A few people shared Matt Walsh’s latest blog post on Facebook today (for those who don’t know who Matt is, he calls himself a blogger, writer, speaker, and professional truth sayer), and he hooked me in with the post’s title. I usually refuse to read his stuff because I find it absurd and inflammatory — and his post entitled Yes, Gay Marriage Hurts Me Personally didn’t disappoint.
While I don’t intend my blog to be a place to argue with people I disagree with, I care about many of the individuals who shared this post. I’d like to just look at the way Matt builds his arguments. If they read this and still agree with his views, that’s fine. But I’d love for them to think a little deeper about how some people use fear and hatred to create an audience and win support for their point of view.
I am going to be posting portions of Matt’s post, and I intend to be honest to the points he makes.
All progressives are mean
Matt begins by talking about the feedback he received for his post on the gay-marriage SCOTUS ruling. When he says that a majority of the responses were vitriolic, I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He offers up the most distasteful quotes which include people wishing he was dead or in hell, and heaping all sorts of profanity upon him.
I know how that is. I’ve talked about my own emails, comments, and private messages that wish me harm and very warm afterlife. There has been a message or two that have actually concerned me to the point that I’ve wondered if I needed to alert the authorities. I imagine the nonsense in my inbox doesn’t match a Matt Walsh or Rachel Held Evans (it’s important to note here that the hate that Matt and Rachel experience comes from opposite ends of the political, ideological, and theological spectrum).
I pretty quickly go from sympathy for Matt to annoyance when I realize why Matt’s sharing these quotes.
“Progressivism, as we’ve seen, is a bubbling cauldron of vile, hideous hatred. They dress it up in vacuous, absurd little symbols and hashtags and bright colors, yet the elites who drive the gay agenda are not out to spread love and happiness, but hostility and suspicion. And the obedient lemmings who blindly conform, with rainbows in their Facebook photos and chanting whatever motto they’ve been assigned, don’t really understand what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. The fact that this is the same ideology to come up with vapid slogans like #LoveWins is an irony too bewildering to comprehend.”
Matt’s purpose here is to create a straw man. He juxtaposes the #LoveWins hashtag with the terrible emails he’s received and then basically says, “There you have it — progressives are all vile and full of hatred.” That’s lazy propaganda used to solidify division. If progressives are all evil because of some of Matt’s hate mail, then conservatives are all evil because of mine.
I can’t imagine assuming that the mean stuff said to me represents the beliefs or behavior of all conservatives. It’s a torpid argument. There are terrible people on the fringe of every ideology. I disagree with Matt and I don’t want him to die or go to hell (although it’d be okay with me if his internet connection stopped working). My distaste for Matt’s work reflects my views on Matt’s ideas and not the value of every conservative on the planet — or even Matt as a person created in God’s image.
What I hate about this kind of argument is that it reinforces an us-vs.-them narrative. Everyone reading Matt’s post is led to assume that those who disagree with Matt are “progressives” or “liberals.” Which, in Matt’s vernacular, seems to fall somewhere below pedophile on the list of acceptable drinking buddies.
These horrible people who said terrible stuff to Matt don’t undermine the message of #LoveWins. The #LoveWins message is one of hope. In the end, I believe that Christ’s love will win out. Do I always do a good job of reflecting love? God, no. In fact, to my shame, I occasionally make light of Matt on Twitter:
Sometimes WWJD is hard to imagine so I just guess what Matt Walsh would do and do the opposite.
— Jayson D. Bradley (@jaysondbradley) June 19, 2015
I still believe that, in the end, love wins. I trust the love of Christ is going to transform the way we all interact with each other, it’s going to transform our view of justice, it’s going to transform me, and it’s going to transform Matt Walsh.
Every conservative who isn’t upset is weak
I had a disagreement with Micah Murray about whether Matt Walsh believes what he’s peddling, or if he’s just selling a product (this product being fear). Micah’s sure that Matt can’t believe the stuff he says and he’s the ultimate clickbaiter. And although I didn’t believe Micah before, I am starting to believe him now.
It’s just crazy to me that you can agree with everything Matt Walsh says, but if you disagree with him here, he’s disgusted with you:
“I’m not proud to say it, but I feel an immense disgust for these Apathetic, Weak, Oblivious, Scared, Distracted, Impotent, Frivolous, Christians And Conservatives (AWOSDIFCACs for short). I’m not saying disgust is the correct emotional response, but I admit I experience it. I can deal with liberals. They’re just wrong about everything. Fine. That’s simple. But AWOSDIFCACs know and understand the truth, yet yawn or shrink away in fear.”
