A Conservative Response to Popular Culture

Sewage Spill sign

How should a conservative interact with popular culture?  We live in a time when popular music mocks religion, prime time television depicts homosexual relations and multi-generational groupings as “the new normal,” films depict literal orgies of gory sadism, and all promote narcissistic nihilism with a snarky self-confidence expressed in gutter language.  How should we respond in our daily lives?

A morally valid response would be open rejection.  One of the more famous stories about Russell Kirk is that he found one of his children had smuggled a television set into his home and literally tossed it out the window, where it hung by its cord for some time.  The story generally garners appreciative laughs—including, no matter how often I hear it, from me.  And such gestures have value.  But the television has become a rather important tool in our society (as has, of course, the computer).  What is more, we cannot escape mass culture by simply turning it off.  Perhaps most important, our newspapers and news sites are active propagandists for popular culture.  Newspaper “lifestyle” sections laud the latest trends in shallow self-indulgence as the “news” sections tell us that only fools and bigots fail to share the liberal mindset.  Even the much-lauded Fox news pushes sex advice and cultural dreck under the name of “celebrity news” on its website.

What should we do, then?  Simply ignore the bad guys, turn off the television and the internet, stop the newspaper subscription and lead purer, better lives?  I’ve been so tempted and, after I stopped working in Washington some years back, took a determined, year-long vacation from the news.  When I came back to it, slowly and carefully, nothing much had changed.  But I did come back to it, in part because I remembered my brief stint in the first (George H.W.) Bush Administration.  We all were convinced that Clinton could not win.  And one of the reasons for that foolish confidence (or acquiescence—few of my friends were terribly happy with our empty-chair-in-chief) stemmed from selective reading.  Once or twice a day staff would receive “the clips” from the newspapers—actually, mostly the Washington Times.  And, just as with this last election, the Republican Party echo chamber assured us that all would be well.  I don’t often read newspapers today.  But I do keep tabs on them—from the smug utilitarianism of the Wall Street Journal to the smug solipsism of the New York Times—reading some stories and scanning more in order to have an idea of what new silliness is becoming the conventional wisdom of the major parties that seem to rule our public life.

Scholars and those in religious orders may be able, if they wish, to ignore their society’s popular sewage, but it is a dangerous stance, even for them. Eventually Kirk himself allowed a television to find a permanent home in his basement (largely for the purpose of watching videos relevant to his work), though that medium never gained him as an audience member.

My friend and fellow columnist Professor Peter Lawler, seems to take a different view of popular culture from Kirk’s. He urges us to “watch more TV.” Of course, this is Peter’s sardonic way of introducing his highly critical analysis of some of the most vapid, pseudo-lifestyle viewing (“Girls”) on offer. I’ve been known to watch a fair amount of garbage myself (gothic horror movies are a favorite) and thoroughly enjoy analyzing the heresies and other forms of social abnormity on display, even as I find them somewhat enlightening in regard to the sorry state of our culture. But we should not forget that this is the pastime of the intellectual. It’s not that most people aren’t “smart enough” to take apart the ideologies wrapped up in popular entertainment. But most people don’t analyze social institutions, beliefs, and practices for a living, so it wouldn’t be a job-related pastime for them. At least as important, most people have kids and need to be concerned about the intellectual (as well as spiritual and moral) atmosphere in their homes. And all of us need to be worried about the intellectual, spiritual, and moral atmosphere in our own heads.

When I found out that my 13 year-old daughter had a song by “Linkin Park” on her iPod and told her that song was going to be deleted and her means of getting songs for that device were being substantially altered, her response was “but I don’t listen to the lyrics.” My reply was instinctive: “yes, but you still hear them.” That “Linkin Park” is a group of twits should be obvious from their name—yet another bit of reverse snobbery, with its intentional misspelling intended to seem “urban.” The lyrics are that mix of self-indulgent anger and shallow nihilism, expressed in vulgar language, so common in the suburban “alternative” mainstream that has come to dominate popular music in the post-rap age.

I was quite shocked to find that my daughter had such garbage on her device—a device it took years for her, with much help, to get me to buy for her, even though “all her friends had one.” My daughter, who has had an exclusively parochial education, opined on seeing a girl at camp wearing typically trashy modern clothes that “you can tell she doesn’t go to a Catholic school.” She zealously censors her 11 year-old brother’s entertainment for the slightest deviation from moral cleanliness, vetoing songs and shows I would have let pass. But she is a child of the computer age, so I was wrong (and lazy) to think that her general good character, her taste for Christian music, and her hearing my music at home (classical, jazz, progressive) would keep her from hearing mind-numbing garbage. As to her “not listening to the lyrics,” this is where the real danger lies. Too many of us believe that we can enjoy bits of mass culture while rejecting the rest—even enjoying the (truly awful) music of Linkin Park without being corrupted by the even worse lyrics.

