Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – “One of the most profound things that Chesterton ever said was that if something is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing badly. That shocked me when I first heard it because it seemed to be counterintuitive. I’m sure most of us were taught if a thing is worth doing at all it’s worth doing well.” Check out today’s transcript for the rest….
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: Finally before you go, “Worth Doing Badly? Soccer & the Christian Pursuit of Perfection.” I didn’t get a chance to read it all because I got in on time but I was bedeviled by technical problems. I was bound and determined that my birthday forthwith, I will attend a Tridentine Mass, light my candle every February 2nd come hell or technical problems or high water. I was prevented from reading you today.
Joseph Pearce: It’s the only good excuse for not reading my article. Well done.
Mike: I think I have a pretty good excuse. I saw the painting of Chesterton at the top, so I knew it must have involved something Chestertonian. Is there anything that is worth doing badly or is that the point?
Pearce: One of the most profound things that Chesterton ever said was that if something is worth doing at all, it’s worth doing badly. That shocked me when I first heard it because it seemed to be counterintuitive. I’m sure most of us were taught if a thing is worth doing at all it’s worth doing well. I think what Chesterton is saying, something which is true but not necessarily is profound. It’s better to do something badly than not do it at all. So it’s better to be a bad Catholic than not be a Catholic.
I think more profound than that, you can’t do a thing well until you do it badly first. I used the example of Lionel Messi, the footballer who when he was two years old fell flat on his face trying to kick a ball and made his parents laugh. He started doing soccer badly and did it better until he became the best. I use that as a metaphor of the spiritual life. In other words, all of us need to grow in sanctity, grow in virtue. The only way we can do that is to keep practicing at it. It doesn’t matter how many times we fall, we get up and we carry on. By the grace of God, that’s the way we get to happen. Yes, being a Christian is worth doing badly, but the most important reason to do work badly is so that we can learn to do it better.
Mike: I see you pointed out that chastity is something that most people do badly.
Pearce: The thing about it is, the modern world, it takes for granted that you have to strive for excellence in playing soccer or playing the piano, but it thinks that where our so-called sex lives are concerned, we don’t have to worry about trying to strive for chastity. We can basically, if you like, wallow in the filth and be happy there. It seems to me that we have been hypocrites. We don’t apply the same to sexuality that we apply to playing the piano or playing soccer, which is to strive for excellence, which ultimately is to strive for happiness, which comes from chastity, even chastity within marriage. By the way, it’s not the same as abstinence from sexual activity, but that’s another discussion.
Mike: That is another discussion. We can have it, and I’m sure we will. To put this in terms that the average person may be able to understand it and think about it and apply it to their own life – I cannot remember who wrote this. I’m going to paraphrase here. It might have even been Chesterton. It was a mini-parable. The parable’s point was, there was a bunch of virile men in some room. There was but one woman and she was beautiful and available. The greatest man in the room was not the one that charmed the pants off the damsel. The greatest man in the room was the one that had no desire to and only wanted to prevent her – he didn’t have a desire to because he wanted to prevent himself and her from entering into a near occasion of mortal sin.
Pearce: Absolutely. I actually heard a story – I’ll tell you briefly as I’m sure we’re running out of time – of a woman who was forever grateful that she was a virgin. She was at a party and got drunk and was on the verge of being taken up, or was being taken upstairs by a cad. There was a friend basically who told the cad to go to hell. This friend put this lady into a bedroom and slept outside the door all night. She retained her virginity until she got married and is forever thankful for the fact that that knight in shining armor saved her from the cad. Again, that, I think, is an illustration in real life of the parable you just mentioned.
Mike: That’s a story that’s not often told, although I’m convinced that it happened. If we were to tell stories like that, and if we were to put that into our entertainment and make that part of our entertainment and literature, as I believe it once was, then our children would no longer just be immersed, marinating in this cesspool, in this sewer that we call a culture that has as exact opposite. The hero in the room in the parable if told by Quentin Tarantino is going to be the one that was able to be a smart aleck and wasn’t the best looking but ultimately prevailed to get the pants off, not the one that recognized the sin. I think the point of the parable is that one guy out of all those recognized sin.