Let’s ignore the absurd statement that “liberals are wrong about everything.” (Honestly, Matt uses more hyperbole than a telemarketer.)
You seem to have a moral imperative to be up in arms. If you aren’t fighting liberals in the street, you’re failing your country and your God. I don’t know how he does it. It has to be exhausting to be raged out about everything all the time (that goes for a lot of progressives out there, too).
I always find it strange that those who constantly maintain this level of outrage generally seem to be people who have a more extreme view of God’s sovereignty — but maybe God just allows things like the SCOTUS ruling to ensure his people’s hypertension.
But here’s the thing I really don’t get: If Matt is going to use such inflammatory language about people in his own camp, who does he actually write for? If he was genuinely concerned for the people who disagree with him, wouldn’t he try to win them over and reason with them? Why would he stoop to calling them such derisive names? Either he knows that this is a demographic that responds well to shame, or he actually doesn’t write for mainstream conservatives and has a small niche audience of angry, hand-wringing individuals who can’t see beyond their own indignation.
You need to be angry about things that don’t affect you
His frustration at people who don’t feel like homosexual marriages will affect them is summed up here:
“First, since when are we only supposed to care about things that will physically or financially affect us? Don’t we normally condemn a person who fails to act or think or speak simply because he, himself, individually, isn’t yet feeling the effect of it? Don’t we criticize a person who doesn’t care until he’s getting punched in the nose by the problem?”
On some level, I agree with Matt here. I care about starving children even though it doesn’t necessarily affect me personally. I care about equal rights for women although the glass ceiling doesn’t stop my ascent. I get it! We shouldn’t just care about stuff based on how it affects us.
But how far do we take that?
Should Scientologists be allowed to put an end to all psychiatrists and all psychotropic drugs because they feel passionately that they’re harmful? Should an orthodox Jew or Muslim try and forbid me from eating a BLT because of their conviction that God hates when we consume unclean animals? Should the neighborhood kids be forced to stop trick or treating because my mother-in-law thinks Halloween is the devil’s holiday?
At some point in a pluralistic (I know conservatives hate that word) society, you can’t run the lives of others based on your moral convictions. Of course Matt would agree with this principle when it’s a liberal’s moral convictions about issues like feminism, dangerous forms of capitalism, or sex education, but when it’s his convictions then obviously the nation should kowtow.
I’m not going to waste too much time on Matt’s absurd idea that people are confused when the government changes the definition of marriage. No one’s confused. Having the Supreme Court say that homosexuals can get married doesn’t confuse my idea of marriage any more than changing the drinking age to 19 would confuse my idea of what an adult is.
Matt’s intentional oblivion
“Why do you think liberals care so much about this? If it doesn’t matter, why have they dedicated years to bringing about this past Friday? Because they want gay people to love each other? Nonsense. There was never any law preventing any gay person from loving anyone or anything. The State never had any interest in encouraging, preventing, or otherwise regulating love. The State does have an interest in the foundation of civilization, which is the family. That’s why, up until recently, it recognized True Marriage.”
This paragraph ushers in a whole section about the scary and mythological liberal agenda.
It is entirely disingenuous to frame the discussion this way. No one ever pretended that they cared about marriage equality “because they want gay people to love each other.” To take someone you disagree with and reframe their argument in such an absurd fashion is insincere and dishonest.
The reason people cared about this issue was, in great part, about gays having the luxury to make a commitment to their partner and enjoy the same rights afforded to other people in life-long, committed, monogamous relationships — or as we like to call them, marriages.
“This whole gay marriage debate is about opening up the lifelong monogamous bond of matrimony to a community that often doesn’t desire a lifelong monogamous bond. Do you understand what’s going on here? They don’t want marriage as it currently is; they want to change it into something else.”
My guess is that Matt doesn’t have many gay friends. He’d probably tell you otherwise, but I am extremely skeptical. I can’t think of one gay friend who would like to marry but has no desire for a monogamous relationship. Sure, you can find and link to someone saying otherwise but that doesn’t make it universally true.
I have gay friends who have no interest in personally marrying but would like to be able to have it be a choice and not just because they can’t. They’re probably not monogamous, but that’s not really different than some of my straight friends.
