Thursday, February 23, 2017

God's Fools

Like Jesus, Francis of Assisi did some pretty outrageous things. Everybody knows how he went and preached to the birds, but not everybody knows why he did it.

It wasn't, as certain 1970s movies would have it, because he was a nature-loving hippie (although I do love Donavan's soundtrack, especially the theme song). It was because the human beings he was preaching to wouldn't listen.

He had wanted to preach the word of God in Rome, but when he arrived there, the people scorned him because he was dressed poorly, so they thought him an idiot. He tried for several days to gain their attention, but could not overcome their hardness of heart.

"I grieve deeply over your misfortune," he told them, "because you are not only spurning me as a servant of Christ, but you are also really despising Him in me, since I have been preaching to you the Gospel of the Redeemer of the world. And so I am now leaving Rome. And I call as witness of your desolation Him who is the faithful Witness in heaven. And for your confusion I am going to preach the Gospel of Christ to the brute animals and the birds of the sky, so that by hearing the soul-saving words of God they may obey and have peace."

At which, the people of Rome drove him from the city.

Preaching to the birds was far from the most outrageous thing Francis did. Another time when he was in Rome to see the pope to get approval for his Rule, the pope looked at Francis in his "ill-fitting robe," with his "ugly face, long beard, disheveled hair, and overhanging black eyebrows," and couldn't believe that Francis, an unknown "nobody," could possibly be a servant of God--or even a human being.

"Brother," Pope Innocent rebuked him, "go find some pigs--to which you should be compared rather than to men--and roll in the mud with them. And take the Rule you have made to them--and give them the benefit of your preaching!"

So, of course, Francis did. He bowed his head, went out into the street, found some pigs, and rolled with them in the mud until he was completely covered with it. Then he went back inside, presented himself to the pope, and said, "Lord, I have done what you ordered. Now please listen to my petition."

As with Jesus, so with Francis, we have a terrible tendency to bowdlerize what these young men must have been like in person. In retrospect, we have made them as clean-cut and boring as the most stereotypical 1950s suburbanite: no swearing, no sex outside marriage and only decorous sex within, no stepping outside society's norms. In our imaginations, both Jesus and Francis look and behave like wispy, gentle hippies (thanks, Zeffirelli!), a mix between Walter Sallman's famous Head of Christ (1940) and Graham Faulkner's folk-singing Francis. They speak softly, wandering wistfully about the countryside picking flowers, and never, ever embarrass anyone by doing anything outrageous.

Except they did. In later life, Francis may have been all pious and sweet (not exactly), but in his youth, you will recall, he was a regular rapscallion. He dreamed of being a knight, lived high on his father's wealth, and even went off to war to fight on behalf of his hometown Assisi. And when the crucifix at San Damiano told him: "Go, and repair my house," what did he do? Take a bunch of his father's best textiles to sell for funds. His father was not pleased. Francis hid for a month in a cave to escape his father's wrath, and on emerging made his most outrageous gesture yet. He marched into the center of Assisi, took off all his clothes, and stood naked before the bishop and people, saying to his father, "Hitherto I have called you my father on earth; henceforth I desire to say only, 'Our Father who art in Heaven.'"

How, exactly, do we know how Jesus behaved in his youth? Answer: we don't. We know nothing of his life before he began his preaching tour, except for the story in Luke about how, one year at the age of twelve, he stayed in the Temple arguing with the priests when his family had gone up to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. Sure Luke says that, after his frantic parents found him, afterwards Jesus was obedient to them, but that's it. Let me repeat: we know NOTHING of what Jesus did between the age of twelve and his showing up at the Jordan for John to baptize him.

And then what did Jesus do? This is the way I phrased it back in November when I was first trying to give a sense of how extraordinary what Milo was doing seemed--and yet, how oddly familiar:
You all know the story. A young man of obscure birth and questionable parentage comes out of the countryside to the big city. He collects a following of other young men and even some women, who see him as a good person despite his reputation as a libertine. He speaks plainly and gathers large crowds of simple people who look to him for help and credit him with freeing them from ailments that they have suffered under for years. He causes a disruption in the city, shames the members of the establishment for their hypocrisy and greed, and bests even the most learned teachers in argument. He violates the most sacred taboos and is accused of blasphemy and corrupting the youth. He is accused by the leaders of his community of fomenting rebellion and of sympathies with the most dangerous elements of the society. Eventually, he is betrayed by one of his own followers, handed over to the authorities for questioning, tortured, mocked, and subjected to a cruel and unusual punishment without proper trial. And yet, even as he hangs dying on the cross, he forgives his persecutors, taking all of the hate and anger and envy and fear that they can throw at him and giving it back as love.
I am getting some flak from my colleagues in academia for this particular comparison. Of course, I do not mean that Milo is the Second Coming of Christ. Duh. What I meant was--and said in the original post--was that Milo is sincere when he says he is a Catholic, and that as a Catholic he understands his ultimate model to be Christ. Whether he himself is conscious of the parallels I saw between his going on his campus tour and the way in which Jesus traveled round the country, I don't know. (He didn't share Kung Fu Milo on his Facebook page, which makes me think I embarrassed him a little bit, although as his fans know, Milo doesn't embarrass easily.) Certainly, however, Francis saw the parallels in what he was doing--quite purposefully.

Like Jesus, Francis went round the countryside gathering young men as followers. Like Jesus, Francis focused on preaching to the people. Like Jesus, Francis stood up to the established authorities of his day on behalf of the people whom he felt needed caring for. Like Jesus, Francis used extravagant gestures and stories to make his point. Like Jesus, Francis spoke simply and vividly. And like Jesus, Francis made jokes. For example, with his preaching to the birds or rolling in the mud with the pigs. His biographers recorded many more.

One day, one of the brothers in Assisi asked Francis to allow him to have a psalter. To which Francis replied: "Once you have a psalter, you will insist on having a breviary. And when you get a breviary, you will sit on a professor's chair and give orders to your brother like some mighty prelate: 'Here, you, bring me my breviary.' Francis then strewed ashes on his head and cried from the depths of his soul: 'I am the breviary! I am the breviary!'"Another time, Francis made a brother who had picked up a coin off the altar in the church of St. Mary of the Portiuncula to take the coin up in his mouth and carry it outside to a pile of donkey dung.

Milo, who was raised a Catholic, seems to use similar techniques as Jesus and Francis to help get his audiences' attention. As I told Oliver Bateman for his essay on Milo,
Milo is playing a particular kind of role: that of the holy fool. He is a clown--like St. Francis of Assisi--using jokes to shock us out of our established pieties. Like Francis, people find him outrageous and embarrassing: If Francis stripped off all his clothes in the piazza of Assisi to shock the wealthy elite of his hometown, Milo has dressed in drag, had himself 'hazed,' disguised himself as a protestor at one of his own talks, dressed in police fetish gear carrying a giant pink dildo water bottle, and had himself carried into the lecture hall on a golden throne [FB--that was actually the students' idea]. He wants to shock people out of their complacency and make them think, but like Francis, he does so by making himself a figure of fun.
Back in January, when I wrote the above, Milo was just getting back on the road with his Dangerous Faggot bus and staff of young men. As they traveled round the country for the last leg of his tour, it soon became clear that the reception they were getting in the West was somewhat different from that which the tour had received in the South and Southeast. Out West, the protestors got more and more aggressive. A shot was fired in Seattle. Fires were lit and windows broken in Berkeley. Some of the scheduled talks were canceled on the day. The shouts of "No Milo, no Nazis, no fascist KKK!" got louder and louder and louder.

And then came the night with Bill Maher and soon after the invitation to speak at CPAC. At which point the conservative establishment struck and brought Milo down. You will forgive me, I hope, for not pointing out the obvious parallels. The invitation to speak was rescinded, Milo lost his book contract with Simon & Schuster, and in the midst of the shame storm that fell upon him from all sides, including even conservatives like Stefan Molyneux who had previously been on his side, he felt the only honorable thing to do was to resign his position at Breitbart. Not a crucifixion, I grant you. But hardly a basket of accolades. Mocked, shunned, humiliated, spat at by former colleagues. Betrayed by his friends. Socially speaking, it was pretty close.

