Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Africa Chesterton Never Knew

By G.K. Chesterton

A sleepy people, without priests or kings,
Dreamed here, men say, to drive us to the sea:
O let us drive ourselves! For it is free
And smells of honour and of English things.
How came we brawling by these bitter springs,
We of the North?—two kindly nations—we?
Though the dice rattles and the clear coin rings,
Here is no place for living men to be.
Leave them the gold that worked and whined for it,
Let them that have no nation anywhere
Be native here, and fat and full of bread;
But we, whose sins were human, we will quit
The land of blood, and leave these vultures there,
Noiselessly happy, feeding on the dead.

Alice C. Linsley

I am a great fan of the work of G.K. Chesterton and a member of the Louisville Chesterton Society. Each month we meet to discuss another of Chesterton's memorable writings. The conversation is often lively. We admire Chesterton's intellect and commitment to the received tradition or the "faith once delivered" to the saints, yet we also recognize his weaknesses and prejudices, for which he makes no apologies.

Chesterton reflects his time and ethnicity. He lived before the major discoveries in anthropology that would have enhanced his 1908 portrayal of archaic man in Orthodoxy and he shared the typical British disdain for the inhabitants of that "dark continent" Africa. In his poem Lepanto, he contrasts the light of Europe with the "death-light of Africa" and speaks of how the struggle against darkness is to be expected in this life. His poem Africa reflects his view of the Boer War fought between the British Empire and the two South African Boer republics. Chesterton considered this a war of British imperial expansion motivated by greed for gold and diamonds and he did not support it.

Chesterton's opposition to imperialism (he opposed Hitler for the same reason) is commendable, but his opening line - A sleepy people, without priests or kings - is regrettable. It presents an inaccurate picture of the origins of the very priesthood that Chesterton regarded as essential to Christianity.

Africa was never without priests and kings. It is the point of origin of the oldest known priesthood and the oldest known line of rulers. Africa is the urheimat of all the practices associated with the ruler-priests of ancient Israel, the Habiru (Hebrew). Among the Habiru were the Shasu whose name for the Creator was YHWH. They were Nubians. The Christian priesthood emerges from the priesthood of the Horites, that ancient caste of ruler-priests who anticipated the coming the Seed of Ra by the overshadowing of one of their virgins

Biblical Anthropology has served to uncover what has been hidden behind racist interpretations of the Bible for too long. Today Africa is recognized as the cradle of modern humans, the crucible from which the linguistic diversity of modern languages came forth; the land where men were first circumcised and animals first sacrificed to cover sins.

Almighty God, who didst grant to thy servant Gilbert the gift of a ready tongue and pen, and didst endue him with zeal to use the same in thy service: Mercifully grant to each of us, that we may well and truly answer anyone who asks of us a reason for the hope that is in us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

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