Prefatory material: My views alone to be sure. Why give this man any time at all? As my Senator Al Franken puts it, because of “lies and the lying liars who tell them.” Milo is no angel to be sure, but for persons even relatively informed about him the pathetic hit pieces get old (a good response on that one, even if the author is wrong about the Reformation).
I’ll admit it. Men like Milo Yiannopoulos and Jordan Peterson make me think of the popular 1995 movie Braveheart. That award-winning film featured the story of the courageous William Wallace, who, in order to free his people from the British, fought not just a culture war but a real war.
As portrayed by the traditionalist Roman Catholic “bad boy” Mel Gibson, the character of William Wallace is, like Yiannopoulos, not an angel. One of the more dramatic moments in the movie occurs when the dying British King is informed by his unadoring wife that his heir is anything but – she carries the child of William Wallace. All, of course, in the service of goodness — another victory for Wallace and his people!
Wallace is the imperfect hero – imperfect if we take the 10 commandments as our measuring stick that is – that we can’t help but love. Sure, I might not want to have the man around my wife, but look how he fights! Here is a man who knows how to defeat those on the side of the lie… of evil!
How he inspires and motivates us! In spite of the flaws of such men, how, some of us might think, can God Himself not be impressed?
I thought of that also when I read Milo Yiannopoulos’s interview with the Jesuit magazine America. Like his interview with NPR, this is one conversation that was never was released for the public.[i] In the interview we read this…
Maybe you mean it’s shocking that I’m always joking about my lack of chastity and my fondness for black dudes, but I still call myself Catholic. And I don’t see what’s so shocking about that, either. One of the most famous saints of all time, sixteen centuries ago, prayed, ‘Lord, make me chaste, but not yet.’”…
You don’t see me disputing the Church’s teachings on homosexuality. There’s no intellectual tension, because I wouldn’t dream of demanding that the Church throw away her hard truths just to lie to me in hopes I’ll feel better about myself. I love the truth, not lies, and I know no one’s feelings are the basis of truth.
That’s why I don’t understand those Catholics — such as, if you’ll forgive my horrid impertinence, this magazine’s editor at large, Fr. Martin — who imply that if people don’t like what the Church says, maybe the Church is wrong or should apologize. The Church was founded on a rock and a cross, not on a hug.
Still, if you insist I talk about feelings, I’ve said before that I feel there’s something wrong with the fact that my lovemaking can’t produce the mini-Milo’s I’d like to have. How’s that for a subjective confirmation of the Church teaching that same-sex attraction is “objectively disordered” because it can’t lead to procreation?[ii]
Yiannopoulos has several conservative fans who will tell you that he doing the Lord’s work, who, after all, has been known to use evil for good. On the other hand, some persons, probably on both the political left and the right, think that Yiannopoulos is a simple attention-seeker: a fraud and a mere play actor.
I don’t think that is the case at all (Vox doubts this to, sounding a bit scared[iii]). I think he genuinely believes in God. And as he says in the interview – an interview which lauds Thomas Aquinas, St. Francis of Assisi, Flannery O’Connor, G.K. Chesterton, and Hilaire Belloc – I think that he really does hold that the previous Pope, Benedict – a.k.a, Cardinal Ratzninger, “God’s Rottweiler” – is the greatest intellectual force of our day.[iv] I also think that he does really believe that God’s law is true – and that homosexual relations are, to say the least, “objectively disordered”.
Yiannopoulos soldiers on under the banner of the Roman Catholic church, seemingly unfazed by the whole situation.
And so, is this how it works in his mind?: I fight on the side of God, in His cause. And He, in return, overlooks my sins.
Ah, but he doesn’t say that at all. What does he say instead? Right after the above quote he says this:
Bottom line: The Church says I’m not culpable for my temptations, but I shouldn’t sin. She’s right. And her founder said He came to heal those who knew they were sick, so I don’t despair.
Humility, you see. By not asserting that he is in God’s good graces, but by saying that he hopes in God’s grace and mercy! “Doing his best,” he “has some way to go.”
Think he doesn’t know anything about humility either? Well, compared with others, there actually does seem to be a bit more self-awarenesss than we often find among the famous….