The lesson I, at least, take from this is that being a decent, conservative parent requires vigilance, not just early on, but as one’s children approach the dreaded teen years. This is why I understand people who want to simply tune out all of popular culture. When I stay at hotels I occasionally watch television, and am always shocked at what is allowed to be broadcast to children, often in their prime, after school, viewing hours. One blessing we have found is that, if you raise your children from an early age on only DVDs they become so thoroughly intolerant of commercial interruptions (if not of their retched content) that they have no desire to watch commercial television. But the appetite for entertainment remains, and if you get a service like Netflix you have the same problem as with cable—garbage mixed up with the not-garbage, and even promoted as a kind of “public service.”

My intention is not to provide a detailed “how to” guide for raising children in the Age of Dreck. I haven’t earned that right. But it is important to note that children will be exposed to our popular culture and that both children and adults often wrongly assume that they can hear or see without being affected by it. Once, after listening to the public radio news broadcast for too many days in a row (long commute) I remember thinking its reporting on a particular issue was accurate. Then I stopped, recalled how many strange stories and bits of loaded language I’d been hearing, and got myself a new batch of books on tape.

My point is simply this: popular culture is the smog in which we must live at least part of our lives. We have no choice but to face it, now and again, if only to keep track of where it will strike next. But it must be approached gingerly, and in small doses, lest we begin to think it normal. Some of what is popular also is good. But one’s judgment, like one’s character, requires constant maintenance, And this I do know: the best way to protect oneself and one’s children from cultural garbage is to keep everyone engaged with cultural beauty—good music, good books, and activities that uplift, not by preaching, but by exposing us to beauty, virtue, and all the gifts of the moral imagination. As with so much else, then, the enemies are pride (the notion that “it won’t affect me”) and laziness. Idle hands, and idle minds, truly are the devil’s workshop.

This column first appeared Monday, January 28, 2013 in The Imaginative Conservative and is reprinted with permission.

Bruce Frohnen

By

Bruce Frohnen is Professor of Law at the Ohio Northern University College of Law. He is also a senior fellow at the Russell Kirk Center and author of many books including The New Communitarians and the Crisis of Modern Liberalism, and the editor of Rethinking Rights (with Ken Grasso), and The American Republic: Primary Source.

  • crakpot

    I like to point out that the 1st Amendment does not recognize a “right” to say whatever you want, nor even to practice whatever you might call “religion.” The people who originally consented to the Constitution provided the Bill of Rights was added understood that we do not have the right to so much as take the name of the Lord in vain, much less the stuff that now comes out of an iPod. As for religion, God made it quite clear that we are not to worship false gods or idols. There can be no such thing as a right to do a wrong.

    The 1st Amendment does, however, prohibit government people from using the power we lend them to teach or implement their own beliefs on matters of conscience, on right and wrong. While we can only elicit the use of government force to protect our children from inducement to sin in the culture by consent of a supermajority of the governed, it is our Catholic right, our patriotic duty, to excise from government expression and power all counterfeits of conscience and rights.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Matthew-Townsend/1316536863 Matthew Townsend

    “Now more than ever before, the people are responsible for the character of their Congress. If that body be ignorant, reckless, and corrupt, it is because the people tolerated ignorance, recklessness, and corruption. If it be intelligent, brave, and pure, it is because the people demand these high qualities to represent them in the national legislature. If the next centennial [1976] does not find us a great nation … it will be because those who represent the enterprise, the culture, and the morality of the nation did not aid in controlling the political forces.” — Pres. James A. Garfield

  • supineny

    you deleted a song from your daughter’s iPod? That’ll teach her to do things you can keep track of!

  • John200

    Ha, ha, “retched content.”
    Brilliant!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

    The one thing that troubles me about all of this is that the mass phenomena are not culture, but the simulacrum of a culture. We’ve never faced this before. It’s impossible to baptize a culture that doesn’t exist, as it’s impossible to baptize a wraith. The real task before us is the revival of culture itself.

