I recently spoke at the @chestertonsoc conference on “Chesterton and My Jewish/Catholic Journey.” When Society prez Dale Ahlquist asked me to speak on being a Jew who converted to Catholicism after reading GKC, I told him I wrestled with Chesterton’s writings on Jews. (1/35) Image
Dale encouraged me to speak honestly of that wrestling, and I am grateful. I’d like to share some highlights from my talk.

I’ll skip the part about how I discovered Chesterton, as I’ve discussed that elsewhere (see thomasaquinas.edu/news/healing-m…). (2/35)
The first part of my talk focused on how Chesterton shaped my understanding of morality. I identified six moral imperatives I learned from him. Then I read quotations from him on Jews. Finally, I recommended judging his writings on Jews by his own moral imperatives. (3/35) Image
I said that where there were writings of Chesterton’s where he failed to practice the morality he preached, the Chesterton community should disavow those writings and repent of them. And I offered suggestions of how to do so. (4/35)
So that’s the outline of my talk. Here are the moral imperatives along with slides showing the Chesterton writings from which I learned them.

1. I must always place language at the service of truth.

2. I must always place personal judgment at the service of truth. ImageImage
3. I must call out sin for what it is.

4. God gave me the gift of reason. I must use it!

5. I must recognize and follow permanent standards of morality.

6. Being Christian means resisting evil within myself and within society. (6/35) ImageImageImageImage
After listing moral imperatives I learned from Chesterton, I turned to examine representative writings of Chesterton’s on the Jewish people. I showed a famous photo of him with the Jewish author and poet Israel Zangwill. (7/35) Image
Those seeking to absolve Chesterton of charges of anti-Semitism often point to his friendship with Zangwill. Chesterton did have Jewish friends. However, they never mention that Zangwill, although friends with him for a time, came to be disgusted with his writings on Jews. (8/35)
In 1916, Zangwill wrote that The New Witness, which Chesterton edited, was more properly called The False Witness and its editors were a band of “Jew-baiters” who should go to confession. (See the screenshots and see this link for context: google.com/books/edition/….) (9/35) ImageImageImage
Elsewhere Zangwill called Chesterton and Belloc anti-Semites, and said they were always bragging about having Jewish friends.