Pearce: Exactly. It’s the one that recognizes sin, of course, is the one who makes the best husband. The fact of the matter is that the happiest marriages are those between believing Christians where both the husband and wife are laying down their lives for their beloved, for the other. That leads to a good marriage. It leads to a good, strong family. That’s the building block of a strong society.
Mike: I’ve got to tell you, when you and I keep having this conversation, we have to stop making all these virtuous, moral points here. You’ve got to stop bringing Chesterton and these brilliant Christian men and thinkers into these conversations. Pretty soon people are going to begin to think that this is actual normal thinking.
Pearce: What is normal? If the majority of people are going to hell, then I don’t want to be normal. If sanity and sanctity are the same thing, which they are ultimately, then obviously I want to be sane even if it’s not normal.
Mike: I’m with you. Where can listeners go to subscribe to and check out the St. Austin Review?
Pearce: StAustin Review.org.
Mike: By the way, I’m sure you know that somebody has bought a similar name and the first thing that comes up.
Pearce: They actually hijacked that from us. If you go to the Imaginative Conservative website, look up an article I wrote, “The Ignoble Art of Cyber-Mugging” you’ll see how that happened.
Mike: I went searching for it and it’s the first thing that came up and I went: What!?
Pearce: We’re working to get rid of that. That’s the world in which we live. We have the devil on our back and only by the grace of God he will not prevail.
Mike: He is Joseph Pearce. Read him at The Imaginative Conservative. Before you go, and it doesn’t matter if you saw my post or not, but I wrote about your inspirational act of humility when it came to the David Bowie article.
Pearce: You did?
Mike: Yes. I’m not going to read you the whole setup here. I just want to read you the mea culpa. The audience will remember this. My point was, this is an example of real humility in the modern world. The fact that the act of humility kept your mind open and ultimately led you to information that you discovered about Bowie that you did not previously know, and that prevented you or gave you the chance to confess your sin and then retract, an act of scandal committed. Not only that, reveal to me and to thousands of others that David Bowie, yes, in his final year, actually did find the supernatural life and actually did come around to the – I don’t know if he came around to the faith but he came around to some faith, right?
Pearce: Yeah. He didn’t become a Catholic or even a Christian, but he did come to accept and embrace the existence of God and the mystical connection between suffering and the necessity of God. Whether that’s enough to get him into Heaven, I don’t know. Thanks be to God, and David Bowie, I’m sure, is very thankful I’m not the one that’s going to make that judgment. If he does make Heaven, it’ll be by God’s mercy. Obviously, he didn’t get all the way and he did make lots of mistakes in his life. Again, it’s not for me to judge who gets to Heaven. My main concern is getting there myself.
Mike: But you’d lay yourself up on the pyre of public, what I like to call the judgment pornosphere, which is what the internet is. I thought that was a great example of saying: I could have left it here and on one would have know. Probably most people would agree with me and no one would have been the wiser. You told the story about how your wife said: Yeah, you are being a bit of a heel.
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Pearce: As I said, I think it felt a bit like the Pharisee in the temple in the parable that Christ tells, that there was a sort of holier-than-thee miserable sinner Publican who’s sitting at the back of a church. The Pharisee is right there at the altar because he feels he has a right to be there. I thought I never wanted to be in that position. I’d rather be in the position of the Publican. [??] Christian humility to confess my sin.
Mike: We can all do what St. Francis of Assisi did and what St. Francis of De Sales did, and what all saints did, try to lead by example. That was just why I pointed it out. It’s like: Look, he didn’t have to do that, but he went and did it anyway. I helped humiliate you.
Pearce: Healthy humiliation is good for all of us, so thank you so much.
Mike: I look forward to you helping humiliate me someday. You owe me.
Pearce: I’ll work on it, Mike, I’ll work on it.
End Mike Church Show Transcript