And, therefore, quite frankly, uncanny. I have been writing for and about Milo since September. He has become a friend and an ally in the battle against the SJWs, the pearl-clutchers and nannies, who gasp at the use of the C-word and refuse to let anybody have any fun, lest somebody feel offended or the language not be "inclusive" enough. (I was upset, and besides it was Milo's phrase. If you had been paying better attention to my blog, you would have recognized it as an epithet for conservatives. Spineless cunts.) Many of my Facebook friends had been gleefully predicting Milo's downfall for months. Commendably, most of them have held their tongues this past week, although I am wondering about how happy they feel having watched their prediction come true. There he was, the young man in whom so many had placed so much hope, brought down by the media mob and crucified (metaphorically speaking) by the authorities.

Two days later, he did a press conference, made his confession, announced his resignation and the end of his journalism career. And promised his followers that he was not giving up. He has plans to develop a new round of campus talks and to focus more on "entertaining and educating everyone, left, right and otherwise." And then he threw out his gauntlet:
Don't think for a moment that this will stop me being as offensive, provocative and outrageously funny as I want on any subject I want. America has a colossal free speech problem. The land of the First Amendment has some of the most oppressive social restrictions on free expression anywhere in the western world. I'm proud to be a warrior for free speech and creative expression. I want everyone in America, the greatest country in the history of human civilization, to be able to be, do, read and say anything. I will never stop fighting for your right to do that.
Could you have recovered from such a public humiliation that fast? Yeah, right.

Let me say this again so everybody in the back can hear me: I do not think Milo is Christ. What I do think is that he, like Francis, is attempting to live out the imitation of Christ, as in fact every Christian should. (It's hard to get perfect, but then only Jesus was--is God.)

Contrary to what you might think from Donavan's version of the song, Francis was not celebrating "nature" in his Canticle of the Creatures, he was celebrating the creation of God. As Thomas of Celano explained in his biography of Francis:
Though he was eager to leave this world as a place of exile, this happy pilgrim took a great deal of joy in the things that are in the world. In fighting the princes of darkness he used the world as a battleground, but in relation to God he used it as a very clear mirror of the Creator's goodness.
In order that all things might arouse the love of God in his heart, he would praise the Divine Craftsman for each thing which He had made, and whatever he found in things he would refer to their Maker. He rejoiced in all the works of the Lord's hands. And his insight penetrated beyond these pleasing appearances to their life-giving principle and cause.
In beautiful things he recognized Him who is beauty itself. Everywhere he followed his Beloved by means of the traces of Himself which God has imprinted on all things. He made all things a ladder by which he climbed up to the throne of God.
In his interview with Maher, Milo mentioned that he was not sure anymore whether he would call himself a conservative. Given how things played out in the following three days, perhaps it was because he had an inkling of what was to come. No, Milo is not a conservative as the organizers of CPAC seem to think of conservatism, because at the end of the day, Milo doesn't care about politics. What he cares about, and constantly explains, is culture. He is much more focused on beauty and joy, laughter and art, than he is on the machinations of politics. He never wanted to be press secretary; he wanted to have fun.

Which, in the end, is far more important than politics. How was it Jesus put it? "My kingdom is not of this world."


Raphael Brown, Fifty Animal Stories of Saint Francis as told by his companions (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1958).

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Milo Effect

Milo, like everything he talks about, is polarizing.

"Are you the real, true face of the alt-Right? Because I thought the Nazis were in there. How did they take you on board?," former intel analyst Malcolm Nance asked Milo during the Overtime segment on Real Time with Bill Maher.

"No, they hate me," Milo responded. "The worst people on the very far Left and the very far Right all hate me. They all hate me."

"I think you are leaving a lot of people out," comedian Larry Wilmore quipped.

Guess what? Wilmore was right!

If Milo talks about third-wave feminists as being misandrist and vindictive and hurtful to both women and men, the liberal Left says he is insulting all women. The conservative Right can't stand that he uses colorful language like "cunts" and "pussies."

If Milo talks about Black Lives Matter as not attending to the real issues putting black lives at risk, the liberal Left says he is insulting all blacks. The conservative Right can't stand that he talks about "sucking black dick."

If Milo talks about Islam and most Muslims' attitudes towards homosexuality or women as evidenced by opinion polls in the U.K. and the legal situation in many Muslim-majority countries, the liberal Left calls him Islamophobic. The conservative Right is shocked that he mentions that Mohammed had a wife who was only nine, making him a "kid fucker." (I'm making this up, I'm not sure what shocks the Right about what Milo says about Islam; they were certainly willing to be shocked about pedophilia this week, as they should be.)

If Milo talks about transgenderism and what it means for both women's safety and the mental health of the individuals affected, the liberal Left calls him transphobic. The conservative Right chides him for saying "faggot" and pretends it doesn't agree with him in the transgender debate.

If Milo talks about GamerGate and praises the gamers for being willing to take on the politically-correct suppression of their hobby, the liberal Left calls him misogynist and mean. The conservative Right can't see the value in playing video games and thinks gamers are losers.

And if Milo talks about being abused as a young teen-ager by his priest, the liberal Left accuses him of self-hate for his homosexuality. The conservative Right claims he advocates pedophilia and tries to ruin his career.

Why do I see and hear such a different person from so many of my colleagues and friends?

I am quite honestly struggling to understand. I never hear Milo speaking out of hate, although I do hear him speaking out of justice (which can sound harsh) and mercy, which he always is, even if he makes jokes at pretty much everyone's expense, including his own.

But others, some very close to me, hear the exact opposite. They hear him speaking only out of hate, above all hatred of himself and of his homosexuality, which as we have learned this week, has complicated and uncomfortable roots.

(He has often said that he thinks being gay is about 50-50 nature-nurture. He is not persuaded that there is such a thing as "born gay," which he argues was a political invention of the LGBT lobby in the 1980s to take advantage of arguments on the basis of civil rights.)

I see a young man willing to take enormous professional, social, political, physical, and, yes, spiritual risks to say things that nobody else is willing to say, in venues that nobody else is willing to dare, in order to defend the people he sees as hurt by the way in which other people talk about them, above all, women and blacks, young men, child abuse victims, victims of illegal immigrants--in fact, everyone the Left says he should care about, except that he refuses to do so in terms of their identity politics.

My friends and colleagues beg to disagree with me. He is an attention seeker. A menace. A danger. He is doing it only to get a rise out of people, not because he cares. He cares only for himself. He is selfish, vindictive, unprincipled. He creates situations in which people get hurt regardless of the consequences. It is his fault the trolls went after Leslie Jones on Twitter. It is his fault transgender people, lesbians, and gays get beaten up. It is his fault that the gamers were encouraged to send death threats to Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. It is his fault everybody is so angry with him.

Eius culpa, eius maxima culpa

Or is it? Christians are often chided by non-Christians for saying that they hate not the sinner, but the sin.

"No, no, no," non-Christians reply. "If you hate the sin, it must mean you hate the sinner, too."

Sin is a very hard concept to understand. Like Milo, it is also polarizing.

The conservative Right wants people to be virtuous, principled, sober. As National Review argued in its editorial on CPAC's canceling Milo's speech, this was a good thing, they didn't think he should have been asked in the first place because "whatever Yiannopoulos's politics they are not conservative in any meaningful sense." Nor, they continue, is his demeanor.

In the editors' words:
It has become fashionable in conservative circles to cheer every apparently right-leaning gadfly. But "trolling" is not conservatism, and there is no virtue merely in upsetting campus Democrats. There are many conservatives who do regular battle with left-wing agitators--but who also are of high character, and advance conservative arguments and defend conservative principles with poise, wit, and good cheer.
The liberal Left likewise wants people to speak in particular ways so as to avoid saying anything that anybody might find troubling or offensive. It doesn't matter that they might agree with anything Milo says. If he is rude to anyone they perceive as belonging to particular identity groups (basically, everyone other than straight white men), he cannot be forgiven.

