Buchwald on God, anger and hate

I realize that it doesn’t make much sense to pay close attention to Art Buchwald these days, but his latest column does offer a very crisp summary of how believers on the Religious Left and secular side of the news divide view things.

Buchwald is having one of his conversations with Milton the Muse about politics, anger and hate and, well, this is what happens:

Milton said, “But what is really tearing the country apart is God. Every group insists they know what God wants for America. People are fighting over the Pledge Allegiance in the schools, the Ten Commandments on government property, and whether Americans came from Adam and Eve or from monkeys.”

“I thought we settled that years ago,” I said.

“So did most Americans, but the theories kept popping up,” Milton told me. “Things really got ugly when the religious right said if you don’t believe in Jesus then you are going to hell.

“Evangelicals are now going all over the country asking — no, demanding — that everyone be born again. . . .”

There is much that can be said about this. The interesting point for journalists (again, those who still bother to read Buchwald) is the presence of the words “So did most Americans” in his wisecrack about science debates. Actually, only a tiny percentage of Americans would back Buchwald. Then again, there are lots of Darwin critics who also believe in common descent. The lively issues are elsewhere, in the fine details of arguments about math, DNA, structures inside cells, etc.

But for a wonderful look at the tired old stereotypes, give this column a glace. It’s all about sex and salvation, folks. The man is what he is.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    I enjoyed Buchwald’s observation that “Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh told Americans to hate the liberals. It was a sure-fire way of getting ratings.”

    This rings so true to me. Not only with the pundits on the right (though they’re the worst), but all pundits who spew vitriol and venom. I’m all for a critic who knows how to throw a good punch, but the fact is when you start urging hate you get ratings. The leading religion bloggers who spew vile ugliness and hate get the most hits. I could name names (and I have), but I won’t today. You’ll know who they are (and if you don’t, you’re in deep denial or a hate-monger yourself).

    Heck when I wrote an over-the-top post early in my blogging days that many regarded as sacreligious, I never saw so many hits. Liberals and everyone with an axe to grind against liberals linked to my vile, juvenile comment. My site stats soared. Buchwald is right: hate sells.

  • Stephen A.

    Setting aside the Darwin thing for a moment, the comment, “if you don’t believe in Jesus then you are going to hell” used to be plain old vanilla Christianity, not just the domain of the “Religious Right.” What happened to change that perception?

    But that’s just a quibble. The real funny part of this guy’s rant seems to be the contention that some Christians are out there forcing “everyone” to become Born again Christians.

    I suspect he wrote this in jest, but maybe not. Where does the political and religious Left get this goofy idea? They repeat it often, as if Congress passed a Religious Conversion law or something.

    And to Joe’s point. While hating liberals is out of bounds, hating liberalism is NOT “hating liberals.”

    Hating a political or religious philosophy cannot be criminalized, even if some on the Left seem to want to do just that. Why is that, exactly? I see in the UK, they want to ban strong statements condemning other religions. What’s wrong, can’t the Religious Left stand the criticism?

    Bottom line: Strong disagreement is not “hate.” Hate is hate.

    Like when ‘Mad How’ Dean says he “hates Republicans” – you know, the nasty white Christian party – or when groups like ACT UP! desecrate a church.

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    Stephen: Uh, I am not a liberal and that wasn’t my point. But it’s nice to know what you think about all those interesting things. My point was, simply, hate sells.

  • wildwest

    “hate sells.”

    It’s too bad.

  • Stephen A.

    Maybe I missed something. Let me re-read the post.

    Buchwald said: “Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh told Americans to hate the liberals”

    Joe said: “This rings so true to me.” But in fairness, you were careful to add that this comment applies to, “all pundits,” even though the Right are apparently the “worst offenders.” Hmm.

    Nope. I think I nailed it, unless you were looking for the word “sensationalism.” Because Limbaugh, O’Reilly, Dean, Howard Stern and others are certainly guilty of that. That’s just show business, and yes, it’s annoying.

    My added comments about liberals’ attitudes about others’ free speech rights seemed to fit, too, but if I indirectly called you a liberal, I deeply apologize. I know how sensitive people are to that label, especially when it fits. Not that it does in your case.

  • tmatt

    No, sorry …. Hate sells. Ask Michael Moore.

  • http://www.relapsedcatholic.blogspot.com Kathy Shaidle

    Joe, please enlighten us: can you describe the difference between “throwing a good punch” and “spewing hate” so that we, the benighted haters, can learn from your great wisdom? Show me some actual examples of both for my edification.

    And what if the reason people can’t “name those bloggers” is something more benign, like, say, they’ve never heard of ‘em? Why does it have to come down to hate and denial?

  • J. Wild

    “if you don’t believe in Jesus then you are going to hell”


    This is one of those tricks writers like to play. Rather than admit that it’s Jesus who says “no man comes to the Father except through Me,” Buchwald prefers to imply that this sentiment is a preoccupation of the “Religous Right.”

