G. K. Chesterton: It’s Not Gay, and It’s Not Marriage

One of the pressing issues of Chesterton’s time was “birth control.” He not only objected to the idea, he objected to the very term because it meant the opposite of what it said. It meant no birth and no control. I can only imagine he would have the same objections about “gay marriage.” The idea is wrong, but so is the name. It is not gay and it is not marriage.

Chesterton was so consistently right in his pronouncements and prophecies because he understood that anything that attacked the family was bad for society. That is why he spoke out against eugenics and contraception, against divorce and “free love” (another term he disliked because of its dishonesty), but also against wage slavery and compulsory state-sponsored education and mothers hiring other people to do what mothers were designed to do themselves. It is safe to say that Chesterton stood up against every trend and fad that plagues us today because every one of those trends and fads undermines the family. Big Government tries to replace the family’s authority, and Big Business tries to replace the family’s autonomy. There is a constant commercial and cultural pressure on father, mother, and child. They are minimized and marginalized and, yes, mocked. But as Chesterton says, “This triangle of truisms, of father, mother and child, cannot be destroyed; it can only destroy those civilizations which disregard it.”

This latest attack on the family is neither the latest nor the worst. But it has a shock value to it, in spite of the process of de-sensitization that the information and entertainment industries have been putting us through the past several years. Those who have tried to speak out against the normalization of the abnormal have been met with “either slanging or silence,” as Chesterton was when he attempted to argue against the faddish philosophies that were promoted by the major newspapers in his day. In 1926, he warned, “The next great heresy will be an attack on morality, especially sexual morality.” His warning has gone unheeded, and sexual morality has decayed progressively. But let us remember that it began with birth control, which is an attempt to create sex for sex’s sake, changing the act of love into an act of selfishness. The promotion and acceptance of lifeless, barren, selfish sex has logically progressed to homosexuality.

Chesterton shows that the problem of homosexuality as an enemy of civilization is quite old. In The Everlasting Man, he describes the nature-worship and “mere mythology” that produced a perversion among the Greeks. “Just as they became unnatural by worshipping nature, so they actually became unmanly by worshipping man.” Any young man, he says, “who has the luck to grow up sane and simple” is naturally repulsed by homosexuality because “it is not true to human nature or to common sense.” He argues that if we attempt to act indifferent about it, we are fooling ourselves. It is “the illusion of familiarity,” when “a perversion become[s] a convention.”

In Heretics, Chesterton almost makes a prophecy of the misuse of the word “gay.” He writes of “the very powerful and very desolate philosophy of Oscar Wilde. It is the carpe diem religion.” Carpe diemmeans “seize the day,” do whatever you want and don’t think about the consequences, live only for the moment. “But the carpe diem religion is not the religion of happy people, but of very unhappy people.” There is a hopelessness as well as a haplessness to it. When sex is only a momentary pleasure, when it offers nothing beyond itself, it brings no fulfillment. It is literally lifeless. And as Chesterton writes in his book St. Francis of Assisi, the minute sex ceases to be a servant, it becomes a tyrant. This is perhaps the most profound analysis of the problem of homosexuals: they are slaves to sex. They are trying to “pervert the future and unmake the past.” They need to be set free.

Sin has consequences. Yet Chesterton always maintains that we must condemn the sin and not the sinner. And no one shows more compassion for the fallen than G.K. Chesterton. Of Oscar Wilde, whom he calls “the Chief of the Decadents,” he says that Wilde committed “a monstrous wrong” but also suffered monstrously for it, going to an awful prison, where he was forgotten by all the people who had earlier toasted his cavalier rebelliousness. “His was a complete life, in that awful sense in which your life and mine are incomplete; since we have not yet paid for our sins. In that sense one might call it a perfect life, as one speaks of a perfect equation; it cancels out. On the one hand we have the healthy horror of the evil; on the other the healthy horror of the punishment.”

Pages: 1 2

Dale Ahlquist


Dale Ahlquist is the president and co-founder of the American Chesterton Society. He is the creator and host of the Eternal Word Television Network series, "G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense." Dale is the author of G.K. Chesterton: Apostle of Common Sense and the recently published All Roads: Roamin’ Catholic Apologetics. He is also the publisher of Gilbert Magazine, and associate editor of the Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton (Ignatius). He lives near Minneapolis with his wife and six children.

Subscribe to CE
(It's free)

Go to Catholic Exchange homepage

  • You have convinced me that I need to read Chesterton writings. Thank you for this article.

  • pbecke

    A fascinating article. And what a towering genius Chesterton was. On a less dedicatedly religious level, in the sense of including within his conspectus, our whole modern society and most of its primordial ills.

