Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Op-Ed Journalism at Its Best

The following is one of the finest pieces of op-ed journalism I have read in a long time. I have copied it in its entirety from The American Spectator posting, here.
Jon Stewart Flunks His Spartacus Test

by Jeffrey Lord

April 27, 2010 -- The American Spectator

"I am Spartacus."

It is one of the iconic lines from an iconic film.

Remember Spartacus? The 1960 Stanley Kubrick film based on a Howard Fast novel about a slave rebellion back in the glory days of Rome? Kirk Douglas -- father of Michael -- played the heroic slave leader Spartacus, his good friend Antonius played by Tony Curtis. In the signal moment from the film (said to be a slap at McCarthyism by the film's blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo), re-captured slaves, back in chains, are offered leniency. They will not face crucifixion if they will but give up Spartacus, who sits in their midst unrecognizable to the Romans. Waiting for the answer is Spartacus's foe, the Roman General Crassus, played by Laurence Olivier. After a moment of silence, as Spartacus is about to give himself up to be crucified, one by one the slaves stand and announce "I am Spartacus!" -- signaling their willingness to share their compatriot's fate. The scene epitomizes courage, a willingness to take a stand when the all-too-easy thing to do would be to simply say nothing and get off the hook.

One of the grim facts of war is that one never knows where and when these moments will present themselves. The question always is: when presented with this moment, what would you do?

Most probably, you will never know until the moment arrives.

The passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 were presented with just such a moment on the opening day of this war. One minute they were average Americans flying peacefully from Newark to San Francisco on a beautiful late summer day. The next they found themselves shockingly confronted with their Spartacus moment. Four hijackers had taken over their plane during what the Americans quickly learned from family cell phone calls was an all out attack on their country. The World Trade Center towers were in flames, soon to collapse. The Pentagon had just had a jet ram into it. The plane they were on -- United 93 -- was clearly headed back East to Washington -- on target to destroy either the White House or the U.S. Capitol.

The fact that the story is history now doesn't make it any easier to recall. The passengers, doubtless scared witless, decided to rebel. They would not be passive participants in the destruction of their country. One by one they stood up and said, in effect, "I am Spartacus." Or, in the words of passenger Todd Beamer, "Let's roll." A horrific struggle raged, the plane went down in a farmer's field in Pennsylvania. Every single passenger and hijacker died. The White House and the United States Capitol, not to mention an unimagined number of lives on the ground, were spared.

"I am Spartacus," these people were saying to the rest of us. "I am Spartacus."

Comes now the tale of South Park, the irreverent, edgy and sometime (sometime??) offensive cartoon created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. The show is a staple of Comedy Central, where it regularly spends its air time, in the words of the New York Post, ridiculing "every sacred convention in the book, from major religions and celebrities to gays and the physically disabled." Which is to say, making full use of the First Amendment right to free expression.

As all of America now knows, Parker and Stone decided to do their thing with Islam and Mohammed, having their characters trying to decide how to portray Mohammed without, well, actually showing him. Which, of course, is forbidden in Islam. This being a comedy show, The Prophet finally shows up in a bear costume.

And in the blink of an eye, a Spartacus moment began to evolve. Again according to the Post, "a New York-based Web site, Revolution Muslim…'warned' Parker and Stone they would end up like Theo Van Gogh -- the Dutch filmmaker killed in 2004 by an Islamic terrorist after he made a film dealing with abuse of Muslim women." 

Threatened now, Parker and Stone refused to back down. They prepared a response, inserted as part of the storyline in their next South Park episode. Kyle, the one Jewish kid in the mix (and modeled after co-creator Stone), was to have delivered a 35-second speech at show's end warning of "fear and intimidation." There was to be no mention of Mohammed.

And Comedy Central -- Cowardly Central as the Post promptly dubbed the network -- bleeped Kyle's little talk out completely. Parker and Stone have a statement on their website, found here.

Which brings us to Jon Stewart.

He the Braveheart who has dared to battle -- yes! Can you believe it!!!??? -- Fox News! Stewart is so daring, don't you know, so gutsy, so edgy he actually uses -- OMG! -- the F-bomb on the air! Wow! What a guy! How 1969! The New York Times, unsurprisingly quick to adore this kind of faux courage, responded with an adoring profile, calling this David of the Liberal Media "relentless" as he swings away at the Goliath Fox. Ooooooooo…look! He took on…Bernard Goldberg! Sarah Palin! What a guy! Dust off the next Profile in Courage Award, Caroline!

