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December 24, 2013

Bob Newhart and The Narrowing of Freedom

Very good piece by Kathryn Jean Lopez.

Bob Newhart had been scheduled to headline a convention of Catholic business leaders called Legatus.

GLAAD ask-threatened him to cancel.

And get this: Newhart is scheduled to appear alongside such noted anti-LGBT figures as the Catholic League's Bill Donohue and Rick "man on dog" Santorum. Yeah, it's going to be that kind of a night. Why in Larry, Darryl, and my other brother Darryl's name would Mr. Newhart, legendary TV star and one of the most genuinely well-liked people to ever appear before a film camera, sign up for such a gig?!

In 2012, Kirk Cameron provoked a storm of controversy when he told Piers Morgan that marriage equality is, "detrimental, and ultimately destructive to so many of the foundations of civilization." Hundreds told Cameron it was time to grow up. His Growing Pains co-star Tracy Gold was joined by several celebrities to condemn his words. And the National Organization for Marriage realized that they found their "non-cognitive elite" spokesperson.

GLAADWhereAreTheyNowKirkCameron_4.jpg

Personally, I'm choosing to believe that he just doesn't know and that this booking is the result of bad advice. I'm looking at this post as an opportunity to fill in the missing details so that Mr. Newhart makes a more informed choice rather than presuming to know his intent. That's the only way I know to approach it, since I can't stand to think that this man who I admire is actually supportive of the truly shocking ideas that I showed you at the beginning of this post. As a kid who stayed up late to watch Nick at Nite reruns of multiple Newhart shows, I have to believe that this is an act of ignorance, not malice. I have to believe that he simply doesn't know.

GLAAD is reaching out to Mr. Newhart's representatives to let them know how, exactly, an appearance at this event will come across to LGBT people and allied voices. I am hoping that I am right, and Mr. Newhart doesn't want to go down that path. He can still express his Catholic faith in a way more consistent with the rest of American Catholics, by loving and supporting his LGBT friends and family. GLAAD is urging him to do the right thing.

The "Where are they now?" question -- suggesting that Kirk Cameron's career was ended, or at least damaged, by GLAAD -- combined with GLAAD's admonition not to "go down that path" is clearly a warning to Newhart that he can expect consequences should he speak at Legatus.

Well, he took the hint. He cancelled.


What makes this even sadder is that Newhart himself noted the importance of the free trade in humor in politics and thought. From Lopez's post:

Humor “makes us free.”

That was Bob Newhart’s observation during a commencement address at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America in 1997. “As long as the tyrant cannot control the minds of free men, they remain free,” the comedian continued. “Humor abounded behind the Iron Curtain and in POW camps. Humor is also our way of dealing with the inexplicable. We had an earthquake a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, and it wasn’t more than three or four days later that I heard the first earthquake joke. Someone said, ‘The traffic is stopped, but the freeways are moving.’”

“Laughter gives us distance,” he went on to say.

Newhart continued:

It allows us to step back from an event over which we have no control and deal with it and then move on with our lives. It helps distinguish us from animals. No matter what hyenas sound like, they are not actually laughing. It also helps define our sanity. The schizophrenic has no sense of humor. His world is a constantly daunting, unfriendly place. The rational man is able to find humor in his.

Erasmus wrote in Praise of Folly, “No society, no union in life could be either pleasant or lasting without me,” of course, meaning folly.

People with a sense of humor tend to be less egocentric and more realistic in their view of the world and more humble in moments of success and less defeated in times of travail. I certainly don’t delude myself that there aren’t certainly more important things to do in life than make people laugh, but I can’t imagine anything that would bring me more joy.

There is indeed a culture war, and the left are the aggressors. As Erick Erickson frequently notes: "You Will Be Made To Care," quite against your will, if that's what's needed.

GLAAD has no moral high ground here at all. They posture as being anti-bullying, while being the biggest bullies on the playground. What GLAAD does as its normal daily routine -- threatening, demanding firings, demanding ostracism -- is what they claim to oppose.