    Nevertheless, with that reservation, he was as profound in his analyses as St Augustine of Hippo, and not a little reminiscent of him. St Thomas Aquinas may be a boon to scholars of logic, philosophy, etc, but Augustine, if we must compare them, was the greater theologian by far, it seems to me. When one is raised as a religious from the age of five, it would tend to narrow one’s purview.

    Yet if Chesterton lamented ‘compulsory, state-sponsored education’, that makes very sad reading, unless he envisaged free, compulsory, Christian education for the Have Nots, paid from the taxes of the Haves, as the desirable alternative. And similarly regrettable is your endorsement of it, Mr Ahlquist.

  • Ferley

    Bollox !!

  • pbecke

    Another insight of Chesterton, not a million miles from this topic, is the following:

    ‘The people who are the most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all.’
    Another overlapping group of egregious bigots are the atheist, anti- Intelligent Design, scientific establishment, who have the gall to claim that faith and reason are antithetical. Indeed, the moral relativism predicated by atheism almost seems like a joke.

  • Chesterton realized, as Canadians Catholics are realizing, and people in the United States are starting to realize, when the state controls the schools, then they control what is taught in the schools. When the state controls the money for education, no matter if it is sent to public or private schools they will control the morals which are taught in school. Compulsory state-sponsored education can too easily become a vehicle by which the state indoctrinates the young. This is what is happening in much of the West. In most places in the United States parents continue to have the right to home-school their own children. In many other places this is not true. Even in some U.S. areas states and localities require certain subjects by taught. So far they have not demanded sex-education or anti-bullying programs be included in home schooling curriculum.
    The very phrase “Haves” and ‘Have Nots” indicates a certain world view that indicates both a contempt for parents of modest means and an inclination to trust that the state should be the one who determines how one should be educated rather than the parents. Considering the rather poor job the state, at least in America, seems to be doing in that regard I find that inclination dubious.

  • pbecke

    Ooh! Aagh! You’ll have some when you’re a man!

  • pbecke

    ‘The very phrase “Haves” and ‘Have Nots” indicates a certain world view
    that indicates both a contempt for parents of modest means and an
    inclination to trust that the state should be the one who determines how
    one should be educated rather than the parents. Considering the rather
    poor job the state, at least in America, seems to be doing in that
    regard I find that inclination dubious.’

    I wonder if you are sufficiently wordly-wise to be looking into politics. Don’t you think playing a computer game with your young friends might be more appropriate?

    Otherwise, only an shocking elitist would interpret the phrase Haves and Have Nots as patronising. You must be more than a little naive if you think I would consider the US as a template for a welfare state, or any aspect of it. Heck, not even a US Republican would!

    Oddly enough, though, you remind me of the godless, patronising, UK Labour politicians who betrayed their lack of respect for manual work and artisans, when fighting against giving youngsters who have practical skills, but not an academic bent, the chance to leave school at fifteen to take up a trade apprenticeship.

    Guess what. God chose the poor to be rich in faith (and, implicitly, wisdom). They were his people: the Anawin. His family would have been dirt poor. And when you walk through a trailer park my friend, you are treading on holy ground. So don’t give me any more of your right-wing, economic tosh, masquerading as sensitive Christianity.

  • pbecke

    ‘Where your treasure is, there your heart is.’ Clasp that to your heart before you reach old age, when it may be too late.

  • “It is safe to say that Chesterton stood up against every trend and fad that plagues us today because every one of those trends and fads undermines the family. Big Government tries to replace the family’s authority, and Big Business tries to replace the family’s autonomy.” ~ Dale Ahlquist

  • “We know our own sins and weaknesses well enough. Philo of Alexandria said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a terrible battle.”~ Dale Ahlquist

  • Peter Nyikos

    I think you are over-reacting to the (admittedly immoderate) words Terry Carlino wrote about your expression “Have-nots”, while ignoring the warnings he made in the preceding paragraph. Germany is not only prosecuting parents for home-schooling their children, the authorities are actually taking the children away from their parents if they continue to defy the law.

    With the secular state increasingly pushing compulsory “education” [actually, indoctrination] in “respecting diversity” [meaning, approval of what has hitherto been called sexual deviancy] I can’t understand your attitude. Why do you think it “very sad” that unless free, compulsory Christian education is provided, impoverished parents should send their children to such schools? Better they band together and cooperate in teaching their children the subjects that they need to know.

