Teddy Roosevelt and G. K. Chesterton...

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Interesting exchange about Teddy Roosevelt over at First Things that's generating as much light as heat. Again, my dear friend Bob Patterson is holding up TR as a paragon of conservative virtue. (Yup, Joe Sobran's turning over in his grave.) The teaser below caught my eye because in the car I've been listening to Libravox recordings of Chesterton non-stop the past six months. He's unbelievably helpful—unbelievably!

And yes, he never stops attacking Calvinism, but he's wrong...

in that regard. Hilariously wrong, so it doesn't bother me. Listening to Chesterton on Calvinism is like listening to John Piper (or worse, John MacArthur) on infant baptism. It's a reminder that the best men are howlingly mistaken out there in public so that everyman must face the fact that God is true though all men are liars.

If you'd like to start listening to Chesterton, download What's Wrong with the World, listen beginning around chapter 16 or so, and have fun.

Anyhow, here's the teaser from Bob's defense of TR:

Social conservatives have two choices. They can cozy up to the libertarians and accept the financialization and globalization agenda that has largely co-opted the GOP in the post-Reagan era. In doing so, of course, they must overlook that the Koch brothers, the bankrollers of this shift, delivered for the Democrats a huge victory in New York State on same-sex marriage two years ago. Like many in the Republican donor class, these billionaires support the legal shenanigans aimed at fully deconstructing the vital institution of marriage nationwide. By making this pact with the devil, social conservatives continue to relegate themselves to the back of the bus, where we have sat since the 1980s.

The second option is to appreciate TR as he really was: a promising model of both economic and social policy. This American statesman was neither a socialist nor a liberal, neither a friend of elites nor an internationalist. He was pro-middle class, pro-family, pro-marriage, pro-life, pro-fertility, pro-worker, pro-industry, and pro-growth. His passion to protect motherhood, children, and the average working stiff from the ravages of industrialization and the emergence of the national corporation came right out of Catholic social teaching and from G.K. Chesterton, as well as the Dutch Protestant Abraham Kuyper, the progressive-conservative prime minister of Holland whose tenure paralleled TR’s first term in the White House.

Not only was TR conversant with Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, but he also corresponded — and exchanged books — with the Pope, Chesterton, and Kuyper. Indeed, the Colonel was so taken with Chesterton that he insisted on having dinner with the British journalist when in London during his post-presidential European tour, an event that did not go unnoticed in the press. A visit to Sagamore Hill will confirm that TR prominently displayed Chesterton’s Orthodoxy on his desk in the library.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

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