David Paul Deavel has a good write-up in Books and Culture of the resurgent interest in G.K. Chesterton. As someone who is attracted to Chesterton’s creative localism and his critiques of modernity (I once called Orthodoxy the most important book for the twenty-first century and write at a blog named for it), I am delighted to see him getting more much-deserved attention.
What was fascinating, however, about Deaval’s piece was his line that the head of the American Chesterton Society, Dale Ahlquist, was introduced to Chesterton by none other than…Larry Norman.
I’m no expert on Norman’s music, as he was “before my time” (though perhaps Joe could chime in on this point). But the fact that he gravitated toward Chesterton over Lewis is not terribly surprising. From what I can tell, Chesterton tends to appeal to people who take the arts seriously, and his populism seems in line with the sort of Jesus People evangelicalism Norman exemplified. Additionally, Chesterton co-opted the language of revolution, as the Jesus People and Norman attempted to do. In this way, they seemed to be natural allies.
One other point: growing up, Norman was a symbol to me of everything that was wrong with Christian music. It was too preachy, too obvious, and too much of an imitation of secular music. It’s interesting and chastening to read Norman’s own thoughts on the trajectory of Christian music. The revolution Norman started was all too quickly co-opted and commercialized–a problem that a healthy dose of Chestertonian localism might have helped avoid.
Deaval’s write up is worth reading if you’re not familiar with G.K., as I suspect that Chesterton will continue to serve as inspiration for evangelicals dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. Call it second-wave evangelical Chestertonianism–joyful, intellectually astute, politically engaged without being conformist, and artistically aware and sophisticated.