This is a guest post by Scott Dotterweich. Scott has a bachelor’s in Philosophy and a particular interest in ethics, logic, and religion.
Readers of this site are undoubtedly familiar with Matt Walsh, a conservative Catholic blogger for The Blaze (founded by none other than Glenn Beck). It’s difficult to miss Walsh’s inflammatory rhetoric while he’s espousing conservative values in his blog posts — or rather his anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-feminist, anti-liberal rants.
On Wednesday, I visited The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Washington, D.C. to hear Walsh speak about his recent post on religious liberty, “Pay Attention Christians. They’re Coming After the Churches Now.”
Here’s the opening paragraph of that article:
It may be a matter of some interest to you that the American left is now openly declaring its intention to shutdown your church and outlaw your religious expression entirely. If you’ve been paying attention, you won’t be terribly shocked by this revelation. They plan to come after the churches. That’s what they’ve always wanted, and now they intend to do it.
If you consider yourself on the American left and you’re baffled by these claims about your intentions, you’re certainly not alone. In the same article, he writes:
… the left does not care. They simply hate Christianity and want it censored, dismantled, and expelled from the country.
This is why you cannot compromise with leftists. They do not want to come to an understanding — they want obedience. That’s all they will accept. Make one concession and they’ll demand another, and another, and another, unto infinity. Give them an inch and they’ll take your soul.
Put another way: Batten down the hatches, Christians. War has been declared.
You can read his entire argument if you’d like, but if you’re not completely bogged down by the Christian Persecution Complex, you’ll be able to see that this is hyperbolic nonsense. Obviously, liberals don’t want Christianity “expelled from the country.” Many people on the left are themselves Christians, for one thing. But according to Walsh’s definition, they’re not True Christians™:
In his talk at CUA, Walsh was every bit as outrageous as he is online. Here are just some excerpts.
Now, we have to remember that the very first liberal, you know what his name was? His name was Lucifer. Now, it’s true. Lucifer was an angel. He was in Heaven. He’d still be there if he wanted to be, but he didn’t want to be. He said, “I will not serve. I cannot worship God. I’ll worship myself.” And so he was sent down to Hell, and in the blazing fires of Hell, liberalism was born.
Now, what we call liberalism today is just self-worship, the worship of self. That’s all it is. It’s the categorical belief in the supremacy of the individual. It is the philosophical belief in being selfish.
Now, I’m not trying simply to fling insults at liberals by accusing them of being Satanists in league with the devil. Um, I guess I’m not really complimenting them, either, but, uh, I obviously acknowledge that the Satanism of modern liberalism is almost always latent. It’s secular, not theological. What I’m trying to establish is that the prevailing philosophy of our culture is rooted in an evil that can be traced back to the beginning of everything.
The real motivation for them is that they hate Christianity. That’s all there is to it.
… On the matter of gay marriage, progressives achieved the awesome, historic power to enshrine into law the fantastical right to gay marriage, which is a right that doesn’t exist, because gay marriage is something that cannot exist and still does not. But more to the point, they won the battle of public opinion. They won the mainstream. They won America’s heart, which they proceeded to cut out and devour like the bad guy in Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom.
[To silent protestors standing in the back of the room holding a gay pride banner.]
Equal sign. Is that for gay marriage? The problem is that gay marriage, so-called, and what we erroneously call traditional marriage, can never be equal. And I want to explain that to you. The reason why they can never be equal is because what does “equal” mean?
[The protestors decline to engage, but Walsh presses on.]
… “Equal” means the same. That’s what it means. You can look it up in the dictionary. And whatever else you want to say about gay marriage and homosexuality — which, of course, as Catholics, we are called — commanded even — to believe and to testify that it is sinful — but even if we’re not Catholics or not observant Catholics, it’s clear that the two are not the same because they’re different… in, by principle, in their very nature, they are different… in a lot of different ways. Not the least of which being that the traditional, so-called, marriage carries with it the capacity to create life, to bring life into the universe, and it is that capacity on which civilization relies. Gay marriage doesn’t share that capacity, or that potential, or that responsibility. Therefore, it is not the same. Therefore, it is not equal.
We all like to repeat that popular quote, I think it was from Voltaire: I hate what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it?… I would not defend to the death your right to say something I hate. Because I hate when someone blasphemes. When they commit heresies. When they advocate the murder of the unborn. When they scandalize people and lead them to Hell. When they attack my faith, disparage my lord, I hate that.
Would I defend to the death a person’s right to insult Jesus? And speak untruths that could jeopardize and damn souls? No. It’s absurd to say you would. I’m not saying I’d prefer for these things to be illegal, necessarily, but I wouldn’t defend to the death your right to spit in the face of Jesus and scandalize God’s children. I wouldn’t do that.