    • musicacre

      We’ve tried to do that, and it wasn’t a big plan. It was just one day at a time, as the kids grew up. It really has to be a revival that starts in the home. As they say, “..a man’s home is his Castle..” One has the ability regardless of budget to provide the children with a renaissance if one uses things that are all around us. We just had the classical music channel playing music three or four hours a day, until they recognized their”favorite” pieces. (ie: Vivaldi’s four seasons which is highly recognizeable, let’s face it, favorite music is something one remembers with fondness.) If they hear classical first, rock will always be a distant, if at all, second or third. We had 6 children and this culture thing is a life project, but is worth it if you don’t want your kids to bear the residue of slime from the the “non-culture.” You have to put your time and money where your mouth is. It takes time and effort, for instance taking the kids to see a live symphonic orchestra (ours is small town, but they do all the big pieces ) at least once every 2 or 3 months. They start to recognize other people who go and genuinely enjoy the hugeness and beauty of the music. If a kid never experiences these non-electrical instruments in a large auditorium how is he supposed to like classical music suddenly when he is older and has no young memories of it?
      Also, we enrolled ALL of them as they came of age, into music lessons. It became a norm in our home. We gave up other things for that. We used older vehicles, didn’t go out much and found a lot of corners we could cut. We never went on expensive trips, but just camped locally for summer fun. I could go on all day..and my point is not to brag- (because the job is never done)–but I think if you invest in the kids early on and participate with their music, for just one example, they will yearn for and eventually produce, higher culture. Same for reading classics, etc As it stands now, our eldest daughter has a degree in Voice performance, sings in our city opera, and teaches music (voice) both in her studio and in a private school nearby. Next, our son just finished a viola degree and has a specialty in recording. The next daughter is in her last year of piano performance and the next is an aspiring cellist. (Second year cello in university) She has already played solo cello with an orchestra a few summers ago. They have had many wonderful programs and benefactors over the years…
      Naturally they couldn’t have gone that far unless they were pushing themselves. (I’m a bit too laid back to be a pusher) So I think there was some merit in having great music around and not having cable TV. The last two are definitely not going into music, but I think they both are glad they can play an instrument, for better or worse. We never went through the negative thing of deleting or forbidding because they didn’t want those things. So, I think whatever you have your children immersed in, is naturally what they will feel comfortable with.

      • http://twitter.com/pdmcguirelaw Paul McGuire

        As much as I love classical music (and more than classical, orchestral film scores) I disagree with your suggestion that growing up with classical will mean it is always above other types of music. I grew up listening to classical and later developed a fondness for rock and metal (on the more melodic side). I can understand your aversion to certain types of themes in those genres. Many of the songs don’t have particularly intelligent lyrics. But certain bands do have fantastically talented singers and musicians who play in a style that I can’t get anywhere else. Sometimes you just need a break from classical because good classical requires you to pay attention to enjoy it.

        • Bono95

          What’s your favorite classical piece? Mine’s Beethoven’s “Fur Elise”.

          • supineny

            Agree with Paul that classical music is generally demanding of one’s full attention. To listen to it as background music is a bit like having a poetry reading on in the background — you might catch a phrase here and there but you’re not going to understand what’s going on. Not that a lot of classical music listeners really know what’s going on — if you inquired of most classical radio listeners what ‘sonata form’ is, you’d find that few people really know what’s going on in a Beethoven piece.

            There’s nothing more dispiriting than sitting in a dentist’s waiting lounge and hearing Beethoven’s Third Symphony flailing away to a climax at a dim volume, interrupted by the sound of drilling.

            • Bono95

              Maybe dentists should start playing mediocre jazz like Panera Bread does. I don’t mean clever, talented jazz, I mean horrible amateurs all trying to solo at the same time and making a muddy mess of the music. The sound of the dentist drilling would only be an improvement then.

          • http://twitter.com/pdmcguirelaw Paul McGuire

            If I had to pick one, probably Edward Grieg Peer Gynt Suite. Though I spend much more time listening to film scores so my favorite of those would be Jerry Goldsmith’s Islands in the Stream.

            • Bono95

              Cool. I’m not really a big film person or Star Wars fan, but John Williams’s score and Imperial March for those movies is way awesome.

  • Bono95

    My second youngest brother (he’s 2) loves watching DVDs. He also loves the previews however, and while they’re all clean and geared toward little kids, they are remarkably insipid. Think overly perky female announcer cooing about the latest cheaply CGI-animated show where everything is a learning experience and the star is a little kid/mouse/cute monster with a BIG imagination. :-P

  • Orthodox Christian

    Idle hands and idle minds can also be God’s workshop…..that still small voice.