I learned about Zangwill’s criticism of Chesterton from @mayerssd’s excellent book Chesterton’s Jews (simonmayers.com/chestertons-je…). (10/35)
In Chesterton’s Jews, Mayers catalogues stereotypes of Jews in Chesterton’s writings. I highly recommend the book over the one @chestertonsoc endorses, Ann Farmer’s Chesterton and the Jews, not least of all because Mayers finds a number of writings that Farmer ignores. (11/35)
I told the Chesterton Conference that what I read in Chesterton’s Jews shocked me. Before sharing examples, I forewarned the audience—as I’ll forewarn you—that they are difficult to take. For a Chesterton fan such as myself, it takes time to process these things. (12/35)
One of the essays that I discovered through Simon Mayers's book is so offensive that when Frank Sheed reprinted it in an anthology, he excised its most offensive language. @IgnatiusPress’s collected works of Chesterton retains Sheed’s censorious edit. (13/35)
I shared the uncensored version of that essay in my talk at the Chesterton conference. But before I shared it, I discussed two other examples of Chesterton’s writings on Jews. The first was taken from his observations on Henry Ford in What I Saw in America (1921). (14/35)
At the time Chesterton wrote on Henry Ford, the auto mogul was propagating vile anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in his Dearborn Messenger. Every Ford dealership carried free copies of the newspaper. Dealers were instructed to put copies of it into each car they sold. (15/35) Image
Chesterton prefaces his remarks on Ford by claiming “[Americans] are accustomed to a cosmopolitan citizenship, in which men of all bloods mingle and in which men of all creeds are counted equal.” (Apparently he’d not seen how the US then treated blacks, immigrants, etc.) (16/35) Image
Then he takes up this weird line of logic where he claims that a prejudice isn’t a prejudice if it’s true. And somehow he doesn’t believe that this is a hasty generalization fallacy, neither does he see it as the racialism that he condemns in numerous other writings. (17/35) ImageImageImageImage
I’m not sure why he concludes, “That is the meaning of the incident of Mr. Henry Ford of Detroit; and you will hardly hear an intelligible word about it in England.” The context suggests he’s gibing at UK reports that called Ford prejudiced. Perhaps he’s being contrarian. (18/35) ImageImage
Still, as I noted in my address to the Chesterton Conference, there’s no good in being contrarian simply for contrarianism’s sake. And of all the things in the press that he could counter, why does Chesterton choose to counter reporters who are concerned about prejudice? (19/35)
One might think that once Hitler came to power and began to send out his Brown Shirts to attack Jews, Chesterton would soften his stance towards the Jewish people. In fact, his writings on Jews from that time onward grew only more flippant. (20/35)
In late July 1933, Chesterton wrote in G.K’s Weekly of “The Judaism of Hitler,” in which he claimed that Hitler’s idea of the master race had its origin in Jewry. As you can see in this slide, he said of the Jews that “they have been too powerful in Germany.” (21/35) Image
Two months later, Chesterton did give an interview to the London Jewish Chronicle in which he harshly criticized Hitler’s actions against Jews. As we read his comments and how they were reported, we’ll see how Chesterton was viewed in comparison with his contemporaries. (22/35)
Chesterton did say he was ready to believe he and Belloc would die defending the last Jew in Europe. But he added, “Thus does history play its ironical jokes upon us.” A Jewish reporter agreed it was ironic; GKC was "among the outstanding anti-Semites in the world."
(23/35) ImageImageImage
The final example that I cited in my talk was one of GKC's last public writings on Jews and Judaism. His essay “On War Books,” ran in G.K.’s Weekly October 10, 1935, eight months before his death. It is this essay that was censored by Frank Sheed, as I noted earlier. (24/35) Image
In “On War Books,” Chesterton wrote that Hitler’s men “beat and bully poor Jews in concentration camps.” Sheed let that stand. On their own, it appears to be an indictment of Hitler. However—and I nearly broke down when I read this aloud in my Chesterton Conference talk— (25/35)
Sheed censored the clause that followed. The full, uncensored sentence read, “They beat and bully poor Jews in concentration camps; and, what is even worse, they do not beat or bully rich Jews who are at the head of big banking houses.”

See the photo in the next tweet. (26/35)
And that horrific crack is Chesterton’s way of leading up to his big point, namely that “Herr Hitler and his group” did one good thing: they burned All Quiet on the Western Front.

Frank Sheed and, later, @IgnatiusPress, did a disservice to GKC fans by covering this up. (27/35) Image
In my Chesterton Conference talk, I had to limit the number of examples I gave of GKC’s anti-Semitic comments--partly for reasons of time and partly because I knew that if the audience were to believe me, I’d have to show them the original sources, which are hard to find. (28/35)
But Mayers’s book gives many more examples. In March 1936, 3 months before his death, Chesterton wrote: “I have always said that there were healthy elements in Hitlerism, and even in Hitler; indeed I rather suspect that Hitler is one of the healthy elements in Hitlerism.” (29/35)
That last quote also appears on Mayers’s blog: simonmayers.com/2013/09/25/g-k…. When I read it and the others that Mayers cites, I felt as though I’d been had. Chesterton’s editors have worked hard to withhold such atrocious statements from modern readers' eyes. (30/35)
I closed my talk at the Chesterton Conference by returning to the moral imperatives I’d cited earlier. It’s abundantly clear that, when it came to Jews, GKC had a terrible blind spot. He failed to follow his own rules. (31/35) Image
I told the audience that if the Chesterton community is concerned that people are calling GKC an anti-Semite, the proper way to respond is to say, yes, he did say those things; he was wrong to do so; and we are going to do penance for them—because he would want us to. (32/35)
That is to say, if the Chesterton community wishes to keep people from throwing out GKC’s good writings along with his bad ones, then they must show the world that they themselves recognize that some of his writings were abhorrent. (33/35)
And since the Chesterton community is largely (though not entirely) Catholic, it makes sense to do penance as a community, to show that it is capable of modeling what was good in GKC—his recognition that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. (34/35)
My Chesterton Conference talk was part of my own penance. Although I’ll never regret reading GKC, I’m sorry I waited so long to confront his writings on Jews. I hope my talk will foster a long-overdue reckoning so we may keep what is good in his work & renounce the rest. (35/35)
Thanks to all who have RTed and commented. I'm glad that this discussion is going on. Here is a short thread in answer to those who have asked how my talk at the @chestertonsoc conference was received.
Here is video of my address at the @chestertonsoc conference. The conversation about Chesterton's anti-Semitism--and the need for the Chesterton community to reckon with--is too important to keep behind closed doors.

