We have gotten to that stage in the battle where the forces have fully joined, and there is no longer — properly speaking — a front. We do not have a distinguishable line anymore. It is more like a melee, with different colored uniforms everywhere. And this is why every topic has been swept up into the conflict.
Where can you go where the ruling elites will agree to leave you alone? Can you change a light bulb? Can you fry up some bacon? Can you decline joining in the mandatory celebrations of a same sex mirage? Can you keep your doctor? Are you allowed use plastic bags?
Chesterton said somewhere that our task is to fly the flag of the world — and we should know that this is something that is certain to bring us into conflict with the world. We affirm a fundamental creational loyalty to the world, and constantly thwart the world’s desire to become disloyal to itself. This is why it is good to be earthy, and bad to be worldly. Worldliness is just a clever way of deserting the world.
This is why a battle in a philosophy class over the correspondence view of truth is connected to the marriage debates, which in turn is connected to the environment, which in turn is connected to just war theory, which in turn is connected to the correspondence view of truth.
Everything is connected. Everything matters. Nonsense tolerated anywhere will metastasize, and the results are always ugly. “When the people have got used to unreason they can no longer be startled at injustice.”
In the broken windows theory of law enforcement, disregard of the law in petty things signals an unwillingness to deal with anything, and so the situation rapidly deteriorates. Some broken windows tolerated will lead to many more broken windows, and it gets worse from there.
It is the same thing with nonsense. When we refuse to police the boundaries between sense and nonsense in our daily affairs, it is not long before that boundary is ignored everywhere. This is just another instance of the centrality of peripherals.
And by “centrality of peripherals” I do not mean to veer into a form of Zen Presbyterianism. This does not mean favoring the peripherals instead of the center. That would be the sin of majoring on minors, swallowing camels, and all the rest of it. But remember, the fruit — which Christ required for identifying the nature of a tree — is way out on the edges of the tree, and is at the farthest point away from the root. We must recover the understanding that peripherals are central because the center is important.
This is one of the reasons why Chesterton is so good in discussing the ordinary issues of life. He can pluck any fruit from any branch and, without changing the subject, trace the life of that fruit back to the root. Take manners, for example. Manners can be described as love in trifles, love at the periphery. The collapse of manners in our society — a peripheral thing, surely! — represents a true downgrade. But here is Chesterton: “Love of humanity is the commonest and most natural of the feelings of a fresh nature, and almost everyone has felt it alight capriciously upon him when looking at a crowded park or on a room full of dancers.” Those activities are out at the edges, but by looking at the edges we can see the center. You give the last piece of pie to God, who doesn’t eat pie, by giving it to your neighbor, who does. That is the point of courtesy, manners, etiquette — consider 1 Pet. 2:17; 3:7; 1 Tim. 5:17; 6:1; Eph. 6:2; Rom. 12:10; 13:7.
Another example of the same kind of thing is found in the realm of aesthetics. Relativism has compromised us as nowhere else. A clear-headed man will want to say that some music, paintings, sculpture, etc. are just plain dumb and stupid. But we immediately hear the retort — “who is to say . . .?” Our inability to identify rotten fruit on the branches means that we are especially unable to identify a problem at the root.
“There must always be a rich moral soil for any great aesthetic growth. The principle of art for art’s sake is a very good principle if it means that there is a vital distinction between the earth and the tree that has its root in the earth; but it is a very bad principle if it means that the tree could grow just as well with its roots in the air.”