Sooner or later, after any incident in which a large number of people die, a preacher who thinks he has some sort of grand insight into human nature advances something like the following claim: evil events are happening because liberals have turned their backs on God. Sometimes God is the perpetrator of the action (in the case of natural disasters), other times it’s the liberals themselves who facilitate the violence (when it’s a massacre).
Usually this claptrap is peddled by a third-rate far-right-wing club like Fox News. This time, sad to say, it’s the Globe & Mail, which, on the subject of gun violence, could apparently do no worse than to consult a rabbi:
Read the Greeks and Shakespeare to know what is tragic. Read the Bible and look around with discernment to be clear about evil. Why the confusion between the two? Why is the language employed to describe Friday’s murderous rampage off base? Muddled and misguided thinking. We refuse the discussion of evil because such language flies in the face of our need to see ourselves as essentially good and decent…
To think otherwise is to risk running afoul of the orthodoxy of modern liberalism, which requires unstinting flattery of others in public, and of ourselves in private.
Oh, my. First of all, the central thesis of this holy man — John Moscowitz of Toronto’s Holy Blossom Temple — is simply wrong. I don’t think there’s anyone who actually disagrees that it’s wrong to murder people, in any numbers. Actually the article turns on a fairly arcane literary critique of the difference between “tragedy” and “evil.” Thank you so much for bringing that to our attention. That’s very helpful.
Hilariously, Moscowitz then closes by arguing that we need stronger gun control laws. I say hilarious because although he claims that liberals with their pesky moral relativism are the Real Problem Facing America, liberals are also, on the whole, in favour of stronger gun control laws. It’s the religious conservatives, the ones who read their Bibles and go to church (or at least say they do), who are holding onto their guns with clenched fists and white knuckles. Figure that one out.
But, more to the point is Moscowitch’s tedious recitation of the same old “men have forgotten God” balderdash. “Spraying innocent children with bullets” is evil, he says. No argument here. But then: reading the Bible will help us understand why that’s evil. Specifically, reading Genesis.
Okay. Some argument here. The Bible is not a good source for morality. The fact that “read the Bible” is seen as serious moral advice is a part of the problem, not a part of the solution. That’s particularly obvious in this case, because, contrary to what the rabbi claims here, God doesn’t actually express much concern about the killing of children, innocent or otherwise, in the first several books of the Bible. Indeed, he’s frequently and explicitly in favour of it. The God of Israel is, as often as not, a braying homicidal maniac ranting at his followers to slaughter their enemies down to the last infant. Sometimes the Israelites are subjected to summary punishment because they haven’t killed enough people.
And usually in these cases, just to over-egg the pudding, God giddily specifies that virgin young women can be spared the sword. As to why that exception is made, you don’t have to use your imagination. The Bible has an explanation for that rule, too: if you see an attractive girl among the prisoners, you can take her, rape her, and make your wife.
Of course, not many people today actually read the Bible and come away thinking that the keeping of sex slaves is a swell idea. Which is precisely my point: we don’t need a Bronze Age story book to inform our decisions. We’ve moved on. Not far enough to avoid massacres, apparently, but far enough that we really don’t need to go back to sacrificing goats and interpreting dreams in order to understand why such massacres happen.
The Globe, as I have written repeatedly before, has inculcated in many readers a very misleading notion that it is somehow a centrist organ. It is not. It is a puppet of the far right, especially when it comes to religion. Earlier this year, they published a truly asinine column saying God was responsible for bringing African war criminals to justice. (God was apparently powerless to prevent the war crimes in the first place, but performed immeasurable help bringing the perpetrators to court after being called upon to do so by praying women.)
Here’s a thought, which applies to everything from gun violence to climate change: Bronze Age piffle written by paranoid sexist loons really just has no place anymore in a society that has space travel, the Internet, and the theory of evolution. No one created us, no one is watching over us, and no one is coming to save us. From ourselves, or from anything else. Some of the problems we face, like gun crime, have simple and obvious solutions. It doesn’t say much for our collective intelligence that we have trouble implementing those solutions.Tweet