Then, out of the blue, Jon Stewart found himself in a situation that demanded not the faux courage to take on Fox News. This time, not unlike the passengers of United Flight 93, Stewart suddenly found himself staring his own Spartacus moment in the face. The real thing.
His response?

"It's their right," he said of Comedy Central in a verbal shrug of indifference. "We all serve at their pleasure." In a monologue punctuated by yuks, he defended the network by saying, "The censorship was a decision Comedy Central made, I think as a way to protect our employees from what they believe was any harmful repercussions to them….but again they sign the checks."

They sign the checks.

Now there's a Spartacus moment. "Hey, Spartacus babe, we luv ya, big guy. What a ride that revolt thing, huh? Listen, Sparky, I can't hang up on some cross somewhere. I'm doing the lion-in-the-arena thing next Friday. They tell me the place is sold out. So, well, you're sweet. Really. But General Crassus over there signs the checks, capiche? And, hey, we gotta protect our guys, right? Ahhh, General Crassus? Spartacus is the guy with the dimple-in-the-chin thing going. Front row center."

This Stewart response -- not to mention the response from the Comedy Central suits themselves -- is an unintentional snapshot into the mind of American liberalism. What to do about people who have committed mass murder in places like New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Madrid, London, Bali, Baghdad, Mumbai, and Kabul -- and that only for starters while they figure out how to get their hands on a nuclear bomb or biological and chemical weapons?

Just look sternly into the camera, wring your hands, and say to these misguided people what Jon Stewart said to Revolution Muslim: "Your type of hatred and intolerance -- that's the enemy."

Take that Al Qaeda!

This is really quite remarkable, if in its own way quite predictable. Jon Stewart is by all accounts a nice guy, a talented guy, a smart guy. He has used The Daily Show to successfully carve out a niche as what his occasional Fox sparring partner Bill O'Reilly calls "a cornerstone of the liberal media in America." God bless America and Stewart's freedom.

Yet precisely because Stewart is viewed as the Lion of the Liberal Media, his wimpy response to an actual threat from a group presenting itself as just one more face of Islamic terror serves as a reminder of exactly why so many millions of Americans have come to mistrust President Obama or in fact any liberal when it comes to responding to America's enemies. After all the touchy-feely Obama outreach to Iran -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad just continues to build his nuclear bombs anyway. Nancy Pelosi and John Kerry travel to Syria to make nice -- but long range Scud missiles will go to Hezbollah anyway. And so on. Electing Obama was presented as the change that would make precisely this kind of threat to South Park go away. Oops.

There is nothing new here, really. Same thin soup, different bowl. Neville Chamberlain hosts The Daily Show.

The problem is that instead of American national security or that of the West, we are talking about a slightly different issue yet one still vitally connected to the larger whole.

American and Western culture -- the good, the bad and the ugly of it over a few thousand centuries, from Plato to Parker and Shakespeare to Stone -- can thrive only in an atmosphere of intellectual freedom. That freedom, as has been made abundantly clear since 9/11, is under full scale assault.

Whether it's planes being rammed into buildings in the heart of the world's financial center or the latest move in Somalia to ban music, intellectual freedom is under attack. The attackers may be organized, they may be unorganized. They may have billions at their disposal, they may have a box cutter. But make no mistake, they are obsessed with the same thing -- achieving victory over the West and all it represents whatever the cost and however long it takes.

They do not care about the safety and security of Trey Parker and Matt Stone or Jon Stewart or Comedy Central or Fox or MSNBC or the best Jewish deli in Manhattan or the next cover girl for Sports Illustrated or any other production of Western culture. The objective is to kill the target of the moment -- and oh by the way, wipe out the rest of us too. No tactic is too small, no weapon big enough.

Which is why the fact that someone as smart as Jon Stewart closes his eyes hoping his sudden Spartacus moment will just somehow go away is disturbing.

This isn't going away. This is real. It has appeared countless times in human history, and it has reared its head once more. This time at Comedy Central, as unlikely as it might seem.
Where the response was exactly the timelessly wrong answer.

The right answer is never to pretend that if you somehow were transported back in time, say to a house in Amsterdam in August of 1944 and the German GrĂ¼ne Polizei were pounding at your door, you could get away with saying: "Hi. Fox News can %$#@@ themselves. You guys sign the checks. Seig Heil. Ann Frank is upstairs, third door to the right, the room behind the bookcase."