In the Gay fundamentalists' crude and fearful view of the world, here is the threat posed by Christianity: Christianity demands that gays renounce a core part of their selves in order to join polite society. If they refuse to renounce a core part of their selves, then they will be excluded from society, by use of social pressure to harass, insult, humiliate, ostracize, and economically marginalize those gays who will not fall into line.

GLAAD would say this is utterly unacceptable, intolerant, bullying, incivil, and unAmerican.

And yet what is GLAAD's mission? What is it they actually seek?

GLAAD demands that Christians (fundmentalists, Catholics, those who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible) renounce a core part of their selves in order to join polite society. If they refuse, they will be excluded from society, by use of social pressure to harass, insult, humiliate, ostracize, and economically marginalize those Christians who do not fall into line.

In what possible way is GLAAD's mission less bullying than that which they claim their enemies have in mind?

I have never believed this nonsense that a gay person should become "straight." I doubt it's possible. I think a gay person can pose as straight, as they have long done throughout history. But to become straight? No.

This is far too big a request to make of someone, no matter what the claimed good that will come from it. Christians may believe that gays will be happier as straights, or at least will be more in communion with God. I doubt that, but even if that were true, one can't help but note this is a much heavier burden than the average Christian is asked to heft.

But then this same thinking leaves me a little bewildered by GLAAD's demands: They don't ask much... only that people, in order to make gays happier and more in communion with common society, give up one of the central pillars of their religious beliefs.

As I would say that asking a gay to become straight, or making no allowances for his "sin" (given that he has a specific urge to "sin" that the average heterosexual does not), I would also say some allowance must be made for those who believe, in their hearts and spirits, that the Bible is literally true in all respects.

And the Bible does indeed say that homosexuality is sinful. Seven times, in fact, and never suggests the contrary proposition that it is not.

One would be perfectly within one's rights to object to discrimination on this basis.

But not to object to someone's naked thought -- unclothed by actual action, by actual discrimination, by actual harm.

That is simply making thought a crime.

The Christian problem with homosexuality is twofold. First, they object to the mainstreaming of homosexuality. They object to its normalization. I disagree with them on that, but I understand why they object: After all, of all the sins noted in the Bible, almost all of them are still universally acknowledged as sinful. There is no movement to suggest that lying isn't anything other than immoral (except when a Democratic president does it, of course). There is no movement to normalize murder (though Christians, and all right-thinking people, object when the left attempts to normalize, or at least "understand," murder, and punish it less severely).

Christians who believe in the literal truth of the Bible must believe homosexuality is a sin. They don't necessarily have to take actions in furtherance of that belief, but they do need to believe it.

In terms the gay left will understand: They were born that way.

However, this is only the smaller part of Christians' objection to homosexuality. This may have been the main objection 20 years ago, but there's a much more serious objection today.

Christians' main problem with what they term the homosexual agenda is not, anymore, that homosexuality is being normalized.

Christians main problem with what they term the homosexual agenda is now that the normalization of homosexuality is the goal, but the main tactic used to accomplish this goal is the Denormalization of Christianity.

We're no longer just talking about gays joining society on equal footing. That is, I would say, a laudable thing.

But we are now talking about gays joining society, at the same time the left kicks one-fifth to one-third of America out of society.

And that's a step too far. No right-thinking man (and here I use "right-thinking" to mean "correct in thought," not right-leaning) can possibly accept that one of the world's great religions must be denormalized -- marginalized, humiliated, harassed, boycotted, driven from the light and into the shadows -- in order to accommodate any minority group's aspirations.

That is, as I say, too large a demand.

And that is why there is so much anger over this, over Robertson's firing, over the "War on Christmas," all of it. It's not just about the proposition that gays are normal -- it's about the much-more vigorously pushed proposition that Christians are abnormal.

That they need to be "cured," in fact. That they might need therapy to cure them of their "disorders" of the mind. That they might need to be excluded from society, to prevent them from infecting it further with their perverted ideas.

