Chesterton Vs. Seinfeld


December 28, 2012 by mattfradd

I am lazy by nature, or, if not by nature, habit. You are too.

Goodbye Seinfeld, Hello Chesterton! (Yes I still find Seinfeld funny; no you may not have my box sets.)

Yes I still find Seinfeld funny; no you may not have my box sets.

It’s easier to listen to Coldplay than to Bach, it takes less effort to watch an episode of Seinfeld than to read a chapter of Chesterton; and it will be easier to be entertained by Superman: Man of Steel than almost anything written by Shakespeare.

This past week I decided to do something about my laziness. I resolved to watch fewer hours of television and to read many more books, and not just any books; good books!

Wine, Cheese, & Chesterton

Last night I bought a good bottle of wine (yes, I know, it’s easier to appreciate a cold beer) and read Chesterton’s Orthodoxy to my wife. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of reading G. K. Chesterton, you must! Take, for example, the following paragraph (I’m tempted to quote the entire book!):

“[T]his book…recounts my elephantine adventures in pursuit of the obvious. No one can think my case more ludicrous than I think it myself; no reader can accuse me here of trying to make a fool of him: I am the fool of this story, and no rebel shall hurl me from my throne.

I freely confess all the idiotic ambitions of the end of the nineteenth century. I did, like all other solemn little boys, try to be in advance of the age. Like them I tried to be some ten minutes in advance of the truth. And I found that I was eighteen hundred years behind it.

I did strain my voice with a painfully juvenile exaggeration in uttering my truths. And I was punished in the fittest and funniest way, for I have kept my truths: but I have discovered, not that they were not truths, but simply that they were not mine.

When I fancied that I stood alone I was really in the ridiculous position of being backed up by all Christendom. It may be, Heaven forgive me, that I did try to be original; but I only succeeded in inventing all by myself an inferior copy of the existing traditions of civilized religion…I did try to found a heresy of my own; and when I had put the last touches to it, I discovered that it was orthodoxy.”

After I laid down the book (Okay, the tablet), I experienced a subconscious, inward motion towards the remote and a momentary thrill that, if it could be put into words, may sound like: Oh, my kingdom for just one episode of The Big Bang Theory! 

I’m afraid I have conditioned myself to find relaxation (or is that vegetation?) in unsophisticated forms of entertainment. I fought off the urge and went to bed. Thank you Jesus!

Study! Study! Study!

I’m almost certain that most of us are more sophisticated that we give ourselves credit for. We can read and understand papal encyclicals, we just don’t want to put in the effort.

This coming new year, my resolution is to retrain, rehabilitate, re-whatever, my palate for truth goodness and beauty, instead of conditioning it to enjoy half truths told with zing, immorality with a good script and art that barely exceeds the work(?) of John Cage.

Now, you might be tempted to think that all this talk of study and encyclicals is secondary; after all, can’t we be just as holy without it? And aren’t we called first and foremost to love?

Apologist, Frank Sheed has the answer. He was told more often than he could recall that:

Some old Irishman saying his rosary is holier than you are with all that study of yours!

Sheed responds, “I daresay he is. For his own sake, I hope he is. But if the only evidence is that he knows less theology than I, then it is evidence that would convince neither him nor me.

It would not convince him, because all those rosary-loving, tabernacle-loving Irishmen I have ever known…were avid for more knowledge of the faith. It does not convince me, because while it is obvious that an ignorant man can be virtuous, it is equally obvious that ignorance is not a virtue; men have been martyred who could not have stated a doctrine of the Church correctly, and martyrdom is the supreme proof of love.

Yet with more knowledge of God they would have loved him more still.”

St. Jose Maria Escriva drives my point home:

You pray, you deny yourself, you work in a thousand apostolic activities, but you don’t study. You are useless then unless you change. Study–professional training of whatever type it be–is a grave obligation for us. – The Way, 334 

Reading Resolutions?

If you are looking to spend a little more time reading good Christian books, I would suggest the following three in this order:

1. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

2. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton (You can find this for free on most tablets).

3 Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed

May our Lord, the way, the truth, and the life, grace us with a hunger for that truth which is ultimately found and satisfied in himself.

7 thoughts on “Chesterton Vs. Seinfeld

  1. Steve says:

    I always wonder if watching shows like “The Big Bang Theory” is doing an injustice to the social environment we live in. It promotes casual sex and many things you would say are not very “Christian”, even to the point the show mocks Christianity. It does has some good values, and hey I find it funny, and I also have a box set of Seinfeld, Curb your Enthusiasm and watch Big Bang Theory occasionally.

    While it is fine for a person of solid faith to see past it and enjoy the show as just light hearted entertainment are we not though providing a weapon for evil to corrupt younger minds that may not have such a solid foundation to a path of sin ?

    I’m not trying to judge, it’s just something that niggles me. It just feels like I’m part of the problem by enjoying shows like these to why youth emulate the behaviours that can be the entrance way to very dark path.

    Even when playing say a video game that contains violence I have the same thoughts. In being part of the consumer base that buys / watches them were encouraging the producers of the shows to make more of them.

    What ever happened to shows like “Touched By An Angel”, “Highway to Heaven”, “Little House of the Prairie”. You don’t see many shows like that produced these days, is it because we stopped watching those and started watching shows like Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory and so on, and hence producers went with what we chose.

    • LauraLee says:

      Steve, I understand completely. As I learn and develop my faith, I increasingly ask myself, “would Jesus find this pleasing?” Many times the answer is no. That is not to say I cannot relax but the ‘how’ seems to be the question for me 🙂

  2. Mike David says:

    Hey Matt,
    I’ve gotten really into Chesterton lately and I love this article you wrote, really hits home! I might suggest though, if anyone hadn’t read Chesterton before, to start with either “The Apostle of Common Sense” or “The Complete Thinker: The Marvelous Mind of G.K. Chesterton”. They’re both awesome books! Written as sorts of intros to Chesterton, because whenever you read Chesterton, you’ll wish you’d already read more Chesterton.

  3. LauraLee says:

    This is me. Thank you for reminding and inspiring me

  4. jsb says:

    i always loved Seinfeld, but after my “conversion” this entertainment didn’t entertain as it once did. as Christians, as Catholics, we are in the world but not of the world. however, i think we have to preach the Good News using the parables of today’s culture. therefore, we may continue to watch, but for different reasons.

  5. Craig says:

    Enjoyed the post.

    I especially appreciated the closing words from St. Escriva.

    The Internet is an incredible source of information, yet too often, there is the distraction of another video; another blog; another facebook post…etc.

    I severely curtailed my online activties about 4-5 months ago – but I wish I’d started sooner.

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