  • wildwest

    I’m not sensitive about being called a liberal. I’m proud of it. Oh, and Michael Moore should know. He’s been the target of so much hate lately.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    It is not irrelevant that Buchwald is Jewish.

    I read this column as an oblique commentary on the phenomenon that is hiding in the Heritage Foundation item as well.

    For instance, I’m looking at the most recent Atlantic and seeing that the little reporting on religion concerns a mullah in Egypt, and frankly I have no idea how good a report it is. But it’s a bit beside the point, because the main articles have to do with what seem to be the real Republican concerns: war and money. So I’m looking back at (for instance) the comments about Darwin, and at least as far as my personal history is concerned, Buchwald is right. People my age in mainline churches took for granted that God could act sufficiently through Darwinian processes. We didn’t even talk about it.

    But now, two decades later, religion and politics have joined into mutual and reciprocal prostitution, and the anger that Buchwald talks about is the currency in the deal. It’s all about getting people riled up. Politicians want people motivated to vote against the other side; clergy want wrath because it looks sufficiently like fervor. Both the liberals and the conservatives are in on the bargain; in addition to the deal within their own parties (pun intended) they need each other as enemies.

    The upshot is that intellectual and moral consensus is impossible. I personally abhor the notion of embryonic stem cell work because it inevitably works out to a kind of cannibalism. But I also notice that Bush has to serve both his constituencies by denouncing it and yet letting it proceed. There is no way, of course, that such a moral discussion is not going to be hot-headed; the problem I see now is that it’s a kind of fake hotheadedness, churned up for self-righteousness on the one hand and political influence on the other. In this wise people like Limbaugh are particularly culpable. His livelihood depends on keeping this cheap outrage going.

  • Fred

    Hate does sell. Penn and Teller’s vicious attack on Mother Theresa in Viacom/Showtime’s “Holier Than Thou” is apparently business as usual.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    The point is that now Michael Moore needs to be hated– by the right people, of course. My youngest has developed an attachment to the Veggietales Jonah of late, and it occurs to me how much these latter-day prophets do resemble Jonah. If all the liberals repented, Rush Limbaugh would be out of a job. If all the conservatives repented, Michael Moore would have to work a lot hard to produce a saleable movie. The thing is, that in a more moderate America where there was a flexible moral consensus that lies between the two camps, all these people would be out of a job. And I think that maybe 60% of the country would settle into something like that. But the extremes run things and the last thing they need is for the moderates to get control and quash the extremes.

  • wildwest

    Except that Michael Moore is not an extremist.

  • Stephen A.

    Words are important. Criticizing Michael Moore and his work is NOT hate. It’s criticism.

    Another example: I don’t hate Michael Moore, the human being, but I do hate what he stands for and what he espouses.

    See the difference?

    And yes, he’s an extremist. The very definition of one.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    I don’t think that Miachel Moore can be excused simply by declaring that he isn’t an extremist. For one thing, I find that judgement questionable. But it’s also beside the point. It’s not whether his viewpoint is extreme, but that his unquestionably-far-from-center viewpoint is loud, mocking, and stupid. And he’s compromised by making agitation his livelihood, just as Rush Limbaugh has. To make money, he has to portray someone as dolts, and in particular he has portray people his audience disdains as dolts. Therefore he has trapped himself into ranting the party line.

  • wildwest

    “Words are important. Criticizing Michael Moore and his work is NOT hate. It’s criticism.”

    I didn’t say it was hate. I said he wasn’t an extremist.

    “I don’t hate Michael Moore, the human being, but I do hate what he stands for and what he espouses.

    “See the difference?”

    Never called it into question.

    “And yes, he’s an extremist. The very definition of one.”

    I don’t know your definition.

    “I don’t think that Miachel Moore can be excused simply by declaring that he isn’t an extremist.”

    I didn’t say I was trying to excuse him. I didn’t even say I liked him.

    “his unquestionably-far-from-center viewpoint is loud, mocking, and stupid.”

    What exactly makes his viewpoint “far-from-center”? (See? It’s not unquestionable.) OK, if being loud and mocking is extremist, then he is an extremist. Stupid? That’s certainly arguable. And I am not aware of any claim he has made that has been proven wrong. (If you know of any, please let mediamatters.org know so they can set the record straight.) He went to great lengths before releasing his last film to have all the facts checked and reviewed by lawyers.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    I am not in the business of being a fact-checker, but I note various reviews from people who identify themselves as liberals who point out specific errors, never mind complaining about wholesale misrepresentation through omission. Depicting pre-invasion Iraq as a place of kite-flying calm was, essentially, a lie. Saddam’s tyranny, and the fearsome depravity of his sons, were well-documented.

    Be that as it may, it is easy enough to start from IMDB’s lengthy list of external reviewers and find liberals who condemn Farenheit 9/11 on exactly the same grounds that I do. For instance, there’s this review from Salon. In any case, review after review complains about the string of unconnected cheapshots in the movie; it’s not just me.

