What Is Wrong With The World?

I-amHave you ever tried to explain to a law enforcement officer that your radar detector has been stolen? I had that distinct pleasure a few years ago when my wife and I discovered our automobiles had been burglarized. The burglary itself could have been much worse. On the night of the break-in, our home and both our vehicles were unlocked. The keys to both cars were safely tucked in the ignitions.

But the thieves it appears were not interested in committing grand theft auto. They only wanted our CDs, the change in the consoles, our phone chargers, and those two radar detectors – yes, two – there was one in each car. So as the sheriff’s deputy sat in my living room taking my statement and cataloging my missing goods, I felt like a stinking, hypocritical fraud. There I was, reporting what had been taken from me, and yet every time I climbed behind the wheel of my car, I was intentionally breaking the law and using the now absent electronics to evade the penalty for my transgression.

A few days later when a detective called to tell me that officers had arrested the alleged bandits, it didn’t please me. They were just kids, but kids who had done some damage in the community, committing more than a hundred “car-hopping” smash and grabs. With so much already stacked against them, I told the detective just to let my report find its way to the shredder.

This whole duplicitous affair, oddly enough, reminded me of one of the greatest British writers of the twentieth century: G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton was a three-hundred-pound mountain of a man whose intellect, honesty, and savvy were even larger. He authored thousands of literary works from simple newspaper articles and short stories to complex novels and poetry. A committed follower of Jesus in the Catholic tradition, he often faced skeptics, agnostics, or atheists in public debate. He would proceed to dismantle them with his humor and brains, and then with grace and civility treat his vanquished foe at the pub, drinking, debating, and laughing together as friends.

He was a master of the one-line zinger, long before television invented the sound bite. He once said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.” Another favorite barb of his was, “A dead thing can go with the stream, but only a living thing can go against it…I owe my success to having listened to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”

When Chesterton was at his peak of popularity and wit, a London paper, The Times, solicited responses from its readership by asking this question: “What is wrong with the world?”  You can imagine the result. Hundreds of long, detailed letters poured in to the editor. Then The Times asked a number of distinguished authors and leading thinkers of the day to respond with full essays answering the question. Again, the essays poured in, verbose and long-winded. The shortest and most powerful response came from Chesterton.

Here is Chesterton’s answer to what is wrong with the world. He wrote: “Dear Sirs, I am. Yours truly, G. K. Chesterton.” So am I.