at the end of the day, too!

Barb the Evil Genius said...

Yep, Kitten, you do take the blame for me! :)

I noticed the anti-Semitism in Christie's books as well, and also find it jarring. I remember reading that the Holocaust pulled Christie up short a little bit.

As far as knitting, I love the slogan, "I knit so I don't kill people."

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Barb, that just reassures me so much.

Donna B. said...

Don't get complacent, AVI. I don't knit or crochet.

Sam L. said...

I got lost at "the dusky third king". Was this one of the Three Kings/Magi?

Could he have coped with a Polish Pope?

james said...

There are traditionally supposed to have been three kings at Bethlehem, one of whom is often portrayed as black. I don't know why; possibly to symbolize the universality of Christ's call.

Tim Henwood said...

The interesting thing about our Saviour is that many disowned him, even those closest to him. Sadly there were many members of the Jewish community in South Africa who were involved in the persecution of Blacks. Mandela was prosecuted by Percy Utar S.C. who is said to have had some bitterness due to an attack on his family by certain undesirable elements of the Black Community. After Mandela was made President, he insisted on visiting Yutar at his home to reconcile. Yutar told me that he- Yutar- didn't want publicity so Mandela enterd the property through the back gate! Chesterton is an inspire writer who went from being an athiest to salvation and in his walk of faith became a Catholic. Things will jarr and sins will have been committed- that is what salvation is there for!