  • Just a closer walk with Thee

    Quote from the text: “[...] her taste for Christian music, and her hearing my music at home (classical, jazz, progressive) would keep her from hearing mind-numbing garbage.”

    What is considered by his Eminence in world music as “mind-numbing garbage”? I may remember you that when you were younger, some also called “mind-numbing garbage” the new waves of modern jazz played by Parker, Davis or Coltrane (indeed, they were people who knew what the words “drugs” and “sex” meant, by separate or together). Elvis Presley was also considered by some “purists” as “mind-numbing garbage”, while a sinner as Johnny Cash was is still worship by many. And bands as Led Zeppelin or The Rolling Stones -without any doubt far greater bands than many of the pseudo-Christian music some think they listen to- were also considered as “nihilists”, “thrash from devil” or “mind-numbing garbage”. Talk about morals whether you want to tell us something that may help us to think, but let music in peace because in this ground you seem completely lost. Don’t think “Linkin’ Park” may be quite bad from the music many “pure” Catholics like to listen. With the quoted phrase above -and the subsequent confusion of concepts- you’re doing an utterly -even dangerous- reduction of the relation between art (music, in this case) and Catholicism. If someone’s faith is so weak that he/she feels in real moral danger by hearing some lyrics or watching some movies is his/her problem, not mine.

    • http://twitter.com/pdmcguirelaw Paul McGuire

      Exactly! The popular music of any given era is always looked down upon as trash. In any genre you can find plenty of mind numbing garbage that is lacking in complexity but also plenty of quality music with talented musicians.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Tony-Esolen/1184164082 Tony Esolen

        Actually, that isn’t true. It’s demonstrably false. The generation gap in musical tastes is relatively recent, and is in large part a result of mass marketing and mass education. Sure, there are “movements” in music, but real folk music lasts for a long, long time — and Bach was, in a sense, quite “popular” in his day. I mean that the music such as Bach composed was experienced by common people everywhere in Germany; he wasn’t the only organist-composer in the country, and his wasn’t the only choir singing polyphony. The argument has to made on the merits.

        • Bono95

          There’s been taste gaps in Classical/Baroque/Romantic music too. When Beethoven premiered his “Eroica” symphony, it came as a shock to many people at the time, but others loved it and today it’s considered one of his many masterpieces.

    • Bono95

      I know! I LOVE all kinds of classic rock! I have hundreds of rock albums on my iPod, but only 1 inspirational/contemporary christian (Livin’ For Something by Janelle). She’s talented and a good Catholic girl, but I have met few other good songs from her genre and while I wouldn’t mind loading another one of her albums, I would rather load one by Sting or Bob Dylan or the Goo Goo Dolls or Tom Petty or someone more rockin’ like that. Most other inspirational songs only inspire me to want to scream or bang my head against the wall (oddly, I don’t ever get this urge from actual “head-banger” stuff). I mean, it’s good that the contemporary christian artists are praising God, but if they expect to inspire and convert people, they could use a few lyric/rhyme/tune/key lessons from the more talented rockers. I’m a faithfully practicing Catholic, and if I find contemporary christian music a turn-off, that music’s not gonna convert too many head-banging heathens.

      • Just a closer walk with Thee

        Blues, Gospel and Rock&Blues (or also known as Classic Rock) are extremely much better, inspiring and greater that the majority of smooth Christian music with supposed meaning -although I don’t see it-, but with extremely few feeling, rythm and no inspiring melody.
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sFVcUYTo6GY Talk me whether you’ve ever heard any Catholic band singing with this strength, deepness, inspiration and feeling. This music -popular music too- borned from heart, love and God. By the way, Grand Funk Railroad’s old singer, Mark Farner, is now a more or less succesful Christian singer. Yet I love much more his old rock than the new one. Jesus would have loved Rock&Blues, I’m sure. (Some) Popular music has been one of the greatest inspirations of the last century. I don’t care what the author thinks about this issue; at least, he may be wrong.

        • Bono95

          I have heard fellow Catholics sing in Church with incredibly moving strength and inspiration, but this not an everyday or everySunday occurrence (though the rarity does make it more special when it does happen), and no, no fully committed Catholic band I’ve ever heard can craft poetry like Bob Dylan, rock like Tom Petty, create new musical standards like the Beatles, masterfully blend musical styles like Sting, or paint epic dreams and emotions like U2. Someone in the comments section in another article said the reason Contemporary Christian music is so lame is because most of it is marketed for, to quote his phrase, “soccer moms and their kids”. Further, he said he’d spoken to people who work at the Christian music record labels, and they admit that fact if not in so many words. He even cited the example of a Christian artist who’d hoped to break into the industry with a harder rockin’ style, and they apparently made him water his music way down before they’d let him record anything.