If I had the courage to die for anything, which I don’t know if I would, but I would rather die to defend truth than to defend your right to say untruths. And I have a feeling I know which option Jesus would prefer, considering he never once spoke of our right to sin. He never once spoke of that.
Do I think there should be a law stopping someone from, say, desecrating the Eucharist? I’m not sure. In my ideal world, maybe. But I know I wouldn’t protest that much if a law like that did pass.
And if I saw something like that happening in front of me as a Catholic… I would probably consider what the police would consider to be first degree assault against that person. And I’d be entirely justified in doing it. Just as Jesus was when he used whips and committed first degree assault with a deadly weapon in the temple.
Early on during the Q&A period, Walsh called on someone named James, a fellow conservative Catholic, who chastised Walsh’s approach.
Listen to how angry Walsh became during the exchange:
JAMES: [Christ] would have never stood up at the podium, like you are right now, and preached hate. He would’ve preached love. He sat down with the sinners and the saints. You can disagree with their views, as do I — many of the views you mentioned, I disagree with as well — but you should never, shame on you for preaching hate.
WALSH: … Jesus called people vipers and snakes. Now, if I sat up here and called someone a snake or a viper, you’d be using that in your example against me. And here’s another thing. You know who Pope Leo XIII is? Okay.
JAMES: I know what you’re gonna say.
WALSH: He was the first person to draw this corollary between Satanism and liberalism. He said it in about 1890. He said that liberalism is Satanism. You know why I said that? Because it’s true.
WOMAN: You said you hate when people say bad things against Jesus, and you said you would commit first degree assault or murder against them.
WALSH: I didn’t say murder.
WOMAN: You would use a murderous weapon.
WALSH: No, I said Jesus did.
JAMES: You called liberal-minded individuals Lucifer. You called — I mean, just the rhetoric that you used, that, that wasn’t what Christ did.
WALSH: James, okay, we’re gonna have to move on here.
JAMES: Yeah, that’s fine. Thank you.
WALSH: Yeah, I can see, you making smarmy little comments and things like that, that’s not hateful at all, that’s okay, because you do it with a smile on your face. See, now you’re acting innocent. See James, this is my turn, this is my turn now.
This is what people like you do. They sit there. You don’t speak up to defend on these topics, you don’t speak up to speak the truth. It’s just you wait for someone to say it in a way you disapprove of so that you can talk down to them and get the applause from people like that. And then you sit down with a smirk on your face, and sarcasm, and you act like you’re better.
You’re not better at the very least, my friend. And the fact is — no, I’m not done. Hey, James, I’m not done! — The fact… is you’re saying something that is not true. Jesus used harsh language all the time. So did Paul. And the language that I used today is entirely accurate… The only thing that is unloving is an untruth. If it’s true, then it can’t be said to be unloving.
It’s worth noting that Walsh is pretty sarcastic to people he disagrees with all the time (just check his Twitter page). But it’s not so much his rhetoric or tone that I have a problem with.
My main criticism of Walsh is that he misrepresents the people he’s criticizing. Liberals don’t want Christianity banned. Liberals aren’t going to shut down churches. Liberals have no desire to outlaw religious expression.
I told him all this when I had an opportunity to speak with him for a few minutes in the hallway after the Q&A. I said he ascribes motivations to people he disagrees with that they don’t have, that he doesn’t do a good enough job of actually trying to understand his opposition before criticizing them, that he’s uncharitable with the people he criticizes (using an example straight from his article about how liberals supposedly want Christianity expelled from the country), that he’d be not only more effective but more intellectually honest if he didn’t create so many straw men, that liberals I know who have read his work don’t see any of their opinions reflected in his articles.
I asked him to just think about it and keep it in mind.
To his credit, he let me say all of this and told me he appreciated my comment, but then he went on to defend his belief that most liberals want Christianity outlawed, even if they don’t realize they do. This went on for a little while. Ultimately, he didn’t seem open to the possibility he might be wrong on this.
Still, I think we all need to keep this principle in mind.
I’ve seen too many liberals and atheists misrepresent conservative Christians (“They hate women,” “They hate gays,” etc). This problem doesn’t just go in one direction and we should all be doing our best to engage with the views people actually hold. It’s important to be able to openly disagree and debate, but let’s make sure we understand the other side’s views before criticizing them.
It’s the intellectually honest thing to do. And it’s that intellectual honesty that was missing from Matt Walsh’s talk last week as he exaggerated and misrepresented the other side’s views.
(Image via Twitter)