I have news for both sides: speech codes are not about virtue. They are about social conformity, not sin.

Sin is much, much more dangerous than mean words that hurt people's feelings. 

People have been writing to me all week, first in response to my article published in Sightings, then in response to the media storm launched against Milo.

Some people are angry with me.
for all i know, you are a brilliant scholar in your chosen field. but when it comes to live in the 21st century, you are a pathetic joke... i notice in your self-description you believe that "ideas matter,' so here's my idea: shut the fuck up about matters outside of your subject expertise.
I actually think that you fail to understand the religiously-informed positions of those protesting against Milo's positions. It seems laughable to me that of all the contributing factors you believe this is what most represents a "deep crisis in religious thinking." We are most certainly religiously illiterate as a nation and uncomfortable with how religion enters into the public conversation in a religiously plural and secular society, and so on, but part of the resistance to Milo is that his positions are an abomination to the ideals and mores and deeply shared values across our many religious traditions.
You really are a fan-girl, aren't you?... James Kirchick did the best analysis of Yiannopoulos, and his peculiar mix of vacuity and incitement... [Milo's] a slimy piece of shit; the only positive thing he's doing is bringing out from under cover those people who share his point of view.
By far the majority, however, are grateful. Here are but a few:
I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your article about Milo. Thanks to those that sought to shut down actual free speech by burning their own buildings, we became aware of Milo for the first time. We are an older, conservative, white (horrors!) traditional couple. I agreed with just about every word in your article. I am so happy the snowflakes propelled Milo to such heights. I love his humor and your explanation of it. We have watched some of his interviews and speeches at colleges, and I've said many things you said after watching. The left has zero sense of humor and that cracks me up.... Thank you for such a thoughtful piece.
Thank you for your blog posts about Milo... I am horrified by the power of our political/cultural elites to shape the perceptions of otherwise decent and well-meaning people, especially conservative Christians. The effort to destroy just one more sad example. I appreciate your articulate witness against it.
I just wanted to let you know that, like you seem to be, I am a conservative Christian (I was raised Reformed Baptist) with an obsession for Tolkien/Lewis/Williams/ well as Chesterton and others. I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog since I discovered it (Thanks, Milo!). I haven't read this sort of detailed thought since I left college too long ago... Condolences on the whole Milo Thing. I firmly agree with your position.
You don't know me, but I have recently begun to follow you after seeing your name on Milo's FB. I want you to know how much I admire and respect your bravery. I wanted you to know that there are those of us out here who are unseen who have the greatest respect for you. I understand what you are doing (re Milo) and why. That we should all be so Christian to be brave enough to do what you are doing. I am especially happy that you are a Marian scholar, having been named after Mary when my mother almost died and she pledged that if she had another girl she would name her Mary. I have always felt a special connection and know that I beat cancer with my rosary. And I know she is with you now.
I apologize for emailing you (uninvited), but I had to thank you for the above blog entry. I have been following the chaos that is Milo today, and I pray he reads your blog and finds comfort in your words. Whether or not you posted that reading from Hebrews with Milo in mind [I did--FB], I think I am not far off in my thoughts that you, also, are lifting him in prayers of protection and forgiveness. For your affection and honest words, in your previous blog entries, show an open heart to his strength and intelligence, while understanding that he, like us all, is a sinner whom God and His Son love with no restraint. My heart aches for that young man, for I think in spite of his sassy-ness and his penchant for pissing off people while making them laugh, he has a gentle heart and must feel much fear in the anger that surrounds him.
Most of the people who write me directly seem to be older. They mention children and grandchildren. Long struggles that they have lived through. Conversions and ecstasies. Suffering and joy. But some of them are young, many in graduate school in my field of medieval studies, and they say they are writing to thank me for giving them courage in the future, as up till now, as conservatives in academia, they have felt very much alone.

And all, almost to a person, mention something in Milo that they see in themselves.

Particularly his pain.

As I tried to argue in my Sightings piece, we are experiencing a terrible crisis in our national culture. Even as people are struggling to hear each other over the screaming, their own anger at not being heard escalates into animal howling.

It seems that it is impossible for many even to listen to what Milo says without feeling he is personally attacking them. It is all well and good to make jokes about snowflakes and trigger warnings, they seem to be saying, but don't make jokes at my expense.

Everybody--Left, Right, liberal, conservative, progressive, Christian, atheist, Muslim, Jew--is on a hair trigger, ready to explode at the first instance of someone saying something with which they don't agree.

What has happened to us? Why are we so incapable of hearing things with which we disagree? Words that we find off-color? Jokes that cut a little to close to the bone? Why are we all so afraid all the time about what others might say or what we might hear?

Because we have no virtue. We have no discipline. We have lost our sense (if we ever had it) of what it means to train our souls.

Milo has said many, many off-color things. Yesterday in his press conference, he described his edgy style as a "blend of British sarcasm, provocation and gallows humor," which he is now horrified may have given the impression that he did not take seriously his concern for other victims of the kind of abuse he suffered in his early teens.

Perhaps it is because I have lived in England, I am more familiar than most Americans with his style. So I never heard him saying that he did not care about the things he was making jokes about. What I heard, and he said yesterday, was a wounded soul trying to find a way to cope with what he now realizes in retrospect were experiences too terrible to explain.

"I still don't view myself as a victim," he said. "But I am one."

Milo translated the pain that he could not otherwise deal with into the "black comedy, gallows humor and love of shock value" that has become his signature style.

"My experiences as a victim led me to believe I could say anything I wanted to on this subject, no matter how outrageous."

But, of course, it was actually the subject about which he talked the least. He is on record, on camera and in his journalism, talking about feminism, Black Lives Matter, Islam, and GamerGate over and over and over again. But the only time he talked about being gay, it was in jokes: about his black boyfriends, gay porn, big dicks and bigger parties. He made jokes about being cured, but when he talked about wishing he could have a child with the person he loved, he always talked softly and sincerely.

You could feel--every mother who has written to me over the past week to thank me for standing up for him--could feel how much pain, how much soul-searing pain was in those words, which he, as a gay man, has been told over and over and over again by his own people he is not allowed to say.

"When I came to America, I thought it would be a place where you could do anything, be anything, say anything." How awful it has been for him that he found this isn't the case.

Instead, he found when he came here that he was still told he could not say what he most needed to say, but that all of us who have been watching his talks heard him say over and over and over again.

"I have sinned, I have sinned, I have sinned. Father, forgive me, I have sinned."

The day before his public humiliation, Milo posted this status on his Facebook feed, but it was taken from something I had written to him describing what was happening to me over the Sightings article:
The progressive left hates me because they know they cannot win in an open fight. Because I have said nothing wrong. And they know it. All I have done is help up to them a mirror--and they hate what they see, and blame me.
Milo has held a mirror up to us all. If we hate what we see in his jokes and his facts, his costumes and arguments, his willingness to make himself a fool in order to get people's attention long enough to get them to listen, it is our fault, our great fault. It is our sin that we see in him.

We see ourselves in Milo, a fellow sinner, and want to destroy him, because when we look in the mirror it is not him, but Our Lord that we are supposed to be able to see. The Creator in whose image and likeness we were made.

There is a reason that Milo utterly refuses to play the victim when he was one.

There is only one Victim who can take away our sins.

And He already has, if only we can stop screaming long enough to listen to His Word: "I love you."

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Jesus, Master Troll

It's hard being a Christian. On the one hand, there is the image that everyone has from going to Sunday School, of Christians as goody-two-shoes. They dress nicely, eat bland cookies, don't swear, wait until marriage to have sex, always have a smile on their face, and are, basically, boring as Heaven.

On the other hand, there's Jesus. Jesus drank with sinners. Jesus ate with tax collectors. Jesus made friends with women of ill repute. Jesus wandered about the countryside gathering crowds and scaring the authorities.