The right answer would be, the right answer is always: I am Ann Frank.

I am Spartacus.

I am Trey Parker. I am Matt Stone.

I am Jon Stewart. And I quit.
Jeffrey Lord is a former Reagan White House political director and author.

15 comments:

Doughlas Remy said...

Gil,

I hope you will read all of this, to the end, because I have an important request for you.

For once, we see eye to eye. This is a really powerful piece, and its author has identified one of the most glaring faults of modern liberalism—its reluctance, under the banner of multicultural “tolerance,” to speak out forcefully against injustice and intimidation. I see some signs—especially in the secular liberal movement—that this is changing. If liberals are to believe in individual autonomy, equal rights, and freedom of belief, then we must be prepared to defend these values wherever they are under assault.

The Spartacus story reminds me of a news item from a Montana community in the days before the Southern Poverty Law Center sued and effectively closed down a neo-Nazi movement in the Northwest (sometime in the 90s, I believe). Jewish families who displayed menorahs in their windows were having their windows smashed by these thugs. The response of the community was ingenious and immediately effective: nearly every household in the town purchased a menorah and displayed it in a street-side window of their home. The window-smashings stopped.

Here is a way for you, Gil, to be effective and to take the kind of action that Jon Stewart was too wimpy to take:

As you are probably aware, the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard was nearly killed in January by an Islamic extremist who found his depictions of the prophet Mohammed offensive. Westergaard’s cartoons had already sparked riots and boycotts of Danish goods across the Muslim world. In this country and in Europe, there were plenty of reports of this event, but none of them showed the actual cartoons—in particular the one showing the prophet with a bomb in his turban.

I decided to post that cartoon on my own blogsite, and I cannot describe the “frisson” of terror that came over me as I did so. You can see the cartoon here. (I noticed a while ago that it took a minute or so to load; please let me know if it doesn’t appear for you.)

To download this cartoon, you can right-click the image and select “Save Picture As...”

I urge you to show solidarity with Westergaard by publishing this cartoon.

Mike said...

Wow Doughlas!
The veil is wearing thin! You are almost saying what is in your heart. Although, your post didn't say it, (you had to do it with the pictures in your link.)

Your post talks about courage. Your link says something different. Your link says that any fear you may have had of muslim retaliation is outweighed by your hatred of Catholicism. It doesn't take courage to hate though. Love takes courage.

I have to admit, for a time, I couldn't figure out why no one would reply to your posts even when you addressed them specifically. I even felt sorry for you. Now I know why.

We all have the freedom to speak in this country. But being heard/read is a privelege earned and kept by putting forth substantive discourse. I'm afraid that, at least in the minds of some, you have lost that privelege. I have said it to you before, you are not interested in the truth, you are interested in being right.

I do have to ask though. In your mind, what do you think would happen if the Church took away your primary reason for hating her? Would your life be so much better if the Church denied what it holds as the truth and said that there was nothing wrong or disordered with the homosexual act? Denying the truth will not change it. Neither will it silence any consciences. Where would you direct all of your anger then?

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike, I think you may have missed the point of my post. It was about blasphemy, not Catholicism.

Dean said...

Mike,

I'm sure that Doughlas will respond when he has the chance, if he hasn't already. In the mean time, I'm going to speak in his defense. He has my complete approval to correct anything I say which he may disagree with. My apologies in advance.

If being heard is a privilege earned by substantive discourse, you might like to explain what is it that keeps our two party political system alive? Mr. Remy has stepped into the hornet's nest by coming here. And no matter how many times he gets stung, he keeps coming back for more. Maybe he's like a bear looking for honey; or maybe he just likes to kill hornets who get in the way of the food supply. In any case, it takes no courage whatsoever to parrot the party line and say what everyone else expects to hear. Which is better for substantive discourse? To actually have a conversation about differences in belief and understanding, or just to circle the wagons in a defensive posture because someone has the audacity and the presence of mind to defend himself with style, dignity and grace against the error of believing his sexuality and lived experience has somehow rendered him unworthy of anyone's intellectual or spiritual attention?

If you read the recent rather lengthy, lively and exhaustive discussion between Doughlas and Truepeers, in the April 10th "Sacred to Self Evident" thread, you can't honestly believe that he has offered no substantive or thoughtful discourse, or that he's to be lightly dismissed much less pitied. He is, in my estimation, a force to be reckoned with.

