Heretics – Chapter 13: Celts and Celtophiles


I am continuing my journey through G.K. Chesterton’s Heretics. This is a short chapter with a very large and controversial thought: that of Race.

This is a very fiery issue and has been for a very long time. When people use Race today it is used as a shield for defense and also as a sword to attack. Chesterton states that Race really does not exist and is a construction that is not edifying for anyone.

Heresy exposed: The Theory of Race

Summary of Chapter:

In Chesterton’s day (and perhaps ours) the linage of a person was held to high importance. The rich and powerful were that way because of where they came from. Likewise the poor and weak were that way because of where they came from. Did they have Saxon blood or Teuton? Were they Celts or Danes or Picard? That would make them what they are.

It is an example of the general proposition I offer–the proposition that an enormous amount of modern ingenuity is expended on finding defenses for the indefensible conduct of the powerful. As I have said above, these defenses generally exhibit themselves most emphatically in the form of appeals to physical science. And of all the forms in which science, or pseudo-science, has come to the rescue of the rich and stupid, there is none so singular as the singular invention of the theory of races.

Of course that is wrong. The genes one has does not negate free will or rationality. In fact the theory of race may have been invented to appease the powerful, to stoke their ego. That theory was a poor choice because it is always in flux. What is the “correct” race to be later turns into an “incorrect” race in the future because science can never be settled in these things.

That sort of thing must be left to people who talk about the Anglo-Saxon race, and extend the expression to America. How much of the blood of the Angles and Saxons (whoever they were) there remains in our mixed British, Roman, German, Dane, Norman, and Picard stock is a matter only interesting to wild antiquaries. And how much of that diluted blood can possibly remain in that roaring whirlpool of America into which a cataract of Swedes, Jews, Germans, Irishmen, and Italians is perpetually pouring, is a matter only interesting to lunatics. It would have been wiser for the English governing class to have called upon some other god. All other gods, however weak and warring, at least boast of being constant. But science boasts of being in a flux for ever; boasts of being unstable as water.

Race does not exist for how can you prove what a person is by their blood. What really exists is nationality. The places we call home, the places that hold a common creed, the places were people defended their land; these are the unity that bring people together into a community. It is not a genetic blood that can do that.

 If you had attempted to substitute the ideal of race for the ideal of nationality, I really do not like to think what they would have said. I certainly should not like to have been the officer of Nelson who suddenly discovered his French blood on the eve of Trafalgar. I should not like to have been the Norfolk or Suffolk gentleman who had to expound to Admiral Blake by what demonstrable ties of genealogy he was irrevocably bound to the Dutch. The truth of the whole matter is very simple. Nationality exists, and has nothing in the world to do with race. Nationality is a thing like a church or a secret society; it is a product of the human soul and will; it is a spiritual product. And there are men in the modern world who would think anything and do anything rather than admit that anything could be a spiritual product.

Here we have the true reason for Race: race is just physical. Nationality is spiritual. The spiritual is real, but people are afraid of the spiritual so they run to the physical. This is the modern disease of thinking something is just the sum of it’s parts.

A nation, however, as it confronts the modern world, is a purely spiritual product. Sometimes it has been born in independence, like Scotland. Sometimes it has been born in dependence, in subjugation, like Ireland. Sometimes it is a large thing cohering out of many smaller things, like Italy. Sometimes it is a small thing breaking away from larger things, like Poland. But in each and every case its quality is purely spiritual, or, if you will, purely psychological. It is a moment when five men become a sixth man. Every one knows it who has ever founded a club. It is a moment when five places become one place. Every one must know it who has ever had to repel an invasion.


Two things:

1.Today when people categorize by race in a real sense they are creating their own nationality. This was true on Martin Luther King Jr. when he united for a common cause of equality and is true for those people who yearn for the end of racism (seeing a person inferior because of their race: definition given because we seem to forget that in all the claims of it).

However, there are those who claim they hurt when they read about specific races, want to remove offending monuments, or being threatened to say that the lives of a specific race matter more than another. These are using the idea of Race (that is manufactured) as a weapon. How white does one have to be to be White? How black does one have to be to be Black? No one really knows. But we do know what community a person comes from and what community they have now. We do know that they are equal under the law and under God. We do know that all humans have dignity even the unborn, refugee, and disenfranchised.

2. As Christian our nationality is of the Kingdom of Heaven. Galatians 3:26-29 says:

So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We belong first and foremost to this Kingdom. We are ambassadors from this Kingdom to the world and as such are required to treat everyone as the King (Jesus) would. While we often make mistakes that is our duty.


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