Jesus was a troll.

Think about the day he announced himself to his village. He stood up and read the Scriptures for the day:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."
And then he gave the book to the attendant, sat down, and said:
"Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
And all wondered and said, how could it be, wasn't he Joseph's son? At which he replied,
"Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his own country."
And the people rose up against him, and drove him out of town.

This was only the beginning of his trolling. Constantly, Jesus would say things that enraged the learned authorities of his day, overturning the Law by which they strove to live.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
As if--Jesus seems to be saying--it makes no difference whether you follow the Law, and yet following the Law is never enough? What do you think those like the Pharisees who spent their lives trying to live according to the Law would have to say about this? Or the scribes who kept the records in the Temple, and oversaw the sacrifices of the people to the Lord? And Jesus shows up and says, "None of this matters"?!

They came after him, as you know. Setting traps for him in debate. As the former tax collector Matthew tells it:
Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how to entangle him in his talk. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, "Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully, and care for no man; for you do not regard the position of men. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?"  
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the money for the tax."
And they brought him a coin. And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"
They said, "Caesar's."
Then he said to them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
When they heard it, they marveled, and they left him and went away.
Methinks Matthew is overplaying his hand here in favor of his Lord. Most likely what they did was go away grinding their teeth, trying to think of some other way to snare him and have him declared an enemy of the state.

"Christ driving the money changers from the Temple,"
by Jan Sanders van Hemessen
Jesus knew they all hated him, both the Pharisees on the Right, who tried to live purely according to the Law, and the scribes on the Left, who were functionaries of the Jewish state. And he denounced them regularly in his preaching as hypocrites and fools.
"Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity."
And then he marched into Jerusalem, straight up to the most holy place in the city, and vandalized it.

"It is written," he said, "'My house shall be called a house of prayer'; but you have made it a den of thieves."

Authorities on both the Right and the Left were not pleased.

You know the rest of the story.

Jesus so enraged the holders of power in his community that they trumped up charges against him, trying to get him to blaspheme so that they could invoke the death penalty against him.

When Truth speaks to Power, Power bites back. Hard.

But what Power does not know is that Truth will prevail. Because Jesus's kingdom is not of this world.
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age."
For Milo.

Bully Culture

Everybody hates a bully, or so we say. Yesterday, the national media bullied into silence a young man who had risen to fame speaking to audiences of young women and men about the lies that the grown-ups had told them for decades.

Lies about the relationship between women and men. That women don't need men. That all men are potential rapists. That women should aspire to something other than motherhood or they are wasting their lives. That women should like casual sex with strangers, hooking up just for the sake of the orgasm. That the children will be fine if their parents divorce. That abortion is morally good.

Everyone knows these are lies. The young woman who wakes up in the morning having lost her virginity to a man who isn't there and will not marry her. The young man who is tempted into exciting and transgressive sex with an older man and finds himself trapped by his desire in a lifestyle he cannot leave. The young woman who spends her most fertile years working in a career that leaves her childless at forty because she can no longer conceive and has no husband. The young man who has no ambition to work because he has no wife to care for or children to feed.

But the grown-ups tell them to shut up, not to complain. Don't they know how awful it is that women don't earn as much over the course of their lifetime as men? Don't they know that men are still the ones with all the power, even though the number of men completing higher education has continued to drop? Don't they know that nobody should be able to force a woman to bear a child she does not want, even if she did enjoy the sex by which the child was conceived?

And then a young man comes along and tells them, they were right all along. The young women wanted to be pretty, not grotesquely overweight. The young men wanted to be strong and vigorous and manly. The young women wanted babies as well as careers, and were willing to make adjustments to their ambition in order to stay home with their children. The young men wanted to be challenged to be gentlemanly and chivalrous.

"Gender roles work," the young man told them. "Feminism is cancer. Abortion is murder." And the young women and men cheered for him, because they loved him for telling the truth.

All their lives they had been wanting to push back against the grown-ups for taking away their sense of self as boys or girls. For telling the girls that they should want to play with trucks as much as dolls. For telling the boys they were evil for wanting to play with swords. But the grown-ups had bullied them into silence.

Some bullies were worse than others. Some were their parents, forcing them to pretend to like their step-parents and step-siblings. Some were their teachers, forcing them to pretend that they liked talking crudely about sex while learning English or math. Some were actors and actresses, forcing them to pretend that they enjoyed watching ever more violent sex. Some were their peers, forcing them to pretend to like not being boys or girls. Some were adults who called themselves friends and promised to take care of them if they let the older person have sex with them.

The young man was an unexpected messenger. He talked all the time about having sex with other men. About wanting to be penetrated by black dicks. About how good he was at giving head. But he told the young women they were right to want babies and the young men they were right to want wives. He spoke often about how sad he was that he would never be able to make a child with the person he loved so long as the person he loved was another man. He joked about wishing that he might be cured, perhaps through prayer or electric shock. And he described how he had learned to be gay.

Sometimes people would ask him, "How can you call yourself Catholic when you are gay?" To which he would reply: "What else would I be?! I'm a sinner." At which the audience would laugh, as the young man died just a little more inside. Because he meant it. He never lied. Not like the priest who had taught him to suck dick when he was a teen-ager. Not like the many lovers he had had since. Not like the movement supporting his lifestyle, who had bullied and lied its way into the mainstream culture over the course of his life, so that even to suggest that he was hurting was cause for ridicule and shame.

So he made jokes about it. About Father Michael and how he, the young man, was the predator, not the priest. About the parties he had been to where boys or young teen-agers had sex with older men. About how exciting it was to be so transgressive and dangerous. About how gays had a special contribution to make because they were able to push against the boundaries by which normal people live. And he meant that, too, because he never lied. But he hated the bullies for lying, and said so.

He hated the bullies for telling young women that it was okay to be fat, despite the health risks and guarantee that it would be harder for them to find boyfriends if they were morbidly obese. He hated the bullies for telling young women that it was okay to murder their babies in the womb if they did not feel "ready" to have a child. He hated the bullies for forcing others to pretend that it was okay for men to use women's restrooms and changing rooms as long as the men felt themselves to be women. He hated the bullies for wanting to force Christians to participate through their craft in ceremonies which went against their faith.

And so the bullies came for him. They called him self-hating. Homophobic. Transphobic. Misogynist. Sexist. They mounted protests against his talks. They accused him of spreading hate. Endangering innocents. Inciting violence. They made him out to be the villain because he told the truth. And then they called him a pedophile. Because he had been abused as a young teen-ager and would not swallow the lies.

Shame on all of you. You spineless cunts. The bullies are YOU.

[NOTE: The phrase "spineless cunts" was Milo's. He used it specifically as a description of conservatives in his speech at Albuquerque. I had quoted from that speech in an earlier post, and wrongly assumed that readers would be able to recognize the allusion. I am writing in Milo's defense when the whole world has turned on him. It was conservatives (whatever that means anymore) who decided to slander him with the "advocates pedophilia" label so as to prevent his speaking at CPAC. The insult was meant to express my anger at the bullying coming from both sides.]

Monday, February 20, 2017

Mother and Son

"Already [her Son] was taken, already he was bound, already he was spat upon and struck, and it was said over him: 'He deserves death,' and it was shouted to the prefect: 'Crucify, crucify him.' These things were not hidden from the pious mother, who doubtless had come to Jerusalem at this time, whether for the festival of unleavened bread, or rather to see with pious eyes the agony of her Son, which had been specially revealed to her.

"And thereupon she heard from many: 'Don't you know, woman, what has happened to your son?' 'I knew,' she says, 'so be silent, and do not add to the pain of my wounds.' Thus however she was saying to herself: 'I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense. I will go and I will see his agony, and maternally I will die with him, because that prophecy which truth-telling Simeon said to me--His sword will pierce through your own soul--is to be fulfilled in this way. I will go, and I will see his cross terrible with evil spirits, the price of the world, his blood, the death of death, his death, and the gates of life, his wounds. I will go, and I will say farewell to him about to depart for distant parts, namely about to descend into hell, although there to make no delay. I will go to the mountain of myrrh and to the hill of frankincense, to whom once the Magi, when he was being fed at my breasts, offered frankincense and myrrh, to which they added also gold to show forth his kingdom.'

