It appears one of his students left a Shepard Express laying around in nut-right Marquette professor John McAdam’s classroom last week. No doubt this is not an uncommon occurrence on Thursdays; the Shepard and McAdam’s lectures being what they are or, rather, what they are not. The student needs something to glance at to stay awake during the class and immediately abandons the always-disappointing rag at the sound of the class period bell. One man’s lame effort to shape Milwaukee opinion becomes another man’s litter. And that man’s litter becomes McAdam’s rant-fodder.
McAdams breathlessly reported over the weekend that comedian Bill Maher is coming to town in a show sponsored by American TV. McAdams is outraged that Maher would be invited to our fair city because he read all this stuff from catholic crazy man Bill Donohue and others on the right-religious fringe that Maher said this or that and that he was an anti-Christian "bigot". This was too much for the professor, who promises not to darken the showrooms of American ever again. Charlie Sykes was so impressed with McAdams’ dark victimhood, he even decided to highlight and quote the screed on his vanity blog, although he failed to say whether he would sign on to McAdams brave but lonely boycott (radio advertisers being who they are and such).
Apparently, McAdams undies are in a bundle over a couple of things Maher has said on his excellent Real Time show on HBO, which, after all, has as its purpose discussing controversial topics. This has been Maher’s forte since his Politically Incorrect show on ABC. On that show, a couple of days after 9/11, he said: "We have been the cowards, lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly." The truth not being a defense in that place and at that time, he was fired and found a home at HBO, where he continues to play his role as agent provocateur, this time with naughtier language and no commercials. Along with Lewis Black and Chris Rock (sorry, George), he is one of the best political comedians working today.
When he's not telling jokes, Maher is a fairly mainstream progressive on most topics (or not – he actually supported the Iraq invasion for a short time), but religion, marijuana legalization and meat-eating are his pet peeves – the things that get him off even if his guests won’t follow him there. His religious views are nothing you haven’t heard and read from pop atheist best-sellers Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins, both of whom make regular appearances on Real Time. Once you cast off the protective veneer of taboo that insecure religionists hope would prevent all honest discussion of religion, its illogic and the pain and misery it has visited on the world through the years, the whole Sky God thing is a fairly big and easy target.
Saying Christianity is "a dress-up cult that hates sex and worships magic" is not all that outrageous or even very original. And again, there is that fact check: A dress-up cult? Did you see the Pope?...Hates sex? Well, if you don’t, aren’t you supposed to?...Worships magic? Well, what else would you call the claims of a "miracle" that are necessary for sainthood? The Pope really did used to be a Nazi. There really was sexual abuse going on, which was hidden and protected by the paternalistic "religious cult" of the church.
The vast majority of Christians take these remarks for what they are worth and appreciate that, on Real Time, they are usually said in front of someone on the panel that will defend the religionist prerogative. Nobody ever "wins" and argument on Real Time, they just have one. But defensive religionists like McAdams don’t even want these matters discussed. If they could find out whether he floated on water, they would burn Maher at the stake as a witch. As it is, they have their perpetual campaign to get him fired from HBO and now, apparently, to make businesses afraid to sponsor his popular comedy tours. Taking this new approach is a bit of a surprise, but then, nooobody expects the Spanish Inquisition....
At the heart of McAdam’s diatribe, however, is a fundamental misunderstanding of what Maher says and what real bigotry is. Maher has a "hatred of Christians", squawks McAdams, which is ridiculous. Taking issue with religion generally and the Christian or Catholic faith specifically is different from going after the followers, although, admittedly, the more devout are bigger targets and most easily offended because of the kind of enormous insecurity evident in McAdams’ shut-him-up demands. Maher's comments have much more to do with Christianity than with Christians; much more with the leadership than the flock.
I'm sure Maher assumes that the vast majority of people he meets and works with are involved in some of the religions or spiritual organizations he attacks and mocks. To say that he is "bigoted" towards them personally is ludicrous. But that's the impression McAdams, Sykes and their fellow travellers have to try to leave to protect the religious leadership, the zealots and themselves from rational skepicism and historic accountability. They don't have a problem with Bill Maher -- they have a problem with the truth.
I've seen Maher in concert before and he is brilliant in that format. All this pretend "controversy" makes me want to go see him again this time. Then maybe I'll go out to American and get me a new couch.