What Doughlas was asking for quite simply and without ulterior motives was that we come together in protesting the abuses of a handful of extremist nut jobs by our cooperative willingness to defiantly stand with potential victims in order to dilute the threat or insinuation of actual violence to them (and by association with us). It's a communal relation born, if not from love for each other, then at least for love of freedom, and non-violent social activism, not self interest. If that isn't the ultimate expression of Catholic values, what is? If being heard is a privilege, what is being silenced an expression of? Give your answer to Theo van Gogh. But don't expect a reply. If Doughlas "hates" the church, he has a funny way of showing it. Wanting to curb the temptation to violence is not an act of hatred.

Since society has largely taken over the role ignored by the church, and declared homosexuality a non-issue, it's not really a question of what the church will do, but when, since it is the people who are the body of Christ, and that body is gay, straight, bisexual, and transgendered. If conscience was not silenced when slavery was approved, it will not become more active when false distinctions no longer are. We are all one. I think it's safe to say that Dough's anger is directed mostly at the fact that we don't act like we know it yet.

Mike said...

Doughlas,
"Mike, I think you may have missed the point of my post. It was about blasphemy, not Catholicism."

So a picture of the pope has nothing to do with Catholicism? Wait a minute isn't he Catholic?

Dean,
"If being heard is a privilege earned by substantive discourse, you might like to explain what is it that keeps our two party political system alive?"

I'm not sure how this disproves the point. Neither party seems to put forth much in the way of substance, nor do they seem to hear eachother or the American people. If the two party system is alive, it isn't healthy and its future is questionable precisely because politicians have made the mistake of thinking everything that spues forth from their mouths is worth hearing.

"against the error of believing his sexuality and lived experience has somehow rendered him unworthy of anyone's intellectual or spiritual attention?"

His homosexuality is not why I have come to the conclusion that, in the minds of some, he has lost the privelege of being heard. It's his veiled hatred of the Church that has lost him that privelege. I suggested that it is the Church's teaching on homosexuality that has caused him to hate it so much. Therefore, none of the issues are approached with an open mind. It is circling the wagons and towing the party line, and that particular party is anti-catholic.

My parents warned me about a lot of things that would get me in trouble when I went to college. After ignoring them, I got angry because I discovered that they were right, but my anger was displaced. If my parents had come out and said "we were wrong to tell you to avoid those things. Those things aren't bad, they are actually good," would I have suddenly avoided the trouble just because they changed their tone?

Tell me Dean, if you can, three things that Doughlas appreciates about the Catholic Church? How about two? One? I have been watching, and the best I've seen so far is that bible seems to have some good humanistic teaching in it, although, to hear Doughlas say it, it is purely coincidental. I guess the sun shines on a dog's rump once in a while.

"What Doughlas was asking for quite simply and without ulterior motives was that we come together in protesting the abuses of a handful of extremist nut jobs"

So let's be clear then, this is how you are labeling Pope Benedict XVI? Or maybe Catholics in general?

"If Doughlas "hates" the church, he has a funny way of showing it. Wanting to curb the temptation to violence is not an act of hatred."

No. Inciting hatred is a step toward violence.

"Since society has largely taken over the role ignored by the church, and declared homosexuality a non-issue, it's not really a question of what the church will do, but when, since it is the people who are the body of Christ, and that body is gay, straight, bisexual, and transgendered."

Who is the head of the body of Christ? Again, you sound a little relativistic. Does the truth change? Or is it a constant that is slowly becoming clearer as the eyes of humanity adjust to light?

Doughlas Remy said...

Hello Mike.

I would be happy to address the issues you raised. The first one concerns my activism on behalf of homosexuals—an activism that brings me into direct conflict with certain religious teachings, including those of the Catholic Church. You see your church as a wise parent warning you against the evils of the world, and so you trust her when she declares homosexuals to be “objectively disordered.” But I was not influenced by your church’s teachings, and when I look into her history I see that she herself has not always been a wise parent. (One only has to open the daily papers, after all!) And so I look to other sources for the truth about homosexuality. I look mainly to scientific research, but also to literally thousands of personal stories that I have heard over the years and to my own personal experience.