  • Prof_Override

    Oh my – “the much-lauded Fox news” along with MSNBC the god emperors’ of post modern swill. I’m not sure I’ve ever read a more delusional, un-insightful article in my life. Yet another post modern hack pretending to be an indignant traditionalist “conservative”. The 60’s & 70’s are long ago, far, far away you need move on.

    • Augustus

      Can you make a coherent argument or are you only capable of ad hominem insults?

      • Prof_Override

        Traditionalists pretending to be conservative has become an ongoing farce in this country. Why shouldn’t it be handled in a “Jon Stewart” manner vs. the pseudo serious, holier than though nonsense the author is subjecting us to. Do you not see the post modern slime of this article!? No Virginia, your opinion based upon looking through the lens of Richard Nixon is not relevant and clearly is just pandering to those who already agree with you. Show me you get it by laying out a thought not rooted in a puerile left/right paradigm.

  • supineny

    i start to wonder what it is that makes this site so entertaining. this article highlights one aspect: the way it sends me back to my childhood in the 1960s. this article,with a few adjustments, would have served just as well then. the profound and overwrought sense of outrage over naughtiness in popular culture, and the risible attempt to shield the young ‘uns from it. i remember my friends who were forbidden to watch the 3 Stooges (“too vulgar” said their mother.) and Pete Seegar (“communist”). but of course my friends just humored her – adults are always a bit silly. (as far as Pete Seegar went, we had to sing one of his songs in school at folk mass anyway,)

    it seems risible to me because knowing and understanding popular culture, even enjoying popular culture is not mutually exclusive with being well read or having an appreciation for classical music etc. one cannot imagine classical music or great literature even existing without its creators being familiar with the “low” arts.

    and decry the violence of latter day films (i cant watch splatter films myself). but how innocuous is fantasycompared to the actual burnings of heretics at the pyre as practiced by the church back in the good old days. you don’t think that was popular entertainment at the time?

    • Bono95

      9 out of 10 heretics who got burned were people who had arrogantly set themselves above God and his Church’s teachings (some of them were civil criminals too, for example killing those who disagreed with them or destroying churches) and either would not be induced to repent or said they were sorry and then turned back to their old ways once they were free. Some innocent people did get burned too unfortunately, but they were the exceptions, not the rule. Less than 2% of all the people tried under the Spanish Inquisition were executed, and the Inquisition prevented such tragedies as mob violence and anarchy from growing or spreading very far in Spain. Actually, Protestants killed more Catholics and other Protestants (and used much crueler methods) than the Catholic Church did (anyone caught practicing Catholicism or Protestantism other than Anglicanism in Elizabethan England was immediately seized, tortured horribly, then murdered without trial)

      • dch

        “9 out of 10 heretics who got burned were people who had arrogantly set themselves above God and his Church’s teaching”

        Yeah, so they somehow deserved to die? Why exactly?

        • Bono95

          The heretics who were executed (the REAL heretics, not the innocent victims) were people who had rejected willfully rejected 1 or more part’s of God and His Catholic Church’s teaching. All such heretics were guilty of losing their true faith, many were guilty also of weakening the faith of others, and a few extremists were further guilty of molesting people who stood up to them, destroying homes and churches, or defying civil authorities as well as religious ones. In the trial of a heretic, evidence was gathered and carefully considered, and the heretic was strongly encouraged to repent. If he did, he was released, though he might still have to be given a minor punishment. If he was more obstinate, the jurists would proportionately raise the stakes. Unfortunately, torture was sometimes employed at this point, but sessions were never longer than 15 minutes, a priest and a doctor were always nearby, torture was stopped immediately if something went wrong or if the heretic confessed or repented, and torture was not performed on anyone deemed by a qualified physician as unable to endure it. Few heretics stuck to their positions when seriously threatened, so nearly everyone who did die did deserve it for at least 1 of the above reasons (rejecting dogma, misleading others, and/or breaking civil laws). Even at the very end, priests were provided to enable any condemned heretic to repent and make a final confession if he desired.

          • Melia

            Nobody deserves to die, even if they are heretics.

          • supineny

            bono, i dont know how old you are or where you’re coming from, but the view you have expressed here is profoundly naive. you are defending cruelty and murder. when the church did these things, it was a powerful political institution and suppressing dissidents and theological and philosophical non-conformists with torture and death was a terrible abuse of their power.

