“‘Shut up,’ he explained.”

“‘Shut up,’ he explained.” September 11, 2020


The three monkeys
Perhaps, today, we should add throwing a Molotov cocktail and a nice little book-burning?  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


A short literary passage that seems to me increasingly apropos to our culture of rising intolerance and cancellation — see this egregiously silly case, for example — appears at Ring Lardner, The Young Immigrunts (Indianapolis: BobbsMerrill, 1920), 78:


“‘Shut up,’ he explained.”


That brief sentence comes forcibly to my mind as I contemplate the situation summarized and endorsed by Jana Riess:


“Controversial Latter-day Saint book pulled from publication”


She has the advantage over her readers, of course, and very much has the advantage over John Gee, since his book has been effectively silenced and suppressed — at least temporarily.  In some quaintly antiquated circles, it continues to be imagined that the best method for responding to a bad book, or to a book that one dislikes or with which one disagrees, is to rebut it.  (“I disapprove of what you say,” Voltaire is often though probably inaccurately supposed to have said in response to a government-directed book-burning, “but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”). However, making a book utterly disappear is plainly a far more effective and efficient method of response.  Still, we can be grateful that, for the most part, we currently tend to burn neither books nor their authors.


Professor Gee’s fundamental and cardinal sin appears to be his willingness — however briefly and passingly, as part of the much wider scope of his overall book — to touch the third rail of the American cultural wars, which is sexuality (and most particularly homosexuality).  In so doing, he joins the ranks of such foolhardy predecessors as Mark Regnerus, of the University of Texas at Austin (see, for example, “The Campaign to Discredit Regnerus and the Assault on Peer Review”), and Paul McHugh, University Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (see, for instance, “Standing Against Psychiatry’s Crazes: In 1979 Dr. Paul McHugh closed the sex-change clinic at Johns Hopkins. In the ’80s he testified against phony ‘recovered memories.’ He hasn’t given up the fight”).


When customer reviews of a book on Amazon.com all give it either five stars or one star, you can rest serenely assured that something is going on other than dispassionate responses to a mere piece of writing.


Happily, I already own a copy of Professor Gee’s Saving Faith: How Families Protect, Sustain, and Encourage Faith.  In fact, I rather wish at this point that I had bought every available copy.  Auctioning them off at demand-inflated prices on eBay could have materially expanded my nest egg for retirement.


You are still permitted, however, to listen to Professor Gee’s August 2020 remarks at the annual FairMormon conference:


“FairMormon Conference Podcast #60 – John Gee, “By the Numbers: Saving Faith””



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