“It makes no sense. That is, until you come to understand that liberals desire not to fortify or strengthen the family, but to dismember it. This is purely a game of power and destruction. Why do you think their victory on Friday prompted such vulgar, bloodthirsty gloating? Did black Americans react that way when they achieved civil rights? Did women respond like this when they won the vote? No, because these groups were actually fighting to participate in, and embolden, constitutional liberties. Modern liberals, for their part, wage a war not of freedom but sabotage. Now with their triumph last week, they act like marauding pillagers who just sacked a village and burned it to the ground. They brag like conquering tyrants, not warriors for liberty. Just ask the Catholic priest who tried to walk by a gay rally this weekend in New York only to be spat on by two gay bullies.”
This whole liberal boogeyman shtick is the reason that we can’t dialogue about anything in this country. There are too many people who read this kind of nonsense and think, “Yeah, all liberals are evil and want to destroy our families and eat our guns!”
Was there really bloodthirsty and vulgar gloating? I guess Matt does mention a priest in New York getting spit on so . . . this must reinforce his conviction. I can’t say this enough, don’t fall victim to someone using an extreme example as an argument against an entire group. It’s the laziest logical fallacy.
As for black Americans response to civil rights or women’s response to suffrage, LOL dude! Let alone the silly fact that neither of us have any idea how either party responded, they probably couldn’t have responded with enthusiasm if they wanted to. If Matt doesn’t understand the dangers that blacks and women still faced despite these victories, I don’t know what to say.
I have to give Matt an A+ in volatile and inflammatory language, but it’s just so nonsensical. Was there celebratory nature to the proclamation? Yes. Was there some that gloated? Probably so. Would someone like Matt Walsh interpret any celebration as gloating? More than likely.
Be afraid, be very afraid
“This is not some kind of dire apocalyptic prophesy. It is dire, and it is apocalyptic, but I’m not speaking as a prophet. I need no divine vision to merely read the words of the Supreme Court and of our country’s most powerful leaders. After the ruling, Hilary Clinton, potentially our nation’s next president (God save us), said:
‘While we celebrate today, our work won’t be finished until every American can not only marry, but live, work, pray, learn and raise a family free from discrimination and prejudice.’
Doesn’t affect you? Hillary Clinton just advertised the fact that she intends to investigate ‘where people pray’ to see if they’re suffering ‘discrimination.’ I would think, in her mind, a gay person being read Romans or Corinthians or Leviticus — the parts where homosexual sex is condemned as abominable and mortally sinful — would qualify as discrimination.”
Did Hillary advertise the fact that where people pray to persecute discrimination or did Matt infer it? I think a normal person would read that and see a list of places that Mrs. Clinton would like to see people experience equality. I can’t imagine being so frightened and suspicious that I parse every sentence for an implied threat.
This paragraph follows Matt’s diatribe about how THE GAYS AND LIBRULS ARE COMING AFTER OUR CHURCHES. Here’s another version of Christianity I just can’t wrap my mind around. This is Jesus’ church; I am not afraid that someone’s going to come destroy it. Historically the church has survived so much more than liberals. I mean Jesus says that the very gates of hell itself won’t prevail against it, but a Clinton’s going to be its downfall? Once it loses its tax exempt statues Jesus is going to give up on it?
It’s just so silly.
This is how logic works . . .
“So if gay marriage can be justified on the grounds that homosexuals love each other and wish to be together, then any other group may take that reasoning and, if it can be applied consistently to their situation, use it to gain the same rights. This is how logic works. An incestuous couple can use this reasoning same as gays, so can polygamists, so can bigamists. This isn’t a slippery slope argument. We’ve already slid down the slope, and now here we are, in a place where legal marital rights can be granted to people based solely on their affections. There is no conceivable way to exclude these other groups when that’s the legal argument that just won a Supreme Court case.”
Matt says this isn’t a slippery slope argument, but that’s exactly what it is. Is this really how logic works!?
I think Eliyahu Federman handled this really well in the HuffPo piece Will Gay Marriage Lead to Polygamy, Incest, and Religious Meltdown?
In the end, I have people I love and appreciate who disagree with me on this issue. I don’t demonize them, hate them, or call them names. I don’t find stories about violence that anti-gay protesters perpetrate and attribute them to all conservatives. I don’t assume that someone who doesn’t agree with me on one issue is either weak, apathetic, or my ideological enemy. And I hope I haven’t contributed to a culture of suspicion and hate by villainizing everyone that disagrees with me.
I love imperfectly and inconsistently — I aspire to more. But maybe that’s because I still believe that #LoveWins.