You may have heard by now, but Andrew Sullivan got his lunch eaten by Hugh Hewitt on the radio today. Sullivan got caught in the usualy contradictions - i.e. how Sullivan could be opposed to judicial activism except when it comes to gay marriage, how he comes across as a tendentious fundamentalist in his attacks on fundamentalism, how he can be sure of anything if he says everything is in doubt, etc. - but the exchange that landed my jaw on the mat was this:
HH: I just wanted to get…make sure that the audience understood that you were occasionally a happy guy.
AS: I’m extremely happy right now.
HH: Page 176…
AS: I’m very happy fighting back against ideologues and fanatics.
HH: Page 176…
AS: It gives me great joy to do so.
HH: Plato is telling us…you’re talking about from the Republic, the myth of the cave. Plato was telling us that seeing the truth is not completely beyond us. A few can wrestle, writes Andrew Sullivan, have wrestled themselves free of the bondage of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, self-interest, passion and misunderstanding, that human thought is err to. But this is rare. A Socrates or Jesus, or Mohammed, or Einstein, does not come every day. Andrew Sullivan, do you think that Mohammed and Einstein wrestled themselves free of illogic, prejudice, sentiment, bias, self-delusion, fear, passion?
AS: I think they certainly did so more than you or I, Hugh, don’t you?
HH: Well, but you’re holding them up as a standard for the ages.
AS: I’m saying that the part of that book that I’m talking about is how truth…I mean, what is…and the great question that Pilate asked, what is truth? The truth is not quite as easy and as simple as we sometimes think it is. And the truth about everything, the meaning of the whole universe, is something that is, by definition, very hard for humans to grasp. I mean, God, if God exists, must, by definition, be unknowable to us. So that anybody who claims they know exactly what God is, what His position is on the capital gains tax, that he’s a Republican or a Democrat, is just telling you they don’t know God, that there is a critical part of faith which must accept the ineffability of the Divine. And what I find very troubling about today’s…some of today’s, not everybody, but some of today’s fundamentalists is their absolute certainty not only about what God is, but their right to tell other people how to live their lives, according to their view of what God is.
HH: But do you think Socrates…
AS: The lack of humility among these people is staggering.
HH: …Jesus and Mohammed are all on the same plane morally?
AS: No, but they’re all part of the same search for this great truth about the meaning of our lives, and the meaning of the universe.
HH: And did one of them…
AS: And different people will accept…I’m writing this book for anybody, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, agnostic.
HH: So they’ve all got part of the truth?
AS: Everybody’s searching for the truth, yes. And the thing about truth is that there can be shades of it. You can capture a part of it, but not the whole of it. That’s what philosophy is about.
HH: I’ll be right back.
AS: That’s what faith is about.
Now, the part that made me once and for all feel sorry for Sullivan, to realize that there may indeed be a resentment so deep or a sex-obsessed acitivism so shrill that it has lapsed into dementia, was when Sullivan, supposedly a Catholic, favorably quotes Pontius Pilate. It’s one of the most famous scenes in the Bible, and perhaps my favorite. Christ is brought before Pilate. Pilate asks, “Are you a king?” Christ answers: “For this I was born and for this I came into the world: to bear witness to the truth. Those who hear my voice hear the truth.” Pilate cynically retorts, “What is truth?”
I can only repeat what I saw from a blogger a few days ago: what the hell kind of catechism did they give Sullivan? I mean, one of the most dramamtic and pivotal scenes in the Bible, a scene where Jesus declares that he himself is the truth and that those who hear him hear the truth, is neutered by Sullivan until only “the great words of Pilate” are brandished as, well, the truth. Pilate, the original sophisticated urban nihilist, is held up as a model while Christ himself, whom Andrew the Catholic claims so piously to speak for, is pushed back to the shadows.
Please. Somebody stop him before he interviews again. Now he’s making not only himself but every teacher he ever had look like a fool.
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