  • Little duggie

    Interesting article and interesting comments. It does not take a rocket scientist, theologian, saint, or some so called famous person, be lay or religious to understand what is going on. The “homo community” goes by a clever mantra devised and written in the 80’s, funded initially by private money in the 70’s, and lots of it, by people like Tim Gill and John Stryker in the 90’s and 20’s, now funded by our facist gov’t via taxpayers. It is a worldwide “event” and the amount of private money is in the 100’s of millions and probably in the billions at this point in time. Education is and was a prime target of the homo’s. A world known research scientist and friend working on HIV and AIDS beginning in the 80’s put homosexuality in the box it belongs; learned behavior. I asked him one time, “how many people or what percentage do you think are born homosexual? His answer was “perhaps 1 in10 million”. One would have to believe he had better sources to say such being that he and 2 other top scientists were the premier researchers in the world for many years, and studied thousands of so called “homosexuals”, never referring to them as gay, but often as sad, depressed, abused, a child with no father or normal heterosexual male mentor, slow-boiled in education and deviant behavior, as well as other ills, not necessarily self inflicted. He would often refer to them as a victim of the break down of the family and of the ills of “free sex”, which he described as ending up being one of the most expensive costs to their lives.
    The fascist political scum, the hypocritical religious, as well as lay people, the apathetic, the fence riders, will pay a hefty price for this particular sin, as it is one of the most gregarious offenses against our Creator, and all the other ills we see today stem from it.

  • bob

    Nice article. You must have loving and nurturing parents. The one “thing” you and other writers, believers in heterosexual marriage, priests, pastors, religious, the mouths in the media (who constantly tell us they are “just reporting the
    truth”; ergo the so called catholic brian williams on nbc), need to do, isto be honest with the viewers and listeners, and use a non bastardized word,accepted and used around the world by everyone for centuries. That is “homosexual”. Gay, by definition has never had any attachment to a homosexual. St. Therese’ of the child Jesus and a Doctor of the Catholic Church was often referred to as gay. Any writer or purveyor to the soul ought not bow down to the culture of death, by using words or terms the misguided have skewed to shove their perverted views and deeds upon normal human beings. Doing so does not
    move one to neutral ground, make the opposition or doubtful, listen to the truth more attentively, but in actuality puts 1 lick on their scoreboard.

    PS: Why is it the homosexuals, supporters of homosexuals, the politicians whom kiss their tainted rears for money or agendas, NEVER talk publicly and descriptively about their sexual acts? Could it be because they are so ashamed they would not want them aired in public?

  • smallweed

    It’s not gay and it’s not marriage, and really, sodomy really isn’t even ‘sex’; we need to redefine what homosexual behavior really is!

  • Michael Matthew

    Here is my feeble attempt at a Chestertonian story

    The year is 2063. From the popular magazine, The Mainstream, excerpts from the following article titled ” Confessions of a Heteros*xual” by Anonymous

    I am a male heteros*xual……………There……………I said it!! Shocking I know but as far back as I can remember, perhaps at age 3, I remember being repulsed by the idea of physical intimacy with another man. I don’t know why but i just know that I have always been this way. I held this secret within me for many years not really understanding why I felt this way. Being raised by my “mom”, my state appointed guardian, I remember how she celebrated the power and pleasure of open s*x. She often rekindled the stories of the Great Oppression and how through the great Civil Conflict and the help of the state, humanity was unshackled from the burden of s*xual discrimination. The concept of marriage was abolished long ago after the great Civil Conflict but I remember reading about it in history class. S*xual intimacy with anyone for any reason was encouraged as a healthy expression of our humanness. As we discovered, s*xual org*sm is the one thing that makes us truly human. Even knowing this though, I just could not shake this nagging repulsion to open s*x, especially with men.

    Even as a young child, I knew I was different. All my friends at school and at my spiritual academy were raised by a variety of Diversi-fams, the state recognized unit of persons one was raised in. My friends were s*xually diverse, predominantly bis*xual , or transgendered. I just did not seem to fit in. Something within me craved union with only a female, exclusively, but I knew that I would be ridiculed for this. I remember once a very popular boy in my school made advances at me. My friends were so excited for me and encouraged me to “hook” with him but I made some lame excuse to avoid his advances. I felt like such a loser, almost like those very sad people in our society who for reasons I can not understand, actually chose to not have s*x………at all!!!!! It is well known throughout all our government sponsored science and medicine acadamies that these people are mentally ill because of their as*xual identity. Everyone knows that to be truly human, one must experience org*sm. I feel sorry for them, but I have to admit, at times I feel a kinship with them. I am so confused and don’t know where to turn. Everbody knows that s*xual expression is found throughout nature and that org*sm is the penultimate spiritual experience we all long for. However one chooses to express and enjoy org*sm does not matter. If there is one thing that the Great Oppression taught humanity was that there was no place for bigotry and exclusivity, especially in regards to s*xual expression or, s*xpression, as we like to refer to it.

