Do not be fooled by the innocent cover and former Conservative Political Action Coordinator (CPAC) coordinator Lisa De Pasquale’s friendly public persona. Her debut book is actually a time bomb waiting to explode. Hidden within an accessible, page-turner narrative running through the ups and downs of her Washington D.C. dating life are actually some eye-popping revelations and very substantive critiques of a culture in crisis.
Parts of Finding Mr. Righteous reminded me of the Anthony Weiner scandals — older ideological leader uses position of authority, admiration of younger women, and his cell phone to fulfill his teenage boy-level sexual urges. But this is the Right side of the aisle where politics and faith mingle more freely and stories like this one in the Daily Mail this week also came to mind as a parallel: Florida megachurch pastor resigns over accusations. Time and again the charismatic, powerful men preach purity from the pulpit while satisfying their inner pagan in private.
Here’s a passage from page 159 in which “Ryan the Preacher” pulls a Carlos Danger move on Lisa, soliciting her for phone sex:
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One of the more eye-popping passages from Lisa De Pasquale's memoir #FindingMrRighteous. A Christian preacher who publicly praises modesty in women in private seeks dominating phone sex fantasies with vulnerable women who look up to him as a moral leader. Page 159. Controversial stuff coming…
“I also want to give you some orders”?
Why does this keep happening? Is it a defect of Christianity itself? Or is it a particular kind of corrupted Christianity? Or has a secular, primitive attitude crept into the culture of “the Right”? Is “social conservatism” today really just a racket for con artists to make money and find fresh flesh? Or are there just some wolves in sheep’s clothing in an otherwise healthy movement? Is our internet, digital culture a factor in making it easier for men to behave badly? Or is this just inevitable given a supposedly unfixable, fallen human nature? Should we just fold up our hands, dismiss the culture’s debasement as an unsolvable problem, and go back to talking about politics? Lisa takes it to the especially politically incorrect: what role do women themselves play in encouraging unrighteous men to try to seduce them?
Lisa’s book provokes many questions and this post is the beginning of a series to host and encourage a discussion about them. Lisa organizes her book around 7 different men — Chris the Atheist, Joe the Catholic, John the Evangelical, Preston the Quaker, Ryan the Preacher, Adam the Jew, and Brandon the Nondenominational Believer — and how her pursuit of them shaped her own religious journey. I’m going to give each one at least one blog post excerpting from her book and raising a question for debate.
Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie interviewed Lisa in the video interview below and one of his questions seems like a good place to start:
“What is the particular oddity of conservative men?”
“Historiography’s most glaring error has been in its assertion that Judeo-Christianity defeated paganism. Paganism has survived in the thousand forms of sex, art, and now the modern media.” — Camille Paglia, from page 25 of Sexual Personae: Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson:
“Modern culture is far more dangerous than archaic nature or pagan mythologizing and polytheisms ever were.” – Philip Rieff, from page 8 of My Life Among the Deathworks, volume 1 of Sacred Order/Social Order:
This week at PJ Lifestyle Walter Hudson and Susan L.M. Goldberg had an inter-faith dialogue about the role of altruism in religion. Walter offered a Christian take and Susan provided her Jewish perspective.
Christian giving promotes life and health. Altruism promotes starvation and death. Altruism redistributes. Christian giving transacts. Christ’s own words assure us of greater blessing in giving than receiving. Christian giving leaves us better off, not worse. Altruism therefore proves atheistic, as Piper declares. We will never give more to others than God will give to us.
The question of whether or not altruism holds a place in religious life is dependent upon how one defines the structure of their faith: as a business arrangement or a personal relationship. The argument Walter poses is a good one in terms of the welfare state in America. I agree with him that socialist policies should not be promoted as altruistic acts of a benevolent big government. As far as altruism goes in relation to faith, I also agree that God prepares an individual for His purpose in their life and rewards them for their faith. I do, however, question Walter’s contextualizing our personal relationship with God into a business transaction. Before we hasten to view our personal faith in that light, we should bear in mind that the failure of the welfare state was preceded by the transformation of our houses of worship into social halls dedicated to fulfilling our own very non-altruistic needs.
Walter: Love and Altruism Prove Opposite
In my previous piece, I cited the example of a husband buying a bouquet of his wife’s favorite flower with money he would rather spend on something else. That’s altruism, doing something for someone else at the expense of your values. Not only would the husband harbor bitterness from his sacrifice. If his wife learned how he felt about the purchase, she would despise him for it. Why?
We have heard it said that “it’s the thought that counts” when gifts are given. What thought are we referring to? In the case of a bouquet bought for a wife, the thought might be, “I love you and want you to have this symbol of my affection far more than I want the money and time it took to acquire it.” In other words, the wife wants the husband to feel satisfied by her enjoyment of the flowers he bought. It’s transactional. Everyone is better off.
The same applies in our personal relationship to God. 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads:
Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
If God wanted altruistic worshipers, He would not care whether they were reluctant or not.
One intriguing part of Walter and Susan’s dialogue is the way that for both of them they understand God in the terms of a marriage and personal relationship. It makes sense that they would — the Bible is filled with the metaphor of God as a husband and Israel as the unfaithful wife, perpetually falling prey to the seductions and tricks of rival gods who don’t believe in marriage, offering to make them “like God.” And “Altruism” is one of those false gods — it’s the belief that one can transcend the pain of being ourselves through putting others’ needs higher than our own. It’s the worship of others’ happiness instead of the worship of God. An idol.
“What is the particular oddity of conservative men?”
Walter, Susan, Lisa, and anyone else who’d like to join the discussion: am I going too far when I say that for a good number of people “Conservatism” is a form of idolatry? That for others the specific theology of their branch of Christianity or Judaism is their idol? That for others the warm feelings and emotional highs they get from religious participation, pop culture fandom, and sports devotion can substitute for a genuine worship of God? That it’s an easy temptation for secular political and ideological activists to tumble into making their quests more important than a relationship with the Divine?
Page 32 of The Essential Kabbalah by Daniel C. Matt:
Lisa’s memoir is an inspiring journey through her own struggles with the idols she’s worshiped. In future posts I’ll consider an idol-based reading of her book in juxtaposition with other texts and the stories of the day. Recognizing the idol we’re worshiping that’s keeping us enslaved is the first step to picking it up, smashing it, and finding the free life God wants us to have. Lisa’s book collects the fragments of seven of her smashed idols and there’s much we can learn from her. Stay tuned, in future posts I’ll also consider Lisa’s insights alongside two related books I’ve read recently, Kathy Shaidle’s Confessions of a Failed Slut (which Ed Driscoll interviewed her about here today) and Dr. Helen Smith’s Men On Strike…
Updated: Part II now posted, “The Normal Way Godless Men Treat Women“