Why do we owe each other a “terrible and tragic loyalty”?

“We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.” – G.K. Chesterton, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton Volume 28: The Illustrated London News, 1908-1910

Why can’t we all just get along? In these divisive times, you hear that old pleading inquiry refrain. It has gotten so bad that some consider any disagreement, any opposing opinion, to be provocative, even treasonous.

For the past year, some in their honest pursuit of the truth have been censored, “fact-checked”, shadow-banned, doxed, and even banned completely for what has come to take the place of the “speaker’s corner”, public pulpit, the office water cooler – social media.

The sad shame of all of it is that which divided us, we are now learning, was all a lie. The people who we ” censored, “fact-checked”, shadow-banned, doxed, and even banned completely “, the people who argued with us, were, in fact, telling us the truth and trying to awaken us in order to protect us.

This is what Chesterton means when he tells us we owe each other a “terrible and tragic loyalty”, for that is what telling the uncomfortable truth means. It means facing up to the ridicule, the anger, even the killing rage of others when they hear it. The person who tells the truth, who is willing to persist in argument for it, does it not to be right, but because he knows how important it is, even life-saving it is, for you and I to hear it.

Dale Ahlquist puts it this way: “Chesterton’s loyalty to his fellow travelers is demonstrated by his willingness to argue with them. He sees their bad ideas as imperiling everyone else on board. He is constant and consistent in his defense of Christianity, morality, and liberty. They are inextricably tied together. Defending morality means defending liberty. It is the one preaching immorality who will destroy the rights of the free man. And sink the boat that all of us are in together.”

Yes, we are all traveling together in the same boat as it were, a boat not unlike that famous boat on a stormy Gallilee sea that we see above. Rembrandt’s depiction of a calm Christ on one end and the frantic seamen on the other illustrates the the daily chaos that confronts our society and this world with Christ as the only true lifesaver we can grab. The Disciples, too, evidence the various reactions and level of trust in Christ in the midst of the chaos. All of us are in need of each other’s “terrible and tragic loyalty”, to argue for and defend the truth or else our combined fear will sink the boat.



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