    But here I am on the outside looking in. I once tried to talk with a school counselor about how I felt. I was so scared of what they would think or say about me. I danced around the idea but basically asked the counselor what she thought about a man that is repulsed about having s*x with another man. No way was I going to let her know that this is what I was feeling!! As I suspected, the counselor berated the idea. She said that obviously this individual had some form of severe s*xual repressive disorder and certainly had a heart full of bigotry and hate. Am I a bigot and full of hate for having this feeling since birth? I was created this way and as far back as I can remember, I have always had this repulsion. What is wrong with me? I am confused and not sure where to turn or with whom to talk.

  • Bernice

    This is one of the best articles I’ve read on the problems of our time. Thank You

  • Richard III

    Yay for Mr. Chesterton and Mr. Ahlquist!

  • RAYC55


  • Richard III

    And now there’ll be no more making the Yuletide gay either.

  • Juan

    Chesterson was a brilliant writer father and visionist.However common sense and decency will not fit into this societies agenda.Unfortunately the people that want all
    these changes may not like the grass on the other side.

  • chaco

    I like to follow Jesus’ calm reaction depicted in Pope Leo XIII’s account of a conversation he heard coming from the Tabernacle & which led to his composing of the St. Michael prayer; Devil; (In a gruff voice) “I can destroy your Church !” – Jesus – “Oh, You can ? Then go ahead & do so.” – Devil; “I need more time & more control over those who choose to serve me.” According to the Pope’s account, Jesus granted the request which allowed 100 or so years for the Devil to prove its claim. We shouldn’t be intimidated by the seemingly daunting forces of anti-family foes. Ever since Jesus was tempted by the lure of Political power (Mt. 4: 8), christians have been at war with governments of men (Church Militant). Jacinta; Fatima revelations witness, was recorded to say; “The sins that lead most souls into perdition are sins of sexual impurity.” This coincides with St. Paul expressing how such sins corrupt both the body & the soul. I’ve developed a personal tool to controll my selfish/ illicit tendencies in this area; I use a readily available acronym; E.P.L.S. – E ternal – P eace – & – L ove – S ister.[It reminds me of apples & the Garden of Eden.] It assists me in being “Other Oriented” when interacting with ladies. A libido dynamic still distinguishes such interaction from that of brotherly love, but it is a more controlled affection which differentiates it from a “Total” self giving to my spouse.

  • chaco

    The libido dynamic included in my love toward my “Sisters” seems to be a “Life Creating Energy” but not to the extent of conjugal love. Like having a cookie as opposed to eating the whole jar.

  • Dennis

    Nor will the Flintstones’ theme song lyric : “We’ll have a gay old time!” be understood in its innocent purity by generations of young viewers. Sad.

  • Elizabeth Hansen

    Excellent article, Mr. Ahlquist! Thank you!

  • DeeBeeCooper

    Responding to your principled objection to use of the vernacular of the culture of death: this is precisely why i object to the use of the term “rock”, as in “that rocks”, or “rock star”, because the origin, and the very essence of “rock and roll” is the spirit of rebellion…. and therefore no matter how much you try to dress it in a choir gown or ‘spiritualize’ it, rock and roll is not, and never will be, redeemable.

  • nancykiolbasa

    Loved your concluding paragraph. I saved a copy of it. Well said!

    Marriage is between a man and a woman. That is the order. And the Catholic Church teaches that it is a sacramental order, with divine implications. The world has made a mockery of marriage that has now culminated with homosexual unions. But it was heterosexual men and women who paved the way to this decay. Divorce, which is an abnormal thing, is now treated as normal. Contraception, another abnormal thing, is now treated as normal. Abortion is still not normal, but it is legal. Making homosexual “marriage” legal will not make it normal, but it will add to the confusion of the times. And it will add to the downward spiral of our civilization. But Chesterton’s prophecy remains: We will not be able to destroy the family. We will merely destroy ourselves by disregarding the family.

  • Sweet Baby Jesus! What “thinkers” these two are…

  • Ronk

    “rock ‘n’ roll” was actually originally a slang euphemism for the sexual act.

  • Richard III

    Who? Chesterton and Ahlquist?

  • Richard III

    “Homosexual” has only existed since the 19th century. Before that, people just said “sodomy”. And yes, “gay” has meant “happy” or “joyful” long before it ever meant “homosexual”, and the rainbow was God’s promise to Noah not to destroy the earth by flood again long before the lesbians stole it (in which case, we are most fortunate that God promised never to flood the whole world again. But if he doesn’t punish us somehow and soon, he’s going to have to do some serious apologizing to Sodom and Gommorah).

  • Richard III

    Does rock have a better chance of redemption than hip hop, rap, or modern pop?

  • Josh

    Haha Dale you are great!

  • Josh

    …Chesterton too.