I have concluded that Max Lindenman’s job in life is to be faithfully irreverent. He does it brilliantly, and hilariously in this response to a review in the NY Times:
Keller must be paying too much attention to the Church’s cheering section — people like George Weigel (at the top) and Bill Donahue (at the bottom), who spill gallons of sweat and ink in defense of her good name. Well, it’s a living, I guess, but it’s never made any nevermind to me, nor, I suspect, to most Catholics. There’s real pride to be taken in knowing that even our screw-ups are epic and spectacular.
What’s the worst thing a fundie pastor’s ever done? Kiss another guy? Smoke some glass? Rip off the faithful? Junior varsity. Nickel and dime. Amateur hour. When one of our popes feels like living in infamy, he sells an entire hemisphere into slavery. That goes for their kids, too. You say Franklin Graham was a real hell-raiser? Cesare Borgia could have stolen his Harley and his girl, gotten his blue-tick hound in the family way, and carved “AUT CAESAR AUT NULLUS” in his forehead with a stiletto before Lucrezia finished pouring arsenic in his grits
Max Weber links the rise of the middle class to the emergence of the Calvinist work ethic. Historians and sociologists may dispute the point; what is indisputable is that scandals involving Protestant clergy are dreary and cheesy in a unmistakably middle-class way. Take the PTL thing. Jim Bakker makes a few million ripping off hayseeds and pays a quarter-million in hush money to a secretary who later becomes a Howard Stern regular. And what does he have to show for it? Heritage U.S.A. Not even PJ. O’Rourke had the heart to make fun of the guests there. As he put it, “it would be like hunting dairy cattle with a high-powered rifle.”
When we put our hand to shady direct-marketing campaigns, we get St. Peter’s, the Pieta and the Sistine Chapel. Game, set and match to us.
The boldest and best defenses of the church are the ones that thrust up the chin and say, “yeah, we’ve got our scandals, yeah, we’re imperfect fools administering a church that — were it not for the grace of the Holy Spirit — would have collapsed from our own folly and ambition centuries ago…so? That’s all you’ve got?”
UPDATE: And of course, only Max would call Malta Nantucket with flying skulls