"So she spoke, and so she proceeded with heavy step to the place of salvation-bringing passion. Indeed, her Son drew her strongly with chains of motherly love, not wanting her unsaved to go so far, that is, even unto hell, since from there he was about to return quickly in triumph. Therefore, she came to that place, which is called Calvary, and as it is written: The mother of Jesus stood next to his cross, gazing with motherly eyes on the harshness of his execution, as she herself was fixed to a cross inwardly with the nails of motherly pain, those nails that were more penetrating than any two-edged sword, reaching even to the division of the soul and the spirit, the joints and the marrow (cf. Hebrews 4:12).

"When therefore Jesus saw his mother, crucified with the nails of pity and standing by his cross with his disciple whom he loved, he said to her: You are all beautiful, my love, and there is no spot in you."

--William of Newburgh, Explanatio sacri epithalamii in matrem sponsi, lib. IV [Song of Songs 4:6-7], ed. John C. Gorman, Spicilegium Friburgense 6 (Fribourg: Universit√§tsverlag, 1960), pp. 187-88; trans. Rachel Fulton, From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), p. 450.

"You Schoolgirls!"

My colleagues at the University of Chicago have spent the weekend talking about the article that I wrote about Milo published by Sightings on Thursday. The article was aggregated by Breitbart on Friday, where it has received 511 Facebook shares and 663 comments. Milo shared the article on his Facebook page, where it has received 6.4k Likes, 641 shares, and 261 comments.

Last night I posted this response to the listserve where some of this conversation has been going on. Full disclosure: my colleagues do not seem to have realized that I was privy to their discussion.


You are all purposefully misunderstanding what I said in my "Sightings" article, although I appreciate you do not share my admiration for Milo as I have expressed it on my blog.

I said two things in the "Sightings" piece which seem to be troubling people: 1) that it is considered a terrible breach of etiquette to argue as a Christian within the academy, and 2) that the universities were founded as places to argue theology and that arguing theology needs to continue to be one of their functions.

You are all proving 1) right, from the ways in which you have decided that I need to be shamed for expressing my position as a Christian.

You are assuming that I meant "Christian" theology when I said we need to give our students practice arguing. I meant theology in the sense of dealing with the deep and difficult questions that ground our understanding. Everyone has a theology, it is simply not always described as such. I am assuming from your comments about my piece that most of you would argue as atheists, which would be a good medieval position to practice. Some of you might argue as humanists or Jews or Muslims. But you would all be arguing from a theological position, about which you should be honest. 

In my classroom, I am: I am utterly upfront with my students when I am arguing from a Christian perspective. I mark it clearly for them and say, "This is the way it would look from within this perspective." I make it utterly clear to them that I do not expect them to be Christian or to agree with me. But I do not lie and pretend that I do not have faith. I know the difference between preaching and teaching.

For those of you who feel it was wrong for "Sightings" to run a piece about Milo in the first place, I give you this comment from one of my friends, a lawyer, who is astonished at the close-mindedness of the academy:

"The utter lack of self reflection is astonishing.  Mr. Yiannopoulos is a phenomenon within the academy, where he provokes reactions as few (if any) have ever done before.  That, if nothing else, is worthy of some analysis.  What is it about this young man is it that inspires outrage from an academy that has heretofore been comfortable welcoming the likes of Ward Churchill, Norman Finkelstein and Bernardine Dorhn?  If nothing else, Professor Brown offers a new perspective on a man who is sending paroxysms through the academy.  How can her colleagues wish to suppress that?  Have they no curiosity at all toward the things that press their buttons?"

This was the purpose the editor of "Sightings" had in asking me to write the article. He specifically asked me to reflect on the importance of Milo's tour for American academia and the study of religion, as that is the remit of "Sightings," to observe religion in public life. He was also interested in having a different view of Milo than that which everyone was hearing in the mainstream media, and which you all clearly have heard. I have been following Milo's campus tour since September, when Dean Boyer sent out his pamphlet on academic freedom. I am therefore in a unique position to comment on Milo's understanding of what he is doing and to reflect on why his campus tour has excited the response that it has. The piece as I originally wrote it was somewhat longer, which the editor of "Sightings" shortened considerably so as to fit into the usual "Sightings" format. I have been and will be blogging about the larger argument that I would make. I invite you all to read what I have written since September; it is the most complete account that anyone has given of why Milo has attracted the following that he has.

I am, yes, I will use this hated word, disappointed that not one of you had the collegiality to contact me in person to ask me how I came to my appreciation of what Milo is doing.

In the hope that the future conversation may be more open,


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Joking Matters

Milo is dangerous, everyone agrees. Well, not quite everyone. (Me, for example.)

Certainly journalist Jeremy Scahill thinks he is. Invited to appear with Milo on Real Time with Bill Maher, Scahill refused, insisting, along with almost everyone else who has written about Milo except Tom Ciccotta and me that Milo incites violence. (He doesn't; the only person Milo has ever called for violence against is Dylann Roof, in the form of the death penalty). In Scahill's words: "Yiannopoulos has shown he will use his appearances to publicly attack and shame specific ordinary people by name, a practice which could lead to violence or even death."

Bill Maher would beg to differ. "You are so, let's say, helped, by the fact that liberals just always take the bait," he acknowledged in his interview with Milo last night. And then Maher cautioned his side: "Stop taking the bait, liberals! The fact that they all freaked out about this little, impish, British fag.... You f*cking schoolgirls. You schoolgirls!"

Most people never hear what Milo actually talks about, they only hear about his jokes. Jokes about Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman. Jokes about Caitlyn Jenner. Above all, jokes about Leslie Jones. These are the jokes for which Milo was banned from Twitter last summer and for which the media will never forgive him.

It doesn't matter that nothing Milo said about Jones was anything remotely like what Scahill and others claim that he said. Milo, a gay man, makes jokes about celebrity (not ordinary) women, including one celebrity black woman, and it is his fault that others agree with him that Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, and Sarah Silverman aren't funny (they aren't) or that Caitlyn Jenner is (this one is harder for me, but I take Milo's point about the need to talk about transgenderism as an issue; plus Jenner, like Milo, has been slammed for being conservative, go figure). Or, yes, that Leslie Jones looks like a man, more precisely, "black dude," which as Milo constantly points out, was as much a joke at his own expense as hers. (Milo likes black male lovers, if you haven't heard.)

Full transcript for those who missed the spat: Jones had been Tweeting about the bad reviews Ghostbusters was getting, one of which Milo wrote, "Teenage Boys with Tits: Here's My Problem with Ghostbusters." Milo jumped into the Twitter fray with: "If at first you don't succeed (because your work is terrible), play the victim. EVERYONE GETS HATE MAIL FFS." Jones reported Milo to Twitter and called one of his fans a "racist b*tch" for saying "how sad that a comedian would want to limit free speech. Lenny Bruce is rolling over in his grave." Milo responded to Jones: "Ghostbusters is doing so badly they've deployed @Lesdoggg to play the victim on Twitter. Very sad!" "Barely literate. America needs better schools." At which point, he was blocked from linking to her account. To which Milo replied: "Rejected by yet another black dude." And that was it.

To be fair, Milo also makes jokes about Muslims (because in many Muslim-majority countries they believe that it should be legal to kill gays for being gay), about gays (because they believe all Muslims are their friends and Christian pizza makers are their enemies), about lesbians (whom he says give bad advice to other women about how to relate to men), about professors (particularly those who penalize their students for holding conservative or libertarian political views), and about Black Lives Matter (because they seem not to care about all black lives, particularly those lives lost to other blacks as opposed to the police). But he also makes jokes about conservatives (whom he has called "spineless cunts"), Republicans (ditto), and gamers (whom he now defends, but once described as "dorky weirdos in yellowing underpants").