I'm not exaggerating here. I hardly need to. Here is Andrew Sullivan announcing that fundamentalist-oriented Christians are in fact mentally and psychologically disordered:

In that last round-up of sins, Robertson puts homosexuality first, then adultery, then lying. The last two are actually in the Ten Commandments – and yet “homosexuality” is on their level, along with the view that somehow homosexual orientation can be prayed away (something that the largest Christian denomination on earth, the Catholic Church, denies). And this fundamentalist psychology then deepens:
If you break one sin you may as well break them all. If we lose our morality, we will lose our country. It will happen.

Again, as Christian doctrine, this is bonkers. There are obvious levels of sinfulness; the smallest white lie is not the same as a rape, and committing one does not mean committing them all. But you can hear the rhythms of the terrified fundamentalist psyche behind all these words. It is not enough for sins to occur (because that would make our time no different than any other); it is always the case that we are confronting a crisis of sinfulness, and that crisis is always spinning out of control into apocalyptic scenarios. So you give in to the gays, you give in to everything evil, because “if you break one sin you may as well break them all.” And if you break them all, America ceases to exist.

To recap: fundamentalism is not the same as Christianity. It has certain psychological tropes. The first is to see sexual sin as by far the worst of them and the root of all of them. The second is to see gays – whose very being represents sexual sin – as an enemy class within a society bringing about its destruction if they are not stopped or converted (see: Jews, Europe, circa 1300 – 1945). The third is to see these gays as opening the door to every other sin and evil. The fourth is to “lose our country.”

I'm quite unsure how Andrew Sullivan can object to claims that homosexuality should be considered a psychological disorder and listed in the DSM when he himself suggests that fundamentalist Christianity should be so listed.

And I do not know from whence Sullivan purchased his high horse on the subject of believing that those who disagree with you constitute "an enemy class within a society bringing about its destruction if they are not stopped or converted (see: Jews, Europe, circa 1300 – 1945)."

He has long treated Christians as an "enemy class within a society which could bring about its destruction." He created the (rather thick-headed) slur "Christianist," for example, and has fulminated about solutions to the dire problem of traditionalist Christians for quite some time now.

Is Andrew Sullivan, or GLAAD, offering any peaceable, more civil way out of this unending conflict of gays versus Christians? No, not at all.

Sullivan and GLAAD are every bit the intolerant, paranoid, darkly-muttering fundamentalist scolds and prigs they imagine their enemies to be.

They do not suggest some way in which both gays and Christians can simultaneously win, or any way in which this conflict can be resolved in the usual manner, which is simply patching it up with a series of compromises and then muddling on through.

No, they demand a certain Winner, and they demand a certain Loser.

They do not disagree that one perverted, disordered, trouble-making and distasteful minority be excluded from civil society; they simply have a different minority in mind.

That's unacceptable. To anyone who values freedom of thought, belief, speech, and conscience, that's unacceptable.

As I observed during the Sacco Lynch Mob: There is nothing more frightening than a weakling who suddenly gets a sense of power. Because the weakling, unaccustomed to having a position of power over someone else, has not learned for himself to the proper restraints on the employment of coercive power.

And the weakling has years of resentments behind him. The weakling seeks payback.

The older I get the more I realize that wielding power is not strength; restraint in using power is strength. Vengeance is not strength; vengeance is weakness, borne of fear and anger, and nourished by grievance.

The strong can afford mercy in a way the weaklings cannot.

Mercy is strength, and goodwill is strength, and restraint is strength.

Empathy is strength. Questioning one's beliefs is strength. Seeking to actually understand what frightens one's opponents is strength.

And, yes, as silly as this disordered, perverted Christian thought may be, loving your enemy is strength.

I not only despise these coordinated efforts to shut people up, to make them silent; but I also pity them.

Someone who knows he is right -- who knows he has a sense of the Truth -- does not need to coerce his opponents into silence. A man speaking the truth should win out, at least three quarters of the time, over those without it.

So these efforts to shut people up seem to me to be borne not of conviction, but of doubt; not of courage, but of fear; not of strength, but of weakness.

If you're so certain you're right, I always want to ask the Enforcers of Silence, why are my words such a threat to you?

Let's maybe all try to be stronger this Christmas.


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posted by Ace at 01:44 PM

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