            • Bono95

              The trials of heretics were carried out by the ecclesiastical or Church courts, but punishments were administered by the state courts. The governments at the time were Catholic, but not Church bodies, so it was laymen giving out the punishments, not the priests, monks, bishops, etc.

              The Church makes it clear that war is a terrible thing and that it should be avoided when possible, but it also says that a war may be just if it meets strict criteria.
              1. It must be in self-defense or in defense of another nation or people
              2. It must be a last resort. All parties involved must attempt to work out the problem peacefully and only take up arms if all else fails.
              3. It must be obvious that NOT fighting would cause more harm than doing so
              4. Acts of violence must be avoided or limited as much as possible. i.e. there should be NO slaughtering enemies who surrender honorably, NO destroying or looting towns and farms, NO killing, injuring, or otherwise molesting civilians, and NO overly brutal weapons or tactics involved
              5. All efforts should be made to end the fighting as soon as possible, and when it does end, the peace terms must be fair and just for everybody.

              The Spanish Inquisition was not a true war, nor was it the wanton slaughter of innocent Jews, Muslims, or Protestants. It was a measure of national defense against those who claimed to be Catholic but were really otherwise. People who openly professed Islam, Judaism, and Protestantism were left alone. They would not have been without the the Inquisition, in fact. They would have been prey to paranoid mobs who had experienced evil at the hands of non-Catholics and rashly assumed that all non-Catholics intended them harm. The Inquisition then served to offer better protection for innocent Christians, Jews, and Muslims than would have existed otherwise, minimize deaths, and serve as a warning to anyone who was considering masquerading under the guise of Catholicism without following it or respecting its true adherents.
              Yes, it would have been preferable to have been able to do this with no deaths, but it’s a fallen world where sometimes the best that can be done is to choose the lesser of 2 evils (in this case, it was preferable to execute a handful of hardened unrepentant heretics rather than let people take the law into their own hands and go crazy killing millions of others whose beliefs are misguided but whose actions did nothing to merit death)

              • Bono95

                Perhaps I should have brought this up more clearly before, but the heretics weren’t peaceful free-thinkers and revolutionaries. They were all-out wild, lawless, and Churchless if not Godless rebels.
                Take, for example, the Cathari, 12th century heretics from southern Spain and France. They taught that marriage, child bearing, eating animal products, and pretty much all other physical things that were the result of sexual reproduction were the greatest and most unclean of evil things. Their initiation ceremony for a man required him to promise to give up the Catholic faith, avoid the “evils” mentioned above, never take an oath (apparently initiation didn’t count), and to never take his clothes off when going to bed. After that, the man was kissed twice on the mouth by every sworn in Cathari (or “Perfected One” as they called themselves) and he in turn did the same for everyone else. But if it was a female candidate, they just touched her with a book of the Gospels (distrust and disdain for women was a hallmark of many heretical sects).

                Because the Cathari believed the physical world to be evil, they subjected themselves to all kinds of barbarities. Babies were often abandoned or brutally murdered, and pregnant women were regarded as being demonically possessed. Sick people were not given medicine. Rather, they were asked whether they’d like to be killed as a “martyr” or a “confessor”. “Martyrs” were smothered with pillows and “confessors” were starved.

                The Cathari went to great lengths to conceal their true beliefs from the Inquisitors by all manner of lies and hypocrisies. They would swear no oaths and avoided directly answering questions at all costs.

                Other heretical sects included sorcery, disgusting orgies, and wanton violence against anyone (Catholic or otherwise) who disagreed with them.

                Martin Luther called on his followers to “wash their hands in the blood of Catholics”, and while he claimed to have spoken literally, his followers took him literally. They destroyed churches and Catholic homes, monastaries, convents, hospitals, and schools, desecrated relics and consecrated hosts, destroyed and defaced painting, mosaics, and statues (which they called “idols” and “graven images”), called the Pope the “Antichrist” and Rome/The Vatican “The Whore of Babylon, and killed and injured Catholics.

                John Calvin established himself as a tyrant in the Swiss city of Geneva and forbade dancing, playing cards or dice, fancy clothes, artwork, and alcoholic beverages (BTW, it was Catholic monks who invented and brewed beer, whiskey, vodka, ale, mead, and a lot of the wine available at that time)

  • Tiberius Gracchus

    Linkin Park? When was this article written? 1998? You’re right — they are crap, but I don’t think they spell their name “Linkin” to sound urban. Did the Beatles and Led Zeppelin purposefully misspell their names to sound “urban”?