Above all, however, he makes jokes about himself. As, for example, his choice of costume last night for his interview with Bill Maher. Milo is perfectly capable of dressing in a suit; look at the one he wore for his interview with Tucker Carlson the night after the Berkeley riot. Okay, yes, there is the pink shirt, but Milo's tailoring is impeccable. Compare this look with what he chose for his interview with Maher. Full-on pearls, there must not be an oyster left with its dewdrop from heaven; bomber jacket from ALLSAINTS (yes, he's Catholic, he's doing this on purpose), camouflage pants, and limited edition Black History Month Air Jordans (in homage to his boyfriends). Could he be any more gay? Okay, yes, which is my point! He is doing this on purpose.

Likewise, his trolling of his fellow panelists in the Overtime segment. Do you think it was an accident that he suggested in the midst of the give-and-take with comedian Larry Wilmore over Milo's opinions on transgenderism and gays that Maher should invite guests with higher IQs on his show? To which Wilmore replied, right on cue: "First of all, you can go f*ck yourself alright... If your argument is that these people are stupid, you didn't hear a word that this man said earlier in this segment because he can talk circles around your pathetic, douchey little ass." The audience loved that! But so did Milo, as you can see from his grin.

Maher is right. Milo is an imp--and he relishes it. He is an imp, a clown, a fool. Or, as I prefer to call him, a holy fool. He is dangerous not because he incites violence (again, he never does, except against Dylann Roof), but because in being willing to make himself a fool, he forces others to recognize their own foolishness. Who really came off better in the exchange between Milo and Wilmore? Wilmore, who lost his cool and started cursing Milo? Or Milo, who thereafter happily egged all the other panelists on? Particularly after Wilmore responded to Milo's description of how everyone both on the far Left and on the far Right hates him (no offense, but it's true!): "I think you're leaving out a lot of people." "You see," Milo said after everyone laughed, including himself, "this is the perfect example of how humor can bring people together."

Contrary to what comedians like Wilmore and journalists like Scahill would contend, it is not the laughter Milo incites that is dangerous, but the lack of it. As Milo has often said, and said again last night, the thing that people should be really afraid of is not laughter, but the desire to police it. In his words: "The one thing authoritarians hate is the sound of laughter, because they can't control what people find funny." To which Maher responded: "And also because when people laugh, they know it's true.... Laughter is involuntary.... When you laugh, even if you don't really agree, in that part of your mind you're like..." "Exactly," Milo agreed. "Nothing annoys people or amuses people like the truth."

"If you can take a dick, you can take a joke," Milo likes to say. Which, since we are going for inclusivity here, potentially includes nearly everyone, women and men. Human beings are funny, it is amazing we can get through the day without dying of laughter at how ridiculous we are. Our anxieties about status, whether someone has treated us with the proper respect. Our fears of what others are thinking about us, how disappointed they are with our likes and dislikes. Our desire to be perfect, when we know very well that we aren't. Every man who wishes that women (or other men) would find him more attractive, every woman that longs for a certain man to pay attention to her. We make ourselves ridiculous trying to get each other's attention--and then hate the objects of our affection because they do not respond in the way that we wish they would.

At which point, along comes a man whom both women and men find devastatingly attractive (trust me on this, his Facebook fans talk about it all the time) and who says the things that they themselves have been thinking but have been too afraid to admit to themselves. For example, that they hate when feminists like Lena Dunham say it would be better for everyone if white men were to go extinct. Or that they hate when the media insist that it is Christians' fault when a Muslim man shoots up a gay bar in Orlando. Or that they hate when they are told that it is they who have a problem when they are worried about men who think that they ought to have been born women sharing dressing rooms with young girls. (If only they were medievalists, then they would know it is far more complicated than even Milo imagines.) Or that they hate being told that it is they who are the bigots for believing that nations should have legally enforced borders and criteria for citizenship.

These are the tensions that are driving our culture wars at the moment, the things that nobody says we are allowed to talk about or, if we talk about, to have differing opinions on. These are the things that the authoritarians on the Left want us to shut up about already. Accordingly, these are the things that Milo makes jokes about. Incessantly. Mischievously. Trollishly. And this--to the Left who hates jokes more than anything--is what makes Milo so dangerous. If he makes people laugh, the Left knows that it will lose, because in the laughter that Milo incites is truth. Truth that young women rather like having boyfriends, contrary to what many feminists might say. Truth that Christian bakers and florists are not a danger to gays. Truth that black Americans deserve better treatment, but that voting Democrat has not been to their benefit, just look at cities like Chicago. Truth that wanting Americans to think that their nation is great is not racist or xenophobic, but simply what it means to have a nation, particularly one founded on ideals such as freedom of speech.

Tragically, what the Left misses most is how making jokes can also help our culture to heal. Notice what happened in the Overtime segment when Milo was willing to laugh at himself. Even Wilmore joined in. Humor helps defuse even the tensest conversations, as every husband and wife who have ever shared a sexist joke at their own expense know. Again, in Milo's words: "Humor isn't how you drive people apart...When you make a joke that's how you connect with somebody... Humor is what brings people together." What my colleagues in academia, like those in the media and, oddly, entertainment industry do not see, but Milo's phalanxes of sh*tlords and memesters do, is that laughing helps people bond precisely because it exposes how ridiculous they are even to themselves.

If women cannot laugh at themselves for, I don't know, being weepy at times and desperate for attention, then we are in worse shape than if a man whistles at us. If men cannot laugh at themselves for, I don't know, finding it difficult to deal with intelligent, conservative women, then they are in worse shape than if a impish British fag calls them names. If Christians cannot laugh at themselves for, I don't know, believing in something so ridiculous as the Trinity, never mind the Virgin Birth, then they are in worse shape than if someone calls them out for being hypocrites (which, being sinners, we almost certainly all are, as Milo himself would be the first to admit; human beings are messy). Above all, if human beings cannot laugh at themselves for being, yes, animals with a propensity to think that they are special for being conscious of themselves as animals, then we are all in far worse shape than if someone compares us to a gorilla--or a donkey.

Milo is dangerous for the reason that all tricksters are dangerous. He punctures with laughter the pretension that any human being is above ridicule, however offensive he or she might find it to be the object of fun. In his defense, Milo is always careful in his jokes to take on only those who have already made themselves public with their opinions, even the transgender former student at UW Milwaukee whom Maher asked him about. Being a gentleman, he never punches down or calls out people who have not made themselves his adversaries first, for example, by shouting during his lectures rather than waiting for the Q&A. But what the Left cannot stand and the conservative establishment hates even more is that neither does he back down when he is challenged to a duel. Nor, in the midst of the duel, does he pull his punches when he strikes.

Milo, as I do, believes we are in a fight for the very existence of our culture. This is not a fight we, women, gays, minorities, all those who depend on America and the West for its ideals, can afford to lose. If on occasion he cracks a joke that makes some people uncomfortable, so be it. Jokes sting only our pride. If the joke hurts your feelings, it was something you were already anxious about yourself.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why Milo Scares Students, and Faculty Even More

Fencing Bear takes off her mask...and reveals herself to be Professor Rachel Fulton Brown! My professional take on why what Milo is doing is so important for academia.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Heresies of the Left: Unholy Trinity

Evil does not exist except as a corruption of the Good. Every falsehood or lie contains something of Truth. The same is true of heresies. Every heresy is a corruption of some aspect of orthodox doctrine, which is why heresies are so hard for the orthodox to answer. The orthodox trip themselves up trying to negate the heresies directly, which they cannot do without denying the truth and goodness at their core.

This is why conservatives have so much trouble answering the Left (other than the fact that, as Milo rightly says, we are too often spineless cunts). Everything that the Left believes is grounded in a central claim of Western civilization, more often than not a central claim of Christianity or the Judeo-Christian tradition.

