Spotted (from a safe distance) at the Beaconsfield cemetery, where G.K. Chesterton's body lies beneath a bag-free headstone.
Continued from yesterday's post:
Christian witness generally means telling non-Christians, or nonobservant Christians, the Good News of Jesus Christ. When I accepted Jesus, I thought that I would never again have to endure a Christian's telling me what I had to do to be saved.
I was wrong.
Most of my fellow tourgoers on the "Chesterton Pilgrimage" to England went out of their way to make me feel comfortable, knowing that, as a non-Catholic there, I was in a minority of one. But a few of them (I'd say five out of 25) tried to witness to me—with embarrassing results.
I realize that Catholics believe that theirs is the only religion that has the "keys to the kingdom." For them, as with other Christians, witnessing their faith is an act of loving concern.
But there is a fine art of witnessing—and often the best witness is simply to exhibit the fruits of one's faith. When my fellow Chesterton pilgrims would give me the hard sell, or comment that they "knew" I was "on the path" to Catholicism, the message I got was that I was that my accepting Jesus five years ago mattered not at all. The fact that I didn't pledge allegiance in Rome meant I was effectively still a mere Jew, incomplete, just half a person.
It was with references to my Jewish background that those few witnessing tourgoers approached me. They would recommend I read the writings of St. Edith Stein—a Jewish convert who was murdered by the Nazis—or tell me about the Hebrew Catholic movement, which attempts to integrate Jews into the church while encouraging them to retain their cultural identity.
Imagine a black Christian woman who loves holy places and admires Jewish thought, visiting a synagogue. As she admires the art and architecture, she's greeted by a solicitous Jewish man who says, "Have you heard of Sammy Davis Jr.? You really should read his autobiography."
I felt terrible, because these well-intentioned people were trying to reach me the only way they knew how, and the end result was that I was more alienated than ever.
On Day 6 of the Chesterton Pilgrimage, Sussex, the stomping grounds of Chesterton pal Hilaire Belloc, was on the itinerary, along with a lecture on Belloc.
In 1911, Belloc wrote in the Eye-Witness (as quoted in Michael Ffinch's G.K. Chesterton: A Biography):
Now unless the Jewish race is to be absorbed and disappear in the mass of European blood and tradition surrounding it, that contrast and its consequent friction will increase in the near future until their worst fruit shall have ripened: a fruit of oppression, injustice, and enduring hatred.I decided to give the Belloc excursion a miss.
Instead, I spent the day with my dear old friend Vince Miller (with me at left), whom I hadn't seen since we last shared a euphoric eel hand-roll experience six years ago. He took me on a country drive, visiting thrift shops, a used bookstore, and a vinyl-record store that stocked used 45s. Heaven! We also watched Alec Guinness and Ernie Kovacs in the wonderful "Our Man in Havana," written by Chesterton fan Graham Greene.
On the last full day of the tour, this past Sunday, we had some free time in London, so I took the long-awaited opportunity to see John Carter (right) for the first time in five years. John ranks in my book as one of the greatest pop songwriters of the rock era (and a fine singer too). His classic compositions include "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat," "Little Bit of Soul," and "Beach Baby."
John gave me the exciting news that the 1967 hit version of his song "My World Fell Down" by the group Sagittarius was sampled by U.K. superstars the Prodigy on their upcoming album, Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned. The song's intro is used as the basis for a track called "Shoot Down," which features Oasis brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher. I'm no Prodigy fan, but if they're going to sample someone—and pay royalties—it couldn't happen to a more deserving songwriter.