ROCK ISLAND — If a G.K. Chesterton impersonator gets no laughs during a Sunday show, justice won't prevail.
"There will be plenty to laugh about," impersonator Chuck Chalberg said. "We will have a good time as we give the Catholic faith a good jolt. I hope audience members will come away from it with their commitment to faith revitalized and believe it's OK to be a Catholic and have a sense of humor instead of being thought of as dour and Puritanical."
Mr. Chalberg will present his free one-man show at 2 p.m. Sunday in Schroeder Hall at St. Mary's Catholic Church, 2208 4th Ave., Rock Island. A free-will offering will be accepted.
After his performance, Mr. Chalberg will answer questions about Mr. Chesterton, known as the "most witty Catholic apologist of modern times," according to materials from Jerry and Donna Schroeder, Moline, co-founders of the Quad Cities Chesterton Society.
"Chesterton often got accused of being a jokester or punster, and some people dismissed him because they thought that was all he was," Mr. Chalberg said. "But that was just not true."
Mr. Chesterton was a gifted public debater, Mr. Schroeder said, in an earlier interview. "He was very well known in his time, often on stage with Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, Clarence Darrow and others.
"What is amazing to me is that these men are remembered, and Chesterton is nearly forgotten," Mr. Schroeder said. "It's a sad commentary on our age because all of the men previously mentioned were atheists, and Chesterton was a brilliant defender of the wonder and beauty of Christianity."
Mr. Chalberg regularly portrays the great English author on "GK Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense," at 8 p.m. Sundays, on EWTN, and routinely performs throughout the U.S. with his historical impersonations of other American and British characters.
The Schroeders and some fellow Quad-Cities society members caught one of Mr. Chalberg's shows in Peru, Ill., last year, and "were certainly an enthusiastic group, and you could tell they were real fans," Mr. Chalberg said.
The Schroeders credited Mr. Chesterton's writings for their earlier decision to rejoin the Catholic Church, saying his "passionate, playful defense of the truth in his writings enlightened us and helped us see the Catholic Church as though we were seeing it for the first time."
Mr. Chesterton was a giant man with a giant intellect, Mr. Schroeder said. "Though he died in 1936, he continues to inspire countless people with his brilliant wit and playful humility."
"He was a great defender of the common man," Mr. Chalberg said. "To pigeon-hole him as a conservative or a liberal misses the point. He was clearly a conservative when it came to social issues of his day, but on economic and other issues, he called himself a 'distributist.'"
Sunday's program will be a "celebration of Chesterton's coming to his beliefs," Mr. Chalberg said. "The way it's being billed is that he is there to give a lecture, but he hasn't told the people who invited him what the lecture's going to be about."
So there's no telling what he might say, and when he might say it, Mr. Chalberg said, adding that he might, for example, awake from an intermission nap and start talking about morals.
Mr. Chesterton was stunned during a 1930s visit to the U.S. about liberalized divorce laws that allowed couples to split due to an "incompatibility of temperament," Mr. Chalberg said. "Chester's response was that the terms sounded more like the definition of a marriage, not a divorce."
In the 1920s, Mr. Chesterton said he was much less worried about the Bolshevik Revolution, than he was about the sexual revolution, Mr. Chalberg said.
And once, when discussing an anti-smoking campaign about 100 years ago, Mr. Chesterton was remembered for saying that "we should thank God for beer and burgundy by not drinking too much of them."
Even C.S. Lewis fans should enjoy Sunday's show, Mr. Chalberg said, adding that "Lewis once said 'I am the water to Chesterton's wine.'"
Mr. Chesterton also once said that the "opposite of funny is not serious," Mr. Chalberg said. ''The opposite of funny is not funny. And if people don't laugh during my presentation, I have not done him justice."
For more information about the performance or society, call the Schroeders at (309) 764-8657.