The Left, of course, denies this hotly, pointing for support for their doctrines to the "scientific teachings" of the prophet Marx or the "Enlightened" ideals of the prophet Robespierre. But the Left defend their beliefs with the vehemence that they do--as every conservative who has ever tried to engage them in debate instantly learns--because their beliefs are neither "scientific" nor "rational," but matters of faith.

For example, the claim that all men and women are created equal, to which both conservatives and Leftists in the West subscribe, albeit they differ on what it means for social policy. Or the claim that it is the responsibility of those who have, to care for those who have not, ditto on application. Or the claim that every human being has an inherent dignity and right to life, to which even the Left subscribes when the mother says so. (I'm sorry, I am having real problems not being catty about abortion these days.)

Just as the above claims have their root in the belief that all human beings, male or female, are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so the tenets of multiculturalism, identity politics, and the fear of hate speech--to name only some of the things that the Left is currently up in arms about, sometimes literally--have their roots in orthodox teachings of Christianity. The problem, which is what makes these tenets heresies, is that they have become unmoored from their orthodox origins and allowed to drift.

If they seem to have no bottom and to be sinking Western civilization fast, this is why. Each of these three is a heresy against one of the Persons of the Trinity, a distortion of the proper relationship between the Idea (Father), Energy (Son), and Power (Spirit) of the Divine Artist's working in the world.

Dante and Virgil at the bottom of Hell, where they see Satan with his three mouths eating Cassius, Judas, and Brutus

The Heresy of the Spirit: Multiculturalism 

Not every culture in the world is as welcoming of other cultures as is the West. Yes, the world is now aesthetically and technologically Westernized--everyone who is anyone wears jeans or business suits, drives cars, watches television and movies, talks on mobile phones, builds skyscrapers and highways--but this is not so much multiculturalism as, in Milo's words, the way art and technology work. Human beings are great imitators. If we see something we like, we try to make more things like it.

Multiculturalism is not just enjoying food or clothes or music from other parts of the world. It is the insistence that every human culture is equal to every other in dignity and value, much as is every human being. What those in the West who enjoy traveling to other countries and appreciating the differences in customs and mores do not typically appreciate, however, is that their admiration for other cultures and mores is not necessarily reciprocated.

Many Muslims have no interest whatsoever in becoming Westernized or appreciating the differences between Muslim and Christian culture. Likewise, many Chinese or Indians are quite happy being Chinese or Indian and not Westerners. What we Westerners admire as the rich diversity of human experience, others see as vice or disorder, the breakdown of proper custom, disrespect for tradition. They don't care if we come in and praise their culture: they know their culture is superior to ours.

So why are Westerners so keen on other cultures, sometimes even at the expense of their own? In a word: Pentecost, the moment when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and they were empowered to speak so that everyone who had gathered in Jerusalem for the feast (Pentecost was originally a Jewish feast) heard them speaking in his or her own tongue:
And [the people] were amazed and wondered, saying, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes [Gentile converts], Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God" (Acts 2:7-11). 
Christians took this moment of multilingualism as a guide: God meant to speak to humanity in all the languages of the world. There was no one language, for example, Arabic, in which the divine words needed to be preserved. Rather, the Scriptures were to be translated, made accessible to everyone in his or her native tongue.

The Hebrew Bible had already been translated into Greek in the third century BC. In the first centuries of the Christian era, the Scriptures including the New Testament were translated into Latin, Gothic, Armenian, Syriac, Coptic, Old Nubian, Ethiopic, and Georgian. Even in the darkest of the Dark Ages, there were translations into Old English, Old Saxon, and Old Church Slavonic. By the high Middle Ages, there were also translations into Old French, Middle English, and Czech. The Reformation brought a great landslide of new translations, but the ideal had long been in place. When the Spanish arrived in the New World, one of the first things the missionaries attempted was to translate the Scriptures into Nahuatl. According to Wikipedia, the Bible has now been translated in full into 636 languages and into 3,223 in part. (Here's another Wikipedia list with different numbers. Let's go with "lots.")

What to many modern Leftists looks like cultural appropriation or, worse, cultural imperialism on the part of the Christian missionaries of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was seen at the time (and still is by those who care about spreading God's word) as a way to fulfill the promise of Pentecost: that God's mighty works might be told to everyone in his or her own language so that all might hear and be saved. This is likewise the source of the admiration in which Western Christians hold all the cultures which produced these languages. God, they believe, did not privilege any particular language or culture, but meant for his works to be made known to all.

This is the reason that the nineteenth- and twentieth-century missionaries made such great efforts to learn the languages of the peoples to whom they were sent and why the West to this day is convinced that everyone ought to be brought into the literate, developed world, regardless of culture or tradition. The irony, of course, is that without the belief in Pentecost, multiculturalism has no creed, no reason for all peoples to become one in their diversity. As a heresy of the Spirit, this means that rather than an expression of the Power of God's word acting for the salvation of all, it becomes simply an expression of power, the imposition of a single cultural ideal (diversity for the sake of diversity) on every culture in the world.

The Heresy of the Son: Hate Speech

"What is hate speech?," Tucker Carlson asked Milo the night after the Berkeley riots. "I don't know!," Milo replied.
I'm probably going to get into terrible trouble with [Simon and Schuster], but I have no idea and I don't think anybody else knows either, I mean it seems to be speech that somebody doesn't like somewhere, a joke that's wrong, something that offends somebody's sensibilities or hurt feelings or politics or something, certainly the Supreme Court doesn't recognize it as a kind of speech that should be treated with any special reverence or whatever. 
Hate speech, it seems to me, has been defined by the political left as "anything we don't like", anything that violates social justice doctrine, feminism, Black Lives Matter kind of ideology; it's not something that I have ever heard particularly effectively defined.
Milo is right to be confused. There is no such thing as hate speech in the sense of speech that by its content can be identified as such, and thus, for example, edited out of a book. Hate speech is not about the content of one's speech, but about speech conceptualized as a form of action. It is speech as an act, in the formulation made famous by J.L. Austin's How to Do Things with Words (1955/1962).

The most famous example of Austin's premise--that words are sometimes not just expressive of ideas, but themselves actions--is the wedding vow: "I do." Such utterances are not assertions of truth or falsehood, but performances, what Austin would call "speech-acts," speech that effects the thing that is said. Saying "I do," the bride and bridegroom effect their marriage. It is their speaking the words that makes their marriage real. Naming people or things, making a vow or a bequest in a will are other examples of such "speech-acts."

Judith Butler--who teaches at Berkeley and is, not incidentally, one of the most prominent gender theorists in the academy--took this idea of performative speech and ran with it in her Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (1997). According to Butler, hate speech, given that it is a kind of performance rather than content (which is why Milo can't define it) exists only retrospectively (I am cribbing here from Wikipedia), making it a matter for the state to define--and silence--regardless, it would seem of the intent of the speaker. Here, therefore, Milo is right: hate speech is what those in power do not like.

Which in itself is pretty terrifying. What should be even more terrifying, however, is the reason that Butler gives for the state to become involved in censorship at all. Here I am dependent on my colleague Amy Hollywood, who has studied Butler's work in depth. Bear with me, I think the answer to Tucker's question is buried somewhere in this passage from Hollywood's most recent book:
To clarify the relationship between the force of the performative and the body, Butler points to the importance of body lying behind the threat of hate speech. The language of the body itself, in fact, is part of the speech act and determines its force and how its force is read (that is, as threat, joke, citation). When asked why speech and the body should be given precedence given the fact that anonymous hate mail is potentially as hurtful as spoken utterances, Butler suggests that even if "performatives cannot always be retethered to their moment of utterance...they carry the anemic trace of the body in the force that they exercise." In other words, hate mail threatens insofar as it carries the trace of the addresser's body and the body of the addressee is then marked by the force of the utterance. There seems to be a certain circularity to Butler's argument, however, for the force of the utterance on the body of the addressee points to the speaking body. Perhaps the materiality of hate mail and of language itself effects this movement from the body of the addressee to that of the speaker.
With all due respect to my academic colleagues, again in Milo's words, this is bonkers. Speech cannot act on bodies, only on minds. (Unless perhaps you are yelling loudly enough to hurt someone's eardrums, in which case it is not what is said, but the volume that hurts.) Words cannot do anything except change people's minds or excite their emotions, and even then, as every good Stoic knows, it is up to the listener how to respond. Why, then, do so many people believe that there is such a thing as hate speech, speech that as speech can hurt?

