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ism, and its willingness to believe in anything (from ESP in Chesterton’s
time to the Gaia hypothesis in our own), must be read as an inability tosustain the traumatic reality of God incarnate. As Father Brown puts it,
People readily swallow the untested claims of this, that, or the other. It’sdrowning all your old rationalism and skepticism, it’s coming in like a sea; andthe name of it is superstition. It’s the rst effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense and can’t see things as they are. Anything thatanybody talks about, and says there’s a good deal in it, extends itself inde
nitely like a vista in a nightmare. And a dog is an omen, and a cat is a mystery,
and a pig is a mascot, and a beetle is a scarab, calling up all the menagerie of polytheism from Egypt and old India; Dog Anubis and great green-eyed Pasht
and all the holy howling Bulls of Bashan; reeling back to the bestial gods of thebeginning, escaping into elephants and snakes and crocodiles; and all because
you are frightened of four words. He was made Man.
Refusal to believe in God incarnate leads not so much to atheism as togeneral superstition. Eliminating God means reproducing divinity every-
where. With all this Žižek agrees. But “he was made man,” for Žižek, does
not mean, as it does for Chesterton, that God has included humanity inthe divine economy, but rather that, as with the Hegelian interpretationof Christianity, what was formerly perceived as an external Creator orMaster is now comprehended as nothing but the ungrounded and utterly
contingent fact of human freedom itself. For Žižek, the decadent super
naturalism identied by Chesterton has its source not in the rejection of
God but in the rejection of the radicality of freedom. Rather than sustain
the responsibility entailed by freedom, humanity drifts back into variet
-ies of the
, re-populating the disenchanted universe with apanoply of ancient gods and familiar spirits.
Žižek is convinced that what he shares with Chesterton is—ironically—the endorsement of a direct link between incarnationalism and a kind of
naturalism, a reduction of the supernatural to the ironies of contingency.
But as Milbank points out in his rejoinders to Žižek,
Chesterton was himself convinced
of the reality of angels, miracles, magic, and the importance of fairy stories. In
, Chesterton claimed that it was
ordinary reality was so astonishing that he himself was willing to entertain angels,miracles and magic. Chesterton also astutely noticed that in general angels
appear and magic happens to the most hard-headed ordinary people, likeshepherds and shermen, and not to pathetic warlocks begging demons
to bring them power.
The Complete Father Brown Stories
7. Slavoj Žižek, John Milbank and Creston Davis,
The Monstrosity of Christ: Paradox or Dialectic?
(Cambridge: MIT, 2009), 25.8. G. K. Chesterton,
(London: Bodley Head, 1957), 262.