I am familiar with Chesterton. Over the decades I've read
a lot of his work and even attended meetings and conferences
of the Chesterton society in an effort to learn more. At
the end of it all I think Chesterton was a gifted writer,
very appropriate (and popular) in his age but his time has
passed. The kind of language, and attitude, he exhibited
was appropriate in another age but it simply will not work
today. Many, if not all of the ideas that Chesterton was
exploring though do remain "appropriate" and transcend
all ages and epochs. The same could be said of Cardinal
Newman. Like Chesterton in an earlier epoch, he was a gifted
and prolific user of the media of his time but the language
he used simply does not communicate to many people today
and it probably would not have worked in Chesterton's
The ideas and "truths" that these great communicators
were seeking to explore and promote though transcend all
time. The challenge each age faces is in finding the communicators
who can explore these core ideas and "truths"
which lie at the very core of our faith in language that
is accessible to the broad constituency in any particular
community at a particular time in history.
Coming back to your comments in this latest response...
I have already agreed with you that nihilism is bound to
fail. I would also agree with your (presumed) analysis to
a significiant degree that nihilism is one of the characteristics
or "marks" of post-Christian secular culture.
Probably differently to you though I also see in modern
culture a deep yearning for the spiritual and one that is
perhaps probably stronger than at any previous point in
history and certainly within my own lifetime. I do also
see that institutional religion does not seem to have the
means to be able to respond to that yearning. I keep asking
Where I think I part company with yourself is that I do
have a fundamentally different vision of what the core Truths
are that we are responsible for, and endeavouring to, communicate
to the world at large. This is also where I ended up parting
company with all my friends in the various conservative
organisations in the Church which I previously supported
including the Chesterton Society which, incidentally in
its contemporary form in Australia, had its beginnings in
Western Australia. I was present at the first of the conferences
held at New Norcia similar to the one you attended which
voted to extend the organisation nationally.
So what are the differences? We could certainly write a
book on that and I've probably already done so several
times over in what I've contributed to this discussion board
over the last three or four years. I will try to summarise
it beginning in the paragraph after next.
For the moment though, let me re-emphasize that where I
am in agreement with you is that I do not see myself as
trying to get Christianity, or Catholicism, to conform to
popular culture. I would share with you, and with all my
former mates who seem to have to incessantly analyse everything
through a conservative political framework, that nihilism
is doomed to failure and that there is no future in endeavouring
to "water down" Christianity in the hope that
it might be made more appealing to those who have been seduced
by the attractions of nihilism, consumerism and all the
other "meNOW!" allures of modern
Returning then to try and explain as simply as possibly
what I see as the differences between what I see are the
two principle alternatives competing within the Church today
for "hearts and minds". (Like Cardinal Pell, I
think so-called "liberalism" within the Church
is a largely spent force. There might be many people around
today who call themselves "liberals" or "progressives"
but they are largely using that term today to differentiate
themselves from the conservative alternative rather than
in the sense of liberalism that was a real force some decades
ago and which did have an agenda of trying to "water
down" Catholicism or Christianity in order for it to
better conform to the emergent modern secular culture.)
Within the Church today I do think there are two main intellectual
visions that are in competition. One is a vision that tends
to analyse everything in life in a "political"
context. The other rejects the notion that things of the
spirit can be analysed and understood in a "political"
frame of reference. I do not see the two forces in competition
then as "conservatives" versus "liberals"
but rather as an overtly political frame of reference in
competition with another that is constantly wanting to reject
any political frame of reference. Obviously in such a dualism
it is very difficult for those in the political frame of
reference to understand their opponents. They analyse everything
in a political frame of reference and it is next to impossible
for them therefore to understand anything that is put forward
that is specifically and very deliberately seeking to reject
the political nature of the base understanding in the political
frame of reference. Think about that last sentence.