    • Bono95

      Like most bands, the Beatles went through many name changes. At one point they were the Silver Beetles, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. They later dropped the “Silver” part and changed the 2nd “e” in “Beetles” to an “a” because the English are crazy about puns and because John Lennon had a dream in which a man sitting on a flaming pie told him that his band’s name should be “Beatles” with an “a”. Don’t know where and why Led Zeppelin got their name.

      • supineny

        because “lead zeppelin” had people pronouncing it “lead” like “lead guitar”

    • Anzlyne

      I have to laugh and wonder why you spell your name … Tiberius Gracchus :)

  • dch

    “9 out of 10 heretics who got burned were people who had arrogantly set themselves above God and his Church’s teachings ”

    1. What about the other 1/10? What did they do to justify getting burned to death?

    2. Its a bit arrogant to kill people who don’t agree with your superstitions, just a thought.

    “Some innocent people did get burned too unfortunately, but they were the exceptions, not the rule”

    Yeah, mistakes happen. Did the idiots who burned them to death (its called murder) go to hell who did god make exceptions for zealots who kill other in his name,

    • Bono95

      Innocent people who got killed were people who had been framed or falsely accused, and heretics were not killed the instant they were caught. They were tried and urged to repent, and those who did repent were given a minor punishment (paying a fine, temporary imprisonment, etc.) then allowed to go free. God does not make exceptions for people who do wrong in His name ( “not everyone who says ‘Lord!’ ‘Lord!’ to Me will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” ) Anyone who dies guilty of unrepentant murder for any reason does go to Hell. And remember, the heretics as a whole were crueler to those who disagreed with them than any Church officials were to the heretics, and while the death penalty was sometimes misused, if the anti-heresy laws hadn’t been enforced, anarchy would have ensued, faith would have eroded, and many more innocent people would have been killed then were as the laws stood.

      • supineny

        you’re defending the death penalty for heretics? look, if you’re right about there being an afterlife and hell, they would presumably meet their just fate sooner or later. but if you’re wrong – and there is a notable lack of empirical evidence to support your contention – it means they were murdering dissidents in a violent and cruel way. nothing more. a brutish, immoral act of domination.

        • Bono95

          The Catholic Church has never condemned or forbidden capital punishment, but it has always stated that capital punishment must be used only in the case of very bad crimes, that it must be a last resort, and that the methods used must not be excessively cruel. Burning at the stake and beheading were the most common forms of capital punishment in the Middle Ages/Renaissance, and it’s true that they are painful, but they were the least painful of the death penalties available at the time (it hurts a lot less to have one’s head chopped off with one fell stroke than it is to be, say, boiled in oil, made to drink molten metal, or hung, drawn, and quartered.) Also, murder, in the true sense of the word, refers to the deliberate killing of innocent life, be it the life of an unborn baby, a born baby or child, a teenager, an adult, an elderly person, or oneself. Radical heretics and other major criminals are not innocent, they have given up their innocence by committing crimes far more terrible than any just punishment. And if those heretics and criminals had been left unpunished somehow, they would have spread their errors and evils and created even more immoral dominations than any perpetrated by people in the Church or legitimate authorities, Yes, mistakes happened, some innocent people got killed, and some guilty people were punished more cruelly than was necessary, but the mistakes were the fault of weak, ignorant, and/or corrupt individuals within the Church, and not the fault of the Church as a whole. The Church as a whole has always wanted everyone to leave their sinful worldly ways and follow it teachings in order that they might merit eternal happiness in Heaven.

          • Bono95

            If heretics were left to continue in their error, then they would indeed end up in Hell if they died unrepentant, but that’s not what God and His Church want. Jesus said that He came “Not to call the righteous, but the sinners”. The righteous have already heard and responded to the call, but the sinners either haven’t heard it or have ignored it. Part of a Catholic’s job is to call such people, and that’s what those who rounded up heretics did. They informed them that they were in error and strongly encouraged them to repent. And many heretics did repent. Very few stuck out stubbornly to the very end. God is the Lord of 2nd (3rd, 4th, 5th, etc) chances. He doesn’t wait for sinners with a club to beat them up with the instant they commit the slightest wrong, he waits for them with a big hug to embrace them with when they do the slightest good deed or express even the merest inkling of sincere sorrow. Many of the greatest saints in Heaven (St. Paul, St. Mary Magdalene, St. Francis, etc.) were once great earthly sinners who heard God’s call and had a radical change of heart.

