Saturday I made the comment that even when I'm not writing about Chesterton, I'm writing about Chesterton. I think that this has to be one of those cases.
2010 GKC conference: Himself, Pearce, me
Back in 2010 we attended the Chesterton conference where one of the speakers was Joseph Pearce. Himself had just finished Wisdom and Innocence, Pearce's biography of Chesterton and I had started it. After his talk we had the opportunity to meet the author and get his autograph on our well worn copy of the book. This past summer Pearce was once again a speaker at the Chesterton conference, this time talking about Tolkien and the Hobbit.
2013 GKC conference: Pearce
Both times we heard him speak he was both entertaining and brilliantly informative. Often during his talks and, in the introductions Dale Ahlquist gave, his storied past was alluded to. He had spent time in prison on two occasions and was active the white supremacist movement in Britain during the seventies and eighties.
Thankfully, after all the biographies he has written, he has put pen to paper about his own story. In Race With the Devil he will tell you that the book is not so much an autobiography as it is his conversion story.
Nominally Anglican, he was raised to hate Catholicism and all things "papist." He soon gave up any acknowledgement of God and faith played no part in his life for many years. As a teen he became involved in the National Front and soon became a prominent leader and editor of the Bulldog, the organization's newspaper. He was imprisoned twice under Britain's Race Relations Act for publishing materials thought likely to to incite racial hatred.
A prolific reader, he was introduced to the works of a number of Catholic writers including Hilaire Belloc, Otto Strasser and GK Chesterton after his second incarceration. Although he did not approve of their Catholicism, he found their political and social views appealing. As he sought out and read more and more of Chesterton's works he began to see the truth and faith in the teachings of the Church.
Pearce's story, his conversion, with all the gory details of his racist and violent past, seems like it ought to be just that, a story. But reading his works, listening to him speak, I get the feeling God has mighty big plans for this man. He truely shows that there can be a Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love.