Here's an even more famous example of words doing something: "And God said, 'Let there be light', and there was light." (Genesis 1:3). (You can see where I am going with this, yes?) Here's another: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14). If Butler insists that words can take on flesh, "carry the anemic trace of the body in the force that they exercise," this is why. Deny it though I am certain she would, she is thinking Incarnationally, within a tradition that asserts that the Word became Flesh. Speech became Body. Locution became Act.

As a heresy of the Son, the idea of hate speech has terrible energy to work on the world. It is a distortion of the mystery of the relationship between God and creation, of the outpouring of love by which God entered into the world he made in order to remake it through his own suffering. Yes, incarnation hurts, bodies feel pain. But that is not the fault of speech; it is the fault of our fallenness for believing a lie.

The Heresy of the Father: Identity Politics

Identity politics defines people according to their physical and heritable attributes rather than their ideas or character. Women, blacks, gays, Muslims: all are essentialized by identity politics according to their biology (women), biology and heritage (American blacks), biology and behavior (gays), biology defined as religious belief (Muslims).

The idea behind identity politics is that you, regardless of what you think about God or the relations between the sexes or the morality of abortion or the benefits of restrictions on government authority, ought to participate in a consciousness of yourself as a member of your identity group. From this perspective, thinking differently from other members of your identity group is not just unthinkable, but evil.

Why should it matter so much that Milo thinks about homosexuality differently from other gays? Or that I think about abortion or feminism differently from other women? Or that Stacey Dash thinks about the role of the State differently from other black Americans? Why? Because thinking differently quite literally threatens the existence of the group.

All human groups depend to a certain extent on ideas, even families, certainly neighborhoods and nations. With most such groups, the big question is how individuals come to understand themselves as belonging, with such understanding recognized as a voluntary act. I may be born an American citizen, but growing up, I need to be educated in order to understand what acting as an American means. I may be baptized as a baby, but growing up, I need to be educated in order to understand what believing as a Christian means. Neither state of belonging is a given: I may choose to renounce my American citizenship or apostatize from the faith. I may even choose to distance myself from my family, for example, by following Christ.

With identity politics, there is literally no way out: I am born a woman, white, heterosexual, Christian (see why the category "Muslim" doesn't quite fit?) To think differently from other women, whites, heterosexuals, or Christians is to deny my very existence as a white, heterosexual, Christian woman. It is not voluntary, it is determined, much as my species is determined: I am human.

Can you think of any other categories for which it is typically claimed that there is only one proper way to think about what it means to be a member of that group? How about "bourgeoisie"? (Do you see where I am going with this argument yet?) Or conversely, "proletariat"? What is the central claim of Marxist thinking about these two groups?

The ABC of Communism is helpful here. In Bukharin and Preobrazhensky's words:
In order that the proletariat may gain the victory in any country, it is essential that it should be compact and well organized; it is essential that it should have its own Communist Party which has clearly recognized the trend of capitalist development, which has understood the actual situation and the true interests of the working class, which has adequately interpreted that situation, which is competent to marshal the ranks and to conduct the battle. 
And why do the proletariat need the Party to act for them?
Nowhere and at no time has any party been able to enroll all the members of the class which it represents; never has any class attained the requisite degree of consciousness.
The proletariat exists as a class, but it is oppressed by the bourgeoisie because it is not conscious of itself as a class. The bourgeoisie, of course, are conscious of themselves as a class and work always to further their own interests, but the proletariat, in Marxist thinking, needs leaders to act for them, because otherwise they will be duped into acquiescing to bourgeois thinking about the nature of society and never come to consciousness of the struggle in which they are involved.

Sound familiar? I, as a woman, am not conscious of the degree to which I am oppressed by the patriarchy, so feminists need to speak for me. I, as a white person, am not conscious of my privilege, so I need Black Lives Matter to point it out for me. I, as a heterosexual, am not conscious of my normativity, so I need gender theorists like Butler to raise my consciousness. I, as a, you can't get me there, as I hope I am making clear.

Marx focused mainly on class, but as feminists, Black Lives Matter, and gender theorists have made clear, this idea of group self-consciousness has broad applications. (If you want to understand the force of the accusations "male," "white," "heterosexual," just substitute "bourgeois." The sneers are all of a piece.) This is because the idea wasn't originally Marx's and wasn't, in fact, about class. It was about our consciousness of ourselves as a species, that is, as human.

Here is the argument as Marx discovered it in Ludwig Feuerbach. (You may have heard Milo mention Feuerbach, here's why).

According to Feuerbach, the essential nature of man, as opposed to that of animals, is to be conscious of himself as belonging to a species. While animals may think about themselves as individuals, human beings think not just about themselves, but about all human beings as if they are one: "Science is the cognizance of species. In practical life we have to do with individuals; in science, with species. But only a being to whom his own species, his own nature, is an object of thought, can make the essential nature of other things or beings an object of thought."

Feuerbach moves from this essential characteristic of human beings--that we think about ourselves as human--to posit how we think about God. "Man," he says, "--this is the mystery of religion--projects his being into objectivity, and then again makes himself an object to this projected image of himself thus converted into a subject... Man is an object to God... God is the highest subjectivity of man abstracted from himself." In Feuerbach's argument, what we think about as God "is nothing else than...the human nature purified, freed from the limits of the individual man, made objective--i.e. contemplated and revered as another, a distinct being."

To talk about God, according to Feuerbach, is in effect to talk about man: "To doubt of God is to doubt of myself... Hence he alone is the true atheist to whom the predicates of the Divine Being--for example, love, wisdom, justice--are nothing; not he to whom merely the subject of these predicates is nothing.... The fact is not that a quality is divine because God has it, but that God has it because it is in itself divine."

Think for a moment about what Feuerbach is arguing here. Our highest being, our humanity, is defined by our consciousness of being human. Conversely, not to be so conscious of ourselves would be to descend to the level of the beasts (George Eliot used the word "brutes" in her translation of Feuerbach), to become subhuman, dehumanized. Arguably, therefore, only those who attain full consciousness of themselves as human are, by Feuerbach's definition, human, meaning that those who do not, are not. They are animals. Bourgeois. White. Heteronormative. Not-us.

This is the heresy against the Father, against the idea according to which all human beings were created in the image and likeness of God. Feuerbach thought he was being clever, making God a projection of human self-consciousness, an artifact of human making, but as with the heresies of multiculturalism and hate speech, his argument makes sense only from within a Judeo-Christian understanding of God. Feuerbach made of God the Great Artifact. But, as Dorothy Sayers would put it, he was already primed by the Christian creed--"I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth"--to look for an Artist in whose image and likeness he had been made.

Identity politics are evil because they insist that only some of us share in this image. That because only some of us are conscious of ourselves as certain kinds of creatures, only some of us are fully human beings.

Bishop Reynard raises the animals' consciousness--before he eats them.


"Full Transcript: Milo on Tucker Carlson Tonight," February 2, 2017 <>

Amy Hollywood, Acute Melancholia and Other Essays: Mysticism, History, and the Study of Religion (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016)

N. Bukharin and E. Preobrazhensky, The ABC of Communism: A Popular Explanation of the Program of the Communist Party of Russia, trans. Eden and Cedar Paul (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1966; first published 1919)

Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity, trans. George Eliot (New York: Harper, 1957; first published 1841)

Dorothy L. Sayers, The Mind of the Maker (New York: Harper Collins, 1987; first published 1941)


London, British Library, Yates Thompson MS 36, fol. 62v: Dante and Virgil in Hell

London, British Library, Royal MS 10 E IV, fol. 49v: Reynard preaches to the animals