WEDNESDAY, MARCH 3, 2004
SCRIPTED THOMAS: Cal Thomas is worried about what would happen if same-sex marriage were ever permitted. In this mornings Washington Times, he explains where the whole thing would take us:
THOMAS: If same-sex marriage is allowed, it is going to be nearly impossible to prohibit the sanctioning of any other kind of human relationshipfrom close relatives of different sexes who wish to marry (that has been outlawed because of biological and incest considerations) and polygamists to adult-child marriage.Amazing, isnt it? Cal has a question: If we allow adult gays to marry, on what basis can we tell Uncle Festus that he cant get hitched to his 9-year-old girl friend? Such oddball reasoning has often appeared in recent debates over rights for gays. But in this mornings column, Thomas provides an invaluable service. He explains where this strange thinking comes from.
Why does Thomas reason so weirdly? According to Cal, its because he cant reason at allhe can only react to Scripture. Early on, he worries about the things that occur when people dont work from such sources:
THOMAS: Lets put it this way. If you tell me you do not believe in God and then say to me that I should brake for animals, or pay women equally, or help the poor, on what basis are you making such an appeal? If no standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justice, charity, kindness, compassion and fidelity exists in the universe, then what you are asking me to accept is an idea that has taken hold in your head but that has all of the moral compulsion of a bowl of cereal. You are a sentimentalist, trying to persuade me to a point of view based on your feelings about the subject and not rooted in the fear of God or some other unchanging earthly standard.Poor Cal! He doesnt know whether to brake for Lassie until it can somehow be found in the Bible! And according to Cal, this is the problem with same-sex marriageit just cant be found in the Scriptures. Indeed, just look at the mess that occurs when people try to think for themselves:
THOMAS: The mayor of New Paltz, N.Y., Jason West, recently performed same-sex marriages, saying it is the moral thing to do. Moral? According to whom? If only according to Mayor West, he is practicing moral relativism, not objective morality.According to Cal, objective morality comes from the Bible. Everything else is moral relativism, with all of the moral compulsion of a bowl of cereal. Continuing, Cal quotes from Genesis, then explains why same-sex marriage wont wash:
THOMAS: The idea of marriage did not originate in San Francisco or Massachusetts or even with the Founders. Like it or not, it came from the book of Genesis, where, after the fall of man, God said, A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh (Genesis 2:24).Homosexuals may become one flesh in their own eyes but not in a biblical sense, no matter how many Scriptural heretics with degrees from seminaries that are mostly schools of unbelief are trotted out.
And that is why Thomas is fairly sure that gay marriage will lead to incest, and to geezers wedding 9-year-old girls. If we reject the Scripture as the basis for law, we would have no way of judging that such practices simply arent right.
Several thoughts can be derived from Thomas revealing column. First, we can see how deeply weird Thomas is on matters of ethics and morals. Imagine! Imagine a man who says he wouldnt know that murder was wrong unless he could look it up in the Bible! Thomas seems to have no experience of moral judgment aside from what he reads in the Book.
Second, we can see how weakly Thomas reasons. Somehow, Thomas believes that accepting Scripture creates a standard for objective truth, law, wisdom, justicecreates a world in which judgments are made, not on the basis of your feelings on the subject, but on the basis of an unchanging, objective standard. But the decision to accept some particular Scripture is, of course, a subjective human judgment. So too the decision Thomas must make about how to interpret various parts of that Scripture. Somehow, Thomas thinks he describes a world from which human judgment has been removed. But it was human judgment by which Cal Thomas accepted the Bibles authority in the first place. Earthly life always involves human judgment, though Thomas doesnt seem to have heard.
Finally, we see from Thomas oddball column the growing shape of our national discourse. Increasingly, our discourse lies in the hands of the Thomasespeople who want your public life run by what they find in their Bible. Should Uncle Festus wed his 9-year-old friend? Cal isnt suretill he checks with the Book. But while self-impressed pundits lambaste Mel Gibson, the Scripted Thomases have long run free. Reason? Gibson is easyand Thomas is hard. Your pundit corps is afraid of the Thomases, even as they force their Scripture into your government. Its easiermuch easierto sit and say nothing. So sit and say nothing they do.
Thomas column is deeply odd. Should Cal brake for Lassie? He isnt quite sure. But people like Thomas have more and more power. Aint it time for the press to confront it?
