Saturday, April 13, 2013

The saintly detective, Father Brown

Imagine you are an average person. (If you are reading this blog you're probably not, but put aside you academia and book-begotten knowledge for a second and pretend.) Say I ask you, "What do you think of G. K. Chesterton?"

You would probably answer: "Who the hell is that? Is he running for the Illinois Senate seat?"

As you are who you are, I'm sure you know what I'm taking about. The genius creator of Father Brown, one of the most adorable and oxymoronic detectives in literature. I feel that Father Brown (and his side-kick Flambeau) are totally under-appreciated in today's society. They may not be able to pull rabbits out of a hat like Sherlock Holmes, or entertain like Hercule Poirot and his precious mustaches, but they are just as intelligent, and, dare I say it, more intellectually provoking. In each Father Brown tale I find a new perspective on society or religion that shakes up my beliefs in the order of the world. Let me just say that for a priest, Father Brown is quite a questioner.  Though his adherence to the Catholic Church can be sometimes frustrating, especially for an atheistic reader, he demonstrates more wisdom and willingness to set aside his vows than any Catholic I have ever met.

Nowadays, readers want to be entertained. No doubt that is why Twilight and Harry Potter are so popular. They are jammed full of juicy romance, danger, magic, and pop culture heroism. Father Brown is devoid of all these things. It is instead painted in the colors of tolerance, patience, obedience, unassuming gentleness, and peacefulness. Chesterton's stories are not so much detective stories as they are tales of human failings and forgiveness. Father Brown is the incarnation of "the forgiveness of sins."

So, I challenge you: read a Father Brown story this week. Don't take it at face value. Question every statement the author makes and ask yourself, "What am I supposed to see here that my comfortable little sensibilities are blocking out? What can I learn from this fascinating old man?" The doddering priest will not let you down.

The Lonely Alchemist

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