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Joseph Pearce

Joseph Pearce is Senior Editor at the Augustine Institute, editor of the St. Austin Review and the author of books on Shakespeare, Tolkien, Chesterton and other Christian literary figures.


Writing for Faith & Culture

We welcome the submission of articles of between 600 and 1,500 words on topics related to Catholic faith and culture. Articles should be emailed as Word attachments to Joseph Pearce.

Philanthropy is the Mark of a Wicked Man

Philanthropy is the Mark of a Wicked Man

Philanthropy, as far as I can see, is rapidly becoming the mark of a wicked man. 
G. K. Chesterton 1 

Chesterton’s view on Man is that of the orthodox Christian. He would have dismissed modern and modernist labels for man, such as homo sapiens, homo economicus or homo darwinius, and would have affirmed the view of man as being anthropos and homo viator. In other words, man is not merely clever, selfish and a mere slave of his genes but is one who transcends instinct in his desire for metaphysical meaning and whose life is a journey with the purpose of growing ever closer to the goodness, truth and beauty of the Divine.

Inevitably our view of Man will colour our view of Men. If we view Man as being essentially a gene-slave who is programmed to be selfish we will see our neighbours differently than if we view them as being made in Love’s image to love and be loved. The former sees man as essentially a gene-machine enslaved to instinct, thereby dehumanizing humanity to the level of an ultimately mindless mechanism; the latter views man as being made in God’s image and therefore as being in one sense divine. This is why a Christian is meant to see the face of Christ in all of his neighbours and the face of the suffering or Crucified Christ in the face of his suffering neighbours. The presence of God’s humanity fully humanizes our neighbours, making their lives sacred and our relationship with them one of necessary reverence.  

It is this crucial connection between Man and Men which enables Chesterton to condemn philanthropy as the mark of a wicked man. This is of course provocative because it is counter-intuitive. If philanthropy means the love of Man, which it does, how can it be wicked? 

It becomes wicked when the love of Man destroys the lives of men. Thus, for instance, the Reign of Terror, which followed in the wake of the French Revolution, was conducted in the name of liberté, egalité et fraternité. Inspired by Rousseau’s idea that Man is a Noble Savage, the Revolution’s ignoble savagery butchered men on the guillotine in the name of freedom, equality and brotherhood. The same “philanthropic” spirit was at the heart of Marxist demands for justice and the consequent communist bloodbaths of the twentieth century. In the century since the Bolshevik Revolution millions of men have been sacrificed on the altar of Marxist Man as thousands had earlier been sacrificed on the altar of the Noble Savage.

It would, however, be a grievous error to believe that philanthropy is only deadly when espoused by those who call themselves socialists. Those who call themselves capitalists have also spilt the blood of men in the name of the love of Man. Much of Chesterton’s spleen was vented against the philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller and his ilk. Today he would no doubt have vented in the direction of Bill Gates, whose megabucks are being used to coerce the poorer countries of the world into adopting the culture of death, which begins with contraception and which leads inevitably to widespread abortion. 

The abortion industry is a perfect example of the fruits of “philanthropy” in which the love of Man, or in this case exclusively Woman, leads to the extermination of millions of babies in utero. In this case the demands of philanthropy have insisted upon child sacrifice, slaughtering the innocents on the altar of Feminist Man.

A further instance of the way in which the Gates Foundation has used its plutocratic muscle for “philanthropic” purposes is in its bankrolling of the Common Core States Standards Initiative. In this all too common marriage between Big Business and Big Government, Gates the billionaire and Obama the socialist worked together to enforce a state-imposed curriculum in which the humanities will be sacrificed on the altar of “Humanity”. In what Chesterton prophesied would be the “coming peril” of “standardization by a low standard”, the Common Core will rip the humanities out of education to ensure that future generations are better able to reflect the desires and demands of utilitarian commerce and utopian politics. Thus, the common experience of men for almost three thousand years, as accumulated and shared in the Great Books taught in the Humanities, is being sacrificed on the altar of the socially-engineered New Man.

Once we have ascertained the damage done by philanthropists, such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx and Bill Gates with their “love” for false notions of Man, we begin to see the wisdom of Chesterton’s provocative claim that “philanthropy … is rapidly becoming the mark of a wicked man”. Indeed, we come to understand why Chesterton insisted that “the quite simple objection to philanthropy … is that it is religious persecution”:

The essence of religious persecution is this: that the man who happens to have material power in the State, either by wealth or by official position, should govern his fellow-citizens not according to their religion or philosophy, but according to his own.2 

In short, and to agree unequivocally with Chesterton, modern philanthropy is the imposition by a rich and powerful elite of their false religion of Man on the vast majority of men. Thus the “love of Man” becomes the enemy of men. Philanthropy becomes misanthropy.  

[1] Illustrated London News, May 29, 1909
[2] G. K. Chesterton, All Things Considered (London: Methuen & Co, 1926), p. 10

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