Friday, October 13, 2006

He's a Rebel

What struck me about G.K. Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday when I first read it, as an agnostic Jewish rock journalist who thought Christians were boring and conformist, was that it presented faith as a rebellion against the world. Until then, I had assumed that Christians ran the world, and that the only way to be a rebel was to oppose them — even as I might ostensibly agree with them on things like that "do unto others" stuff.

I later discovered that the feeling I had received from Chesterton's fictional work was fully articulated by him in Orthodoxy:

"Christianity alone has felt that God, to be wholly God, must have been a rebel as well as a king."

Profound enough, but Chesterton immediately gets even deeper:

"Alone of all creeds, Christianity has added courage to the virtues of the Creator. For the only courage worth calling courage must necessarily mean that the soul passes a breaking point and does not break. In this indeed I approach a matter more dark and awful than it is easy to discuss; and I apologise in advance if any of my phrases fall wrong or seem irreverent touching a matter which the greatest saints and thinkers have justly feared to approach. But in that terrific tale of the Passion there is a distinct emotional suggestion that the author of all things (in some unthinkable way) went not only through agony, but through doubt. It is written, "Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God." No; but the Lord thy God may tempt Himself; and it seems as if this was what happened in Gethsemane. In a garden Satan tempted man: and in a garden God tempted God. He passed in some superhuman manner through our human horror of pessimism. When the world shook and the sun was wiped out of heaven, it was not at the crucifixion, but at the cry from the cross: the cry which confessed that God was forsaken of God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods of the world, carefully weighing all the gods of inevitable recurrence and of unalterable power. They will not find another god who has himself been in revolt. Nay, (the matter grows too difficult for human speech,) but let the atheists themselves choose a god. They will find only one divinity who ever uttered their isolation; only one religion in which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist."

I am going to remember that as I pray tonight — that Jesus loves me so much that He even peered into the depths of hopelessness for my sake, so that he would be "touched with the feeling of [my] infirmities." I will also ask Him for the grace of being able to look beyond my own infirmities and show others that same empathetic love that He shows me.