Growing up Catholic also taught me the value of humility, even if that’s not exactly a forte of mine. This virtue is important for society, because it teaches us to be tolerant of a diversity of opinions, rather than arrogantly trying to silence people we disagree with. And it’s important for me personally, because despite my vanity, I know I’m not as smart as Thomas Aquinas or as good as St. Francis.
There’s a great line from the novelist Flannery O’Connor, who liked to shock and troll a bit herself: “I’m not limited to what I personally feel or think; I’m a Catholic.” She meant the same thing Chesterton did in his famous quip, “Tradition is the democracy of the dead.” Political correctness gives us thin gruel and loneliness. The Church gives us a grand party with red meat and red wine.
Perhaps a word of comfort is in order? Is this not what the Reformation was all about? Grace – “a grand party with red meat and red wine” – for poor sinners oppressed by the heavy burden of the law?
Well, this comes to mind: persons like Martin Luther, the 16th century church reformer, both upheld the law and thought that he absolutely needed to obey it. For someone like Luther, grace could not be cheap. What kind of good and faithful servant disregards His Master’s commands? Who would dare think that the Lord isn’t serious about what He commands? Who would dare think, for example, that His moral law is evolving? Not Luther.
Conceivably, Milo knows about humility in this world – and how to make good jokes about it to boot. The question is if he knows about it before God. Or – if he genuinely just hopes that God, gradually healing him through the grace he finds himself able to cooperate with, will be so good to bless him in the life to come the way He has presumably blessed him here. [v] For example, as he has been blessed with his new husband — something one of his most ardent and sophisticated traditional Catholic supporters, at least, doesn’t seem terribly concerned about.
In truth, for all the things that a person like Milo might be right about, I get the impression that he isn’t ultimately serious about God or His law where it counts the most.[vi] If he were, he would recognize that human beings must be completely infected by sin (he says human nature is good) and that no one can hope to “win” God’s gracious favor by the grace-empowered good one does — even if that person were, for the sake of argument — actually saving Western civilization.
And lest anyone else get the mistaken idea that this is all about sex — and since Milo apparently doesn’t mind being compared to Jesus all that much — I offer you this short account of our Lord’s fear, love, and trust in His heavenly Father, who fulfilled God’s law on our behalf:
- He perfectly loved the Lord, His God with all his heart, soul, strength and mind
- He loved His neighbor as Himself, always doing for them as He desired they do for Him
- He did indeed! – insofar as He could. Not by excising the First table of the commandments from the “Golden Rule” or notions of the “common good,” for “natural law” minus the first table not only cannot save but teaches wrongly
- In other words, Jesus Christ always called upon and proclaimed the Name of the Creator who has acted very specifically in history, doing mighty deeds in the world for our good.
- He always listened to God’s Holy Spirit, who, as Martin Luther said, gives “all truth, wherever it might be.”
- Finally, Jesus worshiped His Father, God as He truly is and is in our history, from a pure heart, never doubting for a minute the truth of the Scriptures
Evidently, God is not one with the idea that when the scales are weighed in His sight, that any individual’s grace-empowered good deeds — starting with one’s willing cooperation — can outweigh one’s bad…
Lest you think this is merely me talking, I give you the Apostle Paul:
- For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
- For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “…who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” (Romans 11:32-33, 35)
- Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being[a] will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin (Romans 3:19-20).
Worthless lot. Every one (see the whole of Romans 3 if you don’t believe me!) From Adam, none of us traitorous blackhearts deserve mercy. No matter what kind of deeds we do, think we do, or others think we do.
Another man who makes me think about the hero portrayed in Braveheart is the increasingly famous Jordan Peterson (who, as of this writing, just finished another biblical lecture in Canada). And, as I said in the past, he has all “all of the clarity and courage of someone like Yiannopolous, but without the self-proclaimed ‘dangerous faggot’s’ liabilities.”[vii]
Nevertheless, those bulleted lists above can apply to Peterson as easily as they can Yiannopolous. Essentially, Peterson seems to basically share Yiannopolous’ view of what it takes to save a human being – justification through one’s good deeds (and, unlike Milo, when it comes to morality, I have heard very little from Peterson that contradicts the Bible[viii]). In one of his lectures on the Bible from a[n evolutionary] psychologist’s perspective, Peterson even evoked the picture of the fearsome Christ who judges the world — from the book of Revelation! — as a helpful figure for spurring one on to good deeds! Overall, he paints a picture of our commitments and corresponding actions – no doubt done from the purest of motivations we can muster – being able to not only save us from the future we face in this life, but as being that which may very well echo in eternity… They are something that can provide us with a real hope in whatever life there is to come.