If Catholic teachings about homosexuality were not so harmful to homosexuals, I wouldn’t spend much time blogging on this site. But they are, and I know that to be true. The British Medical Journal is one of the world’s most prestigious medical authorities. Here is what they had to say in an April 2004 editorial:

In spite of every mental health and medical association in the U.S. stating unequivocally that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuality is a disorder, many religious organizations continue to declare homosexuality or homosexual behavior as sinful and immoral. This creates spiritual crises for many people who have grown up within anti-homosexual religious families and communities.

These spiritual crises have been abundantly documented over many decades. If I had the time to share some of them with you—and if you were willing to open your heart to them—I think you might understand why your church’s position on this issue is so destructive and so urgently in need of reform. The suicide rate among gay youth is disproportionately high, and the reasons are well understood. When churches attach labels like “objectively disordered” to these young people’s budding sexuality, the results are bewilderment, depression, low self-esteem, and self-loathing, all of which can lead to self-destructive behavior such as substance abuse and suicide. If these young people survive into adulthood, they are often scarred for life by the experience of having been so severely stigmatized during their formative years. And the stigmatization often doesn’t let up.

Hence my anger and my activism. Many years ago, when I “came out,” I was inspired by these words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, which I quote fairly often on this site:

I swore to never be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides, Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim, silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

(More to follow...)

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike:

You were correct that I am angry toward your church, not only for its teachings on homosexuality but for its position on contraception and a great number of other issues. But you are very mistaken if you think my anger is directed at all Catholics or at all things Catholic, and I don’t think you will find any evidence for that claim in anything I’ve published. I have frequently cited Catholic writers like James Carroll, Garry Wills, Andrew Sullivan, and James Alison, all of whom I greatly admire.

You were incensed that I had posted a satirical photo-cartoon of Pope Benedict attired in his most sumptuous robes, with the caption, “Blessed are the poor. Blessed are the meek.” Is that a slander? Or is it just true? If it is the truth, then why must we all pretend not to notice it? Are we all looking at the naked Emperor and agreeing that he is clothed? The person who created that cartoon was like the little boy in the crowd around the emperor who says, “Mommy, that man is naked!” The cartoonist was pointing out the glaring disparity between the Pope’s style of life and Jesus’ teachings.

Is criticizing the Pope anti-Catholic? If it is, then you’ve got a lot of very fine Catholic writers who are really anti-Catholic. I get a lot of my material from them, in fact.

All this leads to the second issue that I would like to address in response to your comment, and that is blasphemy, which was the real subject of my post that I linked you to. This is an extremely rich territory that I had hoped to open up on this site, and I appreciate your help in getting the discussion started (if there is to be one).

(More to follow.)

Dean said...

Mike,

That was my point. There is little substantive discourse in the political system, and yet it rumbles along, apparently privileged by something it hasn't earned. When I see someone like Sarah Palin blathering her populist ilk, its disingenuous not to grant audience to those who actually engage you, and like it or not, that's what Mr. Remy does. As for politicians spewing forth, I couldn't agree with you more.

I think Doughlas has answered your question on his attitude about the church. This place, which teaches tolerance and love for the outsider, needs to seriously rethink its position on matters that reflect human bias more than divine implementation. What's my reason for believing this? The treatment Jesus received at the hands of the Jewish Senhedrin who regarded him as a blasphemer and a liar who somehow parted from their expectations of what the Messiah should act like or believe based on their reading of the Tanakh. A man who nevertheless healed people on the sabbath instead of ignoring them, who befriended sinners and supped with thieves, consorted with prostitutes and got people wasted at wedding feasts so they could celebrate and let down their guarded legalistic vigilance long enough to be happy and have a good time. You know, that old bearded Hippie guy with the moth-eaten 60's value system.

Does the truth change, Or is it a constant that is slowly becoming clearer as the eyes of humanity adjust to light?

When you look at the bright sky on a sunny day, you don't see the stars, yet you know they are there. Like truth, the sun is so bright it blinds us to almost all of the visible universe, until our perspective shifts with the arrival of the night. Like the sun, we assume truth allows us to see everything at once. Yet while it reveals some things, it hides an infinitude of others that swamps the little we know to barely nothing. When the evening arrives, we begin to see not just what the sun denied us during the daylight, but what its own power obscured us from seeing for a time: That truth is not local or static or fixed, but infinite. It shines brightly not in one place, but in numberless places; as the master of a billion dawns. And whether you're talking about God or the cosmos, having the whole truth of anything is impossible. As our knowledge of the truth increases, we are less inclined to measure everything with haste or to apply rigid and unbending formulas to what we thought we knew. More importantly, it is what the truth does to us, not anything we can do for it that is the real measure of its power to absorb us into it, even as we continue along our way.

