Chesterton: "Humanity" Is Our Next-Door Neighbor
I'm presently writing up some reflections on what it means to say "I believe in the holy catholic church, the communion of saints" when the Church earns our distrust. It's a difficult question, and one we render more difficult when we pretend the Church never does such a thing. Yet the answer, if we can call it that, is to be found in connecting the truth of divine providence with the concrete, personal, located forms that providence takes, which are the only forms we deal with in experience. It's the difference between the loquacious, easy, and ultimately vacuous "I love Humanity, of course" or "I love the Church" and the hardy - and hard - but ultimately full "I am willing to love this man, this woman, this child, this real flesh-and-blood neighbor of mine in the Church." On all this, it is Chesterton who sets my pen on the right track, as usual:
"We make our friends; we make our enemies; but God makes our next-door neighbour. Hence he comes to us clad in all the careless terrors of nature; he is as strange as the stars, as reckless and indifferent as the rain. He is Man, the most terrible of the beasts. That is why the old religions and the old scriptural language showed so sharp a wisdom when they spoke, not of one's duty toward humanity, but one's duty toward one's neighbour." Chesterton, in "On Certain Modern Writers"