This is the Divine gambit.
Seriously though… For the love of God, don’t go there! Instead, hear the Word of the Lord.
I understand that there are some in the Christian world that think that persons like Milo – and even Peterson, given his lack of Christian profession in spite of his general friendliness to it – should be talked to in a gentle way. Treated with kid gloves (I can’t say, like the “Church Militant” site that published Milo’s interview, that he has not encouraged anyone to act on their sexual inclinations — on the contrary, he consistently promotes extramarital sex).
Well, they are big boys. They, no doubt better than most, can handle it, just like they can dish it out and do. Dig into those Bible passages, men – and think about the experiences of someone like Luther, whose conscience knew what God’s Law demanded!
Give him a read to (start with the Small and Large Catechisms). He was not wrong when he put it this way:
“This, then, is what it means to begin true repentance; and here man must hear such a sentence as this: You are all of no account, whether you be manifest sinners or saints [in your own opinion]; you all must become different and do otherwise than you now are and are doing [no matter what sort of people you are], whether you are as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you may. Here no one is [righteous, holy], godly, etc.
But to this office the New Testament immediately adds the consolatory promise of grace through the Gospel, which must be believed, as Christ declares, Mark 1:15: Repent and believe the Gospel, i.e., become different and do otherwise, and believe My promise….”
As far as Yiannopolous is concerned, I’m sure he will continue to say that conservative Christians, in his experience, have been considerably kind and gracious with persons like himself, exploding every myth of their purportedly hateful attitudes towards gays.
If he reads this, he might even say that about me.
Because I think that he does – at least more than most in the media! – really care about the truth. And he respects those who say hard truths (like Peter Scaer addressing an issue close to his heart!) and who don’t back down – ever.
As he says: “Pray for me. I need it.”
That’s definitely something I need to.
I will pray.
[i] Eventually, only after Yiannopoulos posted the interview, NPR released a few mere minutes of the longer conversation. Vox reports: “A representative for the publication told Vox on Friday, ‘We can confirm that an interview with Mr. Yiannopoulos was conducted by one of America’s occasional contributors and was not accepted by America for publication. As a general matter, America does not comment further on editorial decisions about why articles are not accepted for publication.’”
[ii] Earlier in the interview, he said this: “Frankly, what’s really shocking is that a poor sinner like me has spoken out more on contraception than 99% of our bishops, who seem too preoccupied with diversity and climate change to talk about God.”
[iii] “But if Yiannopoulos is totally sincere about his right-wing Catholicism — a rarity for a man sincere about so little else — that might prove more unsettling still. If he can combine Steve Bannon’s apocalyptic worldview with his ability to manipulate the thoroughly temporal worlds of Twitter and college campuses alike, he might prove almost as dangerous as he wants us to think he is.”
[iv] From the Vox piece: “Yiannopoulos praised Francis’s predecessor, Benedict XVI, as “the wisest and most erudite man in Europe,” celebrating his willingness to “declare publicly that Islam’s irrationalism is one of the world’s great problems” — a reference to a controversial speech Benedict gave in 2006.”
[v] Unsurprisingly, Yiannopoulos has expressed sympathy towards types of Christianity which flirt with “health and wealth” doctrines. He’d “like to believe in the prosperity Gospel,” he says.
[vi] From the interview: “I’ve already quoted St. Augustine, who had his own pelvic issues. I once tweeted out an illustrated page from his Confessions that began, ‘I will now recall my past foulnesses.’ That’ll work for my memoirs someday, too.” It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.
[viii] In a recent Q and A for his Patreon supporters, I did hear him encourage someone who called themselves “asexual” to not only get a sex therapist but to find a partner that they could feel comfortable with and who might be able to ease them into sexual activity. Marriage is presumably not in a picture like this.