I guess ultimately, it comes down to this. As long as you believe that God is punishing you for being a human being, then you’ll never be very much of a human being, and God will never be much of a God.

My beliefs are based on the faith that I've heard Him correctly, not on the confidence that I'm wrong, or the fear that I'll alienate someone who thinks me foolish for believing it. If I've heard His truth correctly, then the ridicule I face for affirming it will not hurt me in ways that are any more costly then what he already paid to set us free.

Mike said...

Doughlas,

I hear what you are saying. I may not know the particular circumstances of your pain or the stories that have no doubt left there mark but that doesn't mean that I don't understand a thing or two about pain myself. I can even understand why you would be angry toward Catholicism.

It is what you are doing with that anger that is troubling. If you really want people to hear you, you have to be open to hearing yourself. Appearing to be open minded is not enough.

When I read your posts, I can sense that you are going through an awful lot of trouble to sound objective and rational. Underlying all of that effort is the same agenda driven, irrational anger that was the foundation for your last post. It might be a different topic and a different day, but it is the same broken record. Why should people respond when it is so obvious you begin every discussion with the same conclusion. (The Catholic Church is wrong!) An angry heart does not lead to an open mind.

There is no doubt that there are (disordered)Catholics (more on that word later) who spout the Church's stance on homosexuality in order to justify their own bigoted ways. That does not make the Church's stance wrong. Those Catholics need to read what the Church actually says about homosexuality.

I recognize that "disordered" is a hot button term for you. I can see why. You probably feel that the Church is belittling you. You probably feel that it implies that you are somehow less than someone who is not "disordered." However, the term is not one the Church uses exclusively for homosexuality. I think it says the same about premarital sex and promiscuity in general. I don't believe that it is an attempt to belittle or demean. And I think, to be fair, just look at where the Church stands in regard to those who CULTURE deems "less than" i.e. the unborn, the elderly, the poor, the imprisoned, those suffering from addiction, just to name a few. The Church says that ALL people should be treated with dignity. But you will never be open to seeing the many beautiful things the Church has to say about the dignity of Doughlas Remy, unless you deal with that anger. It is blinding.

This doesn't mean that you should be silent. It doesn't mean you shouldn't address the "suffering and humiliation" that homosexual men and women are undergoing. You would be far more effective if you would tell your story. Make people aware that the things they do can harm real people. You don't need to attack religion to do that. It is counterproductive because it will make people angry and I already said what that does for open-mindedness.

Mike said...

The issue of contraception is one which time is proving the Church to be right. After fourty-five years of more access and more education, we are being told that it is not enough. Kids need more access and more education at an earlier age. Studies show that the use of a contraceptive, even once, significantly increase the likelyhood that the individual will go on to lead a promiscuous lifestyle, which in turn, will increase the risk of many other problems we have today. Where are we after fourty-five years? Still over a million abortions a year, more stds, over 50% divorce rate, and the highest sexual abuse crime rate ever. Liberating? Not in my mind, but I digress.

No doubt, you would also criticize the grandeur of a cathedral. However, when people walk into a cathedral it can be very uplifting. They carry in all of there pain and suffering and for a time, their minds are lifted up beyond the here and now. Their eyes are set on eternity. They are inspired to go back out and keep fighting, do more for the poor, find Christ in the suffering.

I am guessing you would rather see the pope in rags. Gauging from the humilty of the man, which I doubt you would discover from reading your "Catholic" sources, he would probably rather be in rags as well. But sometimes we need to be reminded that the pope is someone special. You don't have to believe it, but Catholics need reminding. Is he human? Absolutely. Should we respect him? I think so. Can we criticize him? Sure. Let's make sure it's fair though. Let's make sure that our criticism is honest. Let's not start from the conclusion that he is the root of all evil. And we probably shouldn't rely on the mainstream media for a fair assessment either. We could start with what he actually says and writes. He has earned the privelege to be heard, in my opinion.

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike,
I hope to respond to your latest comment before long. I have been tied up on another thread (“What’ll it be, math or masturbation?”) and now have a trip coming up. You might check back in a few days...