SLIMING THOMAS: Apparently, theres nothing in Scripture about sliming women who become public figures. Thats why Cal felt free, in December 1999, to throw a stink-bomb at Naomi Wolf:
THOMAS (Washington Times, 12/11/99): For Mrs. Wolf, only a government headed by Al Gore can do for women what they apparently are incapable of doing themselves. Mrs. Wolfs children and our children are at risk if Mr. Gore isnt elected, she tells us. Apparently, parents should have little say in the future of their own kids, and teaching them to get naked with one another in school and to masturbate, as she prescribes in her book, Promiscuities, are two of her recommended strategies to keep them so preoccupied they won't give their parents or the country any trouble.Of course, Wolfs book didnt say that we should teach kids to get naked with one another in school and to masturbate, as the pious old Christian wrote. Did bearing false witness apply in this case? Apparently, Thomas found a way to get around Scripture this once. But then, hed also had some good slimy fun in his opening paragraph:
THOMAS: The unofficial campaign theme song and dance of the 1996 Clinton-Gore campaign was the Macarena. This time around, with Vice President Al Gore running for president, it appears the unofficial theme will be Victor/Victoria, with Al Gore in the lead role of a man playing a woman playing a man.Theres nothing in Scripture about sleazy sliming, and people like Thomas cant judge on his own. So the pious old faker had good fun this day. The results came eleven months later.
Remember: If it isnt specifically banned in Scripture, Thomas has no way to judge it. Theres nothing in Scripture about Victor/Victoria, so what he said must be OK. And someone else had no way to judgethe sniveling wreck that we still call a press corps. They let this clowning go unchecked for two solid yearsbecause they were engaged in the same clowning too! You lost the White House to Thomas fakery. Isnt it time your press found its nerve and took on these fake, phony men?
MELS BELLS: Several readers have challenged something we wrote about Mary Gordons essay on The Passion. Gordon said this: [T]here are two good Romans, Pilate and [Mrs. Pilate], to add a counterweight to our understanding of Romanness. There is no counterweight to the portrayal of the Jews. Was that a strange thing for Gordon to say? One e-mailer said this:
E-MAIL: I have yet to see The Passion But its plain silly, in examining how Jews are portrayed in the film, to use the depictions of those who believed in Jesus as examples of Mel Gibsons perceptions of Jews and Judaism. Doing so would presumeas Mary Gordon did not in her New York Times analysisthat Gibson had a problem with people who were born Jewish, as opposed to those who continue to adhere to Judaisms religious tenets. In other words, that Gibson has a race issue with the Jews. Not only does Gordon not allege Gibson is a racist, no serious critic of the film has done so.We dont know if that last statement is true, and sadly, many people still do have what the writer calls a race issue with the Jews. (When Gibsons father denies the Holocaust, we would assume that hes one such person.) But although we thought Gordons comment was odd, it would have been better to focus on other examples from her essay. For the record, many critics have noted that Simon of Cyrene, a Jew, is given a lengthy role in the film, and is portrayed quite sympathetically. Is Simon the type of counterweight Gordon declared MIA? To judge, you have to go see the film.
What is wrong with critiques of this film that trash it as fascistic, pornographic, anti-Semitic, a snuff film? Theres nothing wrong with tough critiquesif writers reason fairly and sanely. But there are several things wrong with the hyperbolic, name-calling attacks that have countered simpering praise from the right. Lets lay them out, then be done with it.
First: Gibson aside, most people going to see this film are doing so with the best intentions. They have described their reactions to the filmand no, they arent haters, fascists, porn-lovers or anti-Semites. But many critics act as if they havent seen a word thats been said. (We thought Gordons essay suffered from this.) It may feel good to trash the film as fascistic, as Richard Cohen foolishly did in the Post. (Cohens reasoning was simply absurd; the film was fascistic because he found it boring.) But when millions of people are moved by a filmand writers flippantly call it fascisticthese writers are wishing the world of those people away. For ourselves, we dont share these peoples response, but we wouldnt treat their response with scorn. Monday morning, in our local bagel joint, we heard a bagel-buyer who had seen the film (a middle-aged African-American man) effusively praise it to a bagel-seller, who hadnt seen it (also a middle-aged African-American man). The seller asked if the film was anti-Semitic; the buyer said he felt it was not. We dont share this mans response to the film, but we thought his good intentions were obvious. We trust his intentions much more than Cohensand more than those of the feel-good bomb-throwers who have indulged themselves in loud, rude rants against a film this man found very moving.
Second, can we offer a point? To the extent that its hyperbolic and rude, this trashing is very bad politics for Democrats. Go ahead, liberal columnists! Put your contempt for average Christians on display, stupidly calling this film vile names! Indulge yourselves in massive hyperbole! Inevitably, youll draw these people into the discourseand when you lure them out to the polls, theyll vote against Dems, who they think you represent. This, of course, is not a reason to tolerate hatred or anti-Semitism. But it is a reason to show some judgment in how you write about a major event.
For whatever reason, The Passion is a giant event. Tragically, we regard its director as a bit of a nutsee Christopher Hitchens in Slate, for examplebut when decent people are moved by a film, their world view deserves to be taken seriously. Throwing bombs can feel quite good. But it makes for a dumb, empty discourse.