*the need for the Chesterton community to reckon with _it_ #editbutton

• • •

Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh

Keep Current with Dawn Eden Goldstein

Dawn Eden Goldstein Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!


Twitter may remove this content at anytime! Save it as PDF for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video
  1. Follow @ThreadReaderApp to mention us!

  2. From a Twitter thread mention us with a keyword "unroll"
@threadreaderapp unroll

Practice here first or read more on our help page!

More from @DawnofMercy

25 Nov
As a @CatholicUniv @CUACanonLaw student, I have questions for @CatholicPres:

1) Since the icon was at a chapel entrance, why do you call the theft mere "bullying"? Why not call it what it is--blasphemy?
2) Is the theft being investigated as a possible hate crime? (It should be.)
I'm also puzzled, @CatholicPres, at your writing, "our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus," by which you apparently mean that the figure can't represent _both_ Jesus _and_ George Floyd (i.e., inviting us to see Jesus in Floyd). (2 of 4)
Before saying "our Law School has always seen the figure as Jesus," did you consult @CathULaw's Regina Jefferson or Shani Butts? At the icon's blessing, they seemed to interpret it within the artist's intended dual symbolism--both Jesus and Floyd.
law.edu/news-and-event… (3 of 4)
Read 5 tweets
21 Aug
After I posted my talk confronting G.K. Chesterton's anti-Semitism, a commenter asked if there were other comments from Chesterton on Jews that were worse than the ones I cited.

I'm sorry to say that the answer's yes. 1/9

In my talk, I used only examples of GKC's anti-Semitism for which I had pics of original sources. I'd read worse examples in @mayerssd's book Chesterton's Jews but didn't have photos. I feared if I cited them without photos, folks wouldn't believe me. 2/9
Today, with the help of @CUAlibraries, I acquired a scan of an essay by Chesterton containing some of his more offensive comments. The essay in question has never been anthologized. I had seen it quoted in Simon Mayers's book and in this blog entry: simonmayers.com/2013/09/25/g-k…. 3/9
Read 9 tweets
21 Jul
On a related note:

I've long been researching efforts by the Napa Institute & its friends--that is, wealthy advocates of unbridled free-market capitalism--to gain power over the US Church.

In particular, I've researched their efforts to obtain data. ...

So the news that The Pillar used data to expose alleged gay activity by the USCCB's incoming general secretary doesn't surprise me. It was only a matter of time before those who owned such data would begin to use it to name and shame those whom they were willing to see fall. ...
As I've said, no one wants to see a priest who engages in scandalous behavior remain in ministry.

But what we're seeing with The Pillar is an anonymously funded media outlet engaging in expensive data mining that enables editors to choose whom to target & whom to ignore. ...
Read 38 tweets

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3/month or $30/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal

Thank you for your support!

Follow Us on Twitter!