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike,

If I sometimes sound like a broken record, it is partly because I am responding to one (Gil). The anti-gay rhetoric in his posts is both shrill and repetitive. Remember, also, that new bloggers occasionally enter the discussion, bringing with them many of the same thread-bare prejudices that I have already addressed countless times in the past. I realize that there may not be much that is new for you, but I do try to keep my material as lively and fresh as possible.

Do I always start with the same conclusion? Well, yes. And if we were arguing over whether the earth is spherical or flat, I would probably stick to my conclusion there as well. Sometimes our minds can be so open that everything falls out. I have challenged you and others to show me why my conclusions are unfounded, and so far no one has done so. The evidence is there. The earth is not flat, and homosexuality is not a disorder. Why is the Catholic Church still insisting that it is? And why are you supporting that position? How long does it take for change to occur in the Church when its members fall in behind their leadership so reflexively, even in its most unscientific claims? The metaphor of the shepherd and his “flock” is picturesque until one remembers that the “flock” are in fact just sheep.

How long did it take the church to get around to apologizing for its treatment of Galileo? And how long will it be before we hear an apology about its teachings on homosexuality?

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike, you thought that I should not feel offended that your church calls me “disordered” because it also uses those terms for promiscuity, etc. But that is precisely why I should feel offended! I am not promiscuous and do not like hearing my sexual orientation compared to promiscuity. Would you? Religious folks sometimes piously compare homosexuality to alcoholism or other disorders and then seem surprised when we take offense. Try poking your best friend in the eye and then telling him he shouldn’t feel sore at you about it.

I am perfectly justified in feeling angry about these libels—less for myself, I might add, than on behalf of the millions of homosexuals throughout the world who are affected by such malicious slanders.

Look at Uganda. Three days ago, American evangelical leader Lou Engle preached against “homosexuality, witchcraft, and corruption” to a crowd of 1,300 people. Notice the associations. Instead of homosexuality and promiscuity, it’s homosexuality and witchcraft! ...and corruption, no less! Uganda is on the verge of a homosexual pogrom with pending legislation that would impose the death penalty on some gays and life imprisonment on other gays and their supporters. Forty-one percent of Ugandans are Roman Catholics, and so you might expect that Pope Benedict XVI would have something to say about this barbaric legislation, which has been denounced by every civilized government in the world. Here is a news item from Politicsdaily.com, dated 3/8/10, and please let me know if you find anything more recent:

Pope Benedict XVI met with the Roman Catholic hierarchy of Uganda at the Vatican last Friday and delivered a speech summing up what he saw as the main tasks of the church in the East African nation—but made no mention of the draconian anti-homosexuality bill that has prompted an international outcry.

Doughlas Remy said...

Mike, you write, I’m guessing you would rather see the Pope in rags.

Yes, I think it would be a suitable act of contrition, ... for starters. And then he could move on to sackcloth and ashes.

And, Mike, I also speak on behalf of the millions of earth’s inhabitants who are dying because they were born into an overpopulated world that refuses to put the brakes on its growth through sensible measures like contraception. According to the World Water Council, 1.1 billion people on this planet—that’s billion with a “b”—lack access to safe drinking water. That is approximately one out of every six people. Meanwhile, two out of six people lack adequate sanitation. The water crisis, like the sphericity of the earth, is just a fact, and its causes are well understood. The world’s population tripled in the 20th century and it is on track to nearly double in the next 50 years. We are in the first stages of an ecological collapse; one has only to travel to India, Australia, or Africa to realize this. Contraception doesn’t cause more births, Mike. It prevents more births. Sex education doesn’t aggravate problems of underage pregnancies and STDs. It addresses those problems. There is just no way you can jiggle the science to reach any other conclusions. The Catholic hierarchy and its minions will toss around words like “statistics,” “evidence,” and “studies,” in order to sound scientific (See Gil’s “Math or Masturbation” post), but in fact there is no authentic science behind these conclusions and they are therefore all a bluff and a sham.

I’m asking you and other Catholics to wake up and smell the coffee. You represent a major world religion and you have a responsibility to mankind. Some of your teachings are harmful on a massive scale and affect not just certain populations but the entire planet and the very survival of our species on it. If you have any doubt about this, then I would urge you to spend some time investigating these matters. There is a cornucopia of reliable evidence-based information on the Web, if you can figure out how to separate it from the propaganda. This is not always an easy task, but there are a few guidelines that I can share with you if you are interested.

Mike said...

Doughlas,

Now it's my turn. I will be away from the web all weekend. Will reply next week some time. Dean, I mean to get back to you as well.