          • supineny

            are you just making this stuff up? burning at the stake was never “the least painful of the death penalties available at the time”. some people died quickly, others were reported to have survived quite a while, screaming in pain as their flesh was consumed by flames. it is a particularly savage and sadistic way to kill a fellow man.

            • Bono95

              Well, that part depended on several factors: how much fuel there was, what kind of fuel it was, where the torch was applied, etc. I admit I’d rather be beheaded than burned even if it could be guaranteed that I’d be reduced to ashes quickly, but I’d rather be burned by fire than:
              Boiled in oil
              Have my head slowly crushed with a vice
              Be placed in a metal device that closes in until blood flows from my hands, feet, mouth, ears, and nose
              Placed on top of a spike and crushed on it with an 800 pound block of stone
              Made to drink molten metal
              Have my limbs tied to 4 horses and have the horse gallop off in different directions
              Be fed to the lions/tigers/bears/wolves/leopards
              Be dragged through the city streets, get laughs, insults, and rotten vegetables thrown at me, hung, but not completely strangled, cut down roughly, disemboweled, have my guts thrown into the nearby fire (and maybe get my body cavity stuffed with live coals, have my limbs cut off and thrown into the fire, have my head cut off, parboiled, and mounted on a stake, and what’s left of my body cut into 4 pieces and thrown into the said fire
              Stoned
              Flayed Alive
              Crucified
              Strapped into an electric chair and have my heart explode from the high voltage shot through my body

              That last mode of death is more modern I know, but it doesn’t much less brutal or painful than simple burning.

              • Bono95

                And now that I think about it, is burning a guilty adult more cruel than:

                Poisoning or starving a baby without the mother ever knowing he’s there?

                Sucking a baby out of her mother’s womb with a vacuum device that tears her little pain-capable body to pieces?

                Shoving a pair of forceps into the womb and decapitating and disemboweling the baby with them?

                Injecting saline into the amniotic fluid and inducing labor, and then leaving the tiny infant alone without any medical intervention until she dies?

                Grabbing a baby by the ankles with the forceps and jerking him into a feet downwards position, delivering him up to the head, then cutting a hole at the base of his skull with scissors and sucking out his brain tissue with a machine 29.5 times more powerful than a household vacuum?

                Starving, dehydrating, or lethally injecting an elderly, disabled, and/or terminally ill person?

                (the babies and elderly/disabled/terminally ill people are all innocent of heresy and/or crime BTW)

                • supineny

                  Isn’t that ‘moral relativism’? You’re suggesting that burning people at the stake is not cruel because other methods of execution are worse.

                  • Bono95

                    The degree of cruelty involved in an execution is an important factor, but it is not the only factor and is not morally relativistic. For capital punishment of any sort to be just, it must be used only for the punishment of very serious crimes, it must be used only on someone who has committed a serious crime and who is not repentant, and cruelty must be avoided when possible, and if it can’t be avoided, it must be minimized. The purpose of all punishment, capital and otherwise, is for the common good. Overusing or abusing the death penalty is not good for society, but neither is abolishing all capital punishment and thereby giving bad people incentive to commit crimes without fear of retribution. If a less painful death than burning can be found (beheading, lethal injection, hanging [?], firing squad [?], etc.), then that should be used. If not, then it is permissible to burn a very guilty unrepentant heretic/criminal if it is clear that doing so will protect the common good or that NOT doing so will hinder it.

                    • supineny

                      I charged that burning at the stake was a cruel punishment, and you said, if I may paraphrase, “Yes, but is it any more cruel than [a long list of other things]“. “Why should the Church be judged harshly on this?” you imply. “Everyone else was doing far worse.”

                      That is moral relativism.

                      Anyway, I suspect we can leave this discussion with the conclusion that you and I disagree. No, I absolutely do not think that ‘rejecting dogma’ or ‘misleading others’ are good reasons to execute somebody.

  • Lygeia

    This article was all about watching television. You should just stop watching it. There is a reason why what is on it is called “programming.”

  • vitto

    “even Fox”…. as if Fox represents a higher standard…

  • Robert

    Mass culture can’t be criticized enough. It is disgusting and is destroying what is left of society.

  • zenzen

    I agree today tolerance it’s about making the spread of stupidity a little less painful. The open minded crowd accepts anything but conservative anything, accepts all religions yet have always something against Christianity is for liberty of express but represses the speech that opposes them, hypocrisy at it’s best.

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