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Chesterton on A Sort of Human Sacrifice Offered to a New and Nameless God

I read an article by the admirable Mr. Tilden, the great tennis-player, who was debating what is wrong with English Tennis. “Nothing can save English Tennis!” he said, except certain reforms of a fundamental sort, which he proceeded to explain.  […] He thoroughly knows his subject and yet he does not know what he is talking about; because he does not know what he is taking for granted. […] And nobody would probably be more surprised and even legitimately indignant than he, if I were to say that the first principles of his philosophy appear to be as follows: (1) There is in the nature of things a certain absolute and divine Being, whose name is Mr. Lawn Tennis. (2) All men exist for the good and glory of this Mr. Tennis and are bound to approximate to his perfections and fulfil his will. (3) To this higher duty they are bound to surrender their natural desire for enjoyment in this life. (4) They are bound to put this loyalty first; and to love it more passionately than patriotic tradition, the presentation of their own national type and national culture; not to mention even their national virtues. That is the creed or scheme of doctrine that is here developed without being defined. […] There is some abstract divine standard in the thing, to which it is everybody’s duty to rise, at any sacrifice of pleasure or affection. […] When Christians say this of the sacrifices made for Christ, it sounds rather a hard saying. But when tennis-players say it about the sacrifices demanded by tennis, it sounds quite ordinary and casual in the confusion of current thought and expression. And nobody notices that a sort of human sacrifice is being offered to a sort of new and nameless god.

—from the essay Logic and Lawn Tennis by G.K. Chesterton


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