Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Know the difference between proclaiming the Faith and exploiting it

Case in point: M. Shea's long awaited piece on the death of Rush Limbaugh.  It was what I imagined, a chance to drag Rush through the mud, accept all accusations against Limbaugh at face value, use them to tar and feather the greater conservative movement, and then dangle the possibility that he might be saved despite his manifold evils as defined by the political Left.  A partisan political hit piece disguised as a reflection with only the thinnest veneer of religion spread about for good measure. 

Now I personally was not a huge Limbaugh fan.  Limbaugh was a phenomenal communicator, and often fun to listen to.  He also did some good things, and made some valid arguments in defense of conservatism.  Chief among my favorite contributions was him being one of the first on the national stage to pull the veil away from the media's already clear and obvious bias as early as the late 1980s.  His presence also put the lie to the Left's proud sermonizing about the importance of respecting other opinions and always championing free expression of ideas, no matter how offensive. 

Rush continued to make some good points here and there over the years.  But, IMHO, he also represented that conservative swing toward putting defense of Corporate Interests at the head of the class and the primary goal over and against any and all other goals and priorities. A tendency that is now swinging around and kicking conservatives in the tail end. 

Nonetheless, not being a fool and a partisan hack, I also knew when criticisms of Rush were valid, and when they were hit pieces by a biased propaganda ministry meant to tear him, like any other dissenters, down to size. Naturally Mark makes no such distinctions. Every attack and every criticism and accusation of Rush as racist, bigot, evil non-liberal man is taken as gospel truth. 

But here's the dangerous part.  In all of this, Mark frames it as 'there but by the grace of God go I.'  He basically says he, too, is the same type of sinner in need of repentance.  I often see that in writings by the faithful, especially of amateur status.  You drag someone through the mud, attack them with both barrels, and then make some vague 'but I, too, am a sinner in need of God's grace' to cover the tracks.  On the surface it seems fair enough, but it isn't.  It is just tossing a cloak of righteousness on a hit piece through appealing to a doctrinal technicality.

If Mark wanted to make his point, he could have written of Limbaugh, and if need be acknowledged what we all know, that Limbaugh was far from perfect and no doubt a sinner like us all.  Then Mark could have publically unpacked his owns sins - by name - and told us of his dire need for God's grace and forgiveness.  Or he could have kept his own sins vague and unnamed, while doing the same for Limbaugh.  Or, if he was unable to deal with Rush's death without doing what he did, he simply could have applied the Thumper rule.  

I know some will say Mark was very specific in the piece about repenting of his days as a conservative.  That's not what I mean.  I don't mean you can say 'Like Limbaugh, there was a time when I, too, was a vile sinner for not realizing the evils of conservatism and conservatives in America, but I'm much better now.'  That's nothing but rationalizing partisanship by acting as if it was only wrong because it was in line with the wrong partisanship. 

No, this is the type of attempted cleverness that does more harm to the Faith's witness than it does good. It also does no good for the individual in question, in this case Mark.  Mark has essentially mocked God by acting as if God isn't aware of what Mark has done and why he has done it. 

If someone dies and you feel the need to go on about his sins, but CYA by ending it with your own need for God's grace, consider the better way to do it.  Either name your own sins, or keep the sins of both general and unnamed.  Or perhaps don't bother dragging the individual's sins over his grave in the first place.  Don't use the Faith, or the teachings of the Church, to trash a dead person and then pull a clever didactical sleight of hand as if it covers up what you have clearly done.  The Gospel of Christ is many things, but a crucifix shaped bludgeon to use against those who run afoul of our political opinions is not one of them.  

Those who want to learn about the Faith and its teachings be warned.  Check your sources for the least acceptable standards.    

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  Galatians 6.7

UPDATE: I was made aware that Rebecca Bratten Weiss has penned a hit piece that makes Mark's piece look charitable by comparison.  No attempts to cover her loathing of Limbaugh and those even marginally right of center with any religious posturing.  It's a political attack post plain and simple.  Bonus fun goes to her last paragraph in which she tries to frame anyone who dares disagree with her pissing on those run afoul of her opinions as part of the problem.  An old trick and one that has never worked with me. 

It's worth noting that most Catholics (and in fact Christians) I've read have either ignored the news of Limbaugh's death, or have posted variations on 'he was good here, problems there, pax to his soul.'  I've seen none elevating Limbaugh to fourth person of the Holy Trinity.  So far these are the worst examples from the faith community.  But so far, at least from what I've seen, the exception to the rule. So there's always hope. 


  1. On the other hand, consider the case of Kobe Bryant. When he died, he was not only made a god by ESPN, he was made a saint by the National Catholic Register, and he was explicitly held up as a model to be imitated. Now the sin that really stands out for him is one for which he was never prosecuted, but was very credibly and publicly accused (particularly given his initial lie to police). If you believe his public statements about it, you must surely be trusting enough to believe that O.J. Simpson is still looking for "the real killer". I don't think there is anything wrong in criticizing the NCR for holding Kobe up as a model Christian when they would never do the same thing for a priest showing the same behavior. We should not despair for Kobe's soul -- he was Catholic and may well have given a valid Confession -- and we should pray for his soul, but canonization is a bit much.

    We should not presume to know the judgments of God or the limits of His mercy. At the same time, we can, I think, criticize the known public record of a person, including his public sins, as long as we remember that the record is not the person himself.

    1. There certainly could be a case where mentioning the sins of the recently deceased might be in order. If, say, someone went overboard lifting up Limbaugh as an example of messianic perfection, it might be worth pointing out some foibles. Though otherwise waiting a while for the grave dirt to settle is better unless needed. Especially since we're getting awfully good at using death to advance agendas. In fact, we seem a bit overly obsessed with trashing sins of the dead to the point where I fear we're not spending enough time on the plentiful sins of our own time.

      But of course none of that is what Mark did. His was a piece using Limbaugh's death to not only trash Limbaugh, but anyone and everyone to the right of center. And then worse, trying to pass it off as some spiritual reflection. As I said, at least Weiss didn't try that. Hers was just a hit piece unmodified.


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