  • wildwest

    No, I know it’s not just you. I hear it all the time.

    Yes, rather than point out errors of fact, people are reduced to pointing out that he misrepresents those facts by placing them in dubious contexts. I guess I can’t argue with that. I am sure there are better ways of pointing out those facts. I am just glad he was brave enough to point them out, however imperfectly.

    Whether his being loud and mocking makes him an extremist, I don’t know. It might not be a bad thing. (Barry Goldwater didn’t think so.) In any case, I think the last caption in this cartoon by Tom Tomorrow makes a valid point.


  • Stephen A.

    Wildwest, let’s go over this again.

    In your 8:20 post, you said Michael Moore was the target of “hate.”

    I said, in reply, that “Words are important. Criticizing Michael Moore and his work is NOT hate. It’s criticism.”

    You said: “I didn’t say it was hate.”

    My point again is: Just because he’s the target of criticism, he’s not the target of “hate.”

    As for him being “loud, mocking, and stupid” as C. Wingate says, I agree, but I suppose as an entertainer, I cut some slack for that. Many entertainers are loud, mocking and stupid.

    But not all of them spin dubious conspiracy theories using falsehoods and slight-of-camera tricks that fire the imaginations of leftwing extremists, however. (The kite example by C. Wingate was a good one.) That’s truly dangerous.

    And yes, the same goes for the Rightwing nuts out there, too.

  • wildwest

    So let me get this straight. Saddam Hussein really did attack us on 9/11, really did have weapons of mass destruction, and the Downing Gate Memo is a forgery. Detainees at Guantanamo are being treated humanely, and even if they were being tortured, well, the Geneva Conventions don’t apply to them. And to present evidence that any of this isn’t true is to “spin dubious conspiracy theories using falsehoods.”

    I stand by what I said.

  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    It seems, wildwest, that you do not see the irony in Tom Tomorrow’s loud, mocking, and stupid cartoon about Republicans being loud and too stupid to be mocking.

  • wildwest


  • http://onlinefaith.blogspot.com C. Wingate

    The problem isn’t the evidence– heck, I can read any number of general/foreign policy rags and conclude for myself that the war against Iraq was in many ways ill-justified and certainly ill-executed as a political operation. The conflicts of interest are familiar, though I believe that their influence is overstated.

    No, the problem is that when Moore takes a bunch of factoid clips and embeds them in a matrix of misrepresentation, he’s discrediting his own side, even when what he states is true. True anti-Bush believers will ignore or even believe the misrepresentation; true pro-Bush believers will seize upon the misrepresentation in ignoring the factual statements. I personally ignore him as a source because nothing true he says is anything I haven’t heard many other places, and I don’t want to waste my time picking out the good bits. In the large, this doesn’t work because the attention he attracts by being provocative drowns out those who see that the truth is a composite of points from both sides.

    That’s the problem with the cartoon too. If I’m supposed to be allied with the people being mocked in the cartoon, well, I had to look up who this Churchill fellow is. Tom Tomorrow is nothing more than another liberal Rush Limbaugh.

  • wildwest

    Can’t argue with you about those Tom Tomorrow cartoons! :-)

  • http://www.joe-perez.com/ Joe Perez

    Kathy Shaidle:

    Well, since you asked.

  • http://www.ecben.net Will Linden

    Lefties persistently base their stance on emotional reactions. So they believe (or claim to believe) that others are also motivated by emotion. “Republicans hate women.” “Bush hates the poor.”….

  • wildwest

    “Critics of the administration hate America.” Oh, wait. That’s the other side.

  • Philip

    “Can’t we all just get along?” Rodney King.

  • http://cinecon.blogspot.com Victor Morton


    Without looking (and in a bid to save you the trouble), I’ll take a wild guess [sic] and say that you’re incapable of understanding that difference since you’re not as evolutionarily advanced as The Finely Integrated Joseph.

  • Stephen A.

    “‘Critics of the administration hate America.’ Oh, wait. That’s the other side.”

    Preposterous. Where would they get THAT crazy idea?

    Oh, yeah:
    American soliders are just like the Nazis and Soviets
    America is stingy during disasters
    American religious conservatives are the Taliban
    America hates Muslims
    America is “occupying” (read: “oppressing”) Iraq
    America is single-handedly destroying the environment

    Did I leave any out? Let me check every major city newspaper again tomorrow and add five new ones.

    All false, by the way, but all spewing from the Left each day.

  • wildwest

    You exaggerate.

  • Stephen A.

    No, actually I don’t.

  • wildwest

    No, we aren’t saying these things about “America.” Only about the Bush administration. We love America. The Bush administration is working to destroy everything America stands for. Ignorance and arrogance are not good foreign policy. I want my country back!

  • Stephen A.

    “The Bush administration is working to destroy everything America stands for.”

    You exaggerate.

    “Ignorance and arrogance are not good foreign policy. I want my country back!”


    Good luck with that rhetoric at the ballot box.

  • wildwest

    Ha. Ha.