Matt Walsh’s Missed Opportunity

News: Commentary
by Paul Brock III  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 5, 2023   

Conservative Christian compromise

You are not signed in as a Premium user; we rely on Premium users to support our news reporting. Sign in or Sign up today!

Right-wingers go to war when mainstream conservative values are threatened, but when Christ’s teachings are mocked, their warrior mentalities crumple. Not too long ago, Matt Walsh appeared on The Joe Rogan Experience, the most popular podcast in the world, and — despite what Conservative Inc. says — whiffed on the marriage question. Walsh should have unapologetically proclaimed Catholic truth. Instead, he nervously played defense and left the gospel out of the conversation. 

What Happened? 

On Nov. 7, Joe Rogan interviewed Matt Walsh about his wildly popular documentary What Is a Woman?, which exposed the preposterous philosophy of transgenderism. The two discussed topics like "trans" kids, hormone blockers and genital mutilation for the first two hours of the episode. But then the pair broached a deeper issue: marriage itself. Rogan put the question to Walsh, "When you get away from gender, like, what are the other gigantic divides that you see?" To which Walsh summarily replied, "The life issue, gender, marriage." Rogan then zeroed in on the issue of nuptials, all but cutting Walsh off: "What about, specifically about, the marriage one?" (Rogan's interest in this subject is personal — his parents divorced when he was 5 years old.) In the blink of an eye, Walsh's confidence and wit vanished, and he proceeded to ruin a perfect opportunity for evangelization.

News Report: What Is a Woman?
 

Rogan's curiosity about the nature of marriage opened up an hour-long conversation, a conversation in which the Author of marriage was hardly mentioned. One of Walsh's ex post facto justifications for this omission was that it's not "useful" to explain marriage from a theological perspective to a secular audience. And this seems like a passable excuse at first blush, until you realize that not only did Walsh avoid mentioning God and theology, but he also sidestepped the issue of morality. 

A Cold and Mechanical Description of Marriage

In attempting to explain marriage to an irreligious audience, Walsh adopted the losing strategy of stripping the divine out of matrimony, completely naturalizing the institution. And his reason for doing so seems legitimate, at least initially. According to Walsh, it's unnecessary to make explicit mention of God because "any time you talk about the true definition of marriage, you can't take God out of that; God is there." Fine. The problem is that Walsh did not talk about the true definition of marriage, not even close. Instead, he stated the obvious for over an hour straight. 

Image
A Catholic wedding in progress

For example, at the beginning of their conversation, Walsh asserted the blindingly obvious reality that marriage is "fundamentally a procreative male and female union." Later, Walsh stated, "I believe ... sexual morality is that the sexual act, properly ordered, belongs within the marital bond, which should be reserved for a man and a woman." And finally, pressed by Rogan on what the government should do about so-called gay marriage, Walsh responded, "It's not going to happen, but if it were up to me, I would go back to what it was six, seven years ago, you know, where marriage is definitely this one thing and that's it." Blah blah blah. That was basically the extent of it.

Walsh was (rightly) trying to convince the audience that marriage is meaningless if it's not between a man and woman and ordered towards procreation; but in so doing, he watered down the definition of marriage to such a degree that he gave it a legalistic and robotic feel. He mentioned procreation, but not education; the marital bond, but not the sacrament that holds the bond together; man and woman, but not their proper marital roles as husband-father and wife-mother, respectively. 

Walsh admitted he was caught off guard by the marriage questions, but he's got to do better, especially as a self-professed Catholic. In failing to go deeper into the beauty of marriage and the family (for whatever reason), Walsh's answers were simply insufficient. 

But if omitting the full definition of marriage wasn't bad enough, Walsh fumbled on the gay question as well. 

Walsh's Compartmentalization

Forty-five minutes into their conversation about marriage, Rogan got down to brass tacks on the gay issue, asking Walsh, 

What if you have gay people ... they meet other gay people; they love each other; they want to have sex — they should avoid that because of what? Because it's written somewhere? Because at one point in time, someone believed that God told them that they shouldn't have sex with other men?

Walsh gave the predictably safe response: "Now we're in the realm of a moral conversation. And that's my moral view." Well first off, no, Matt, it's the moral view that homosexual acts are evil; it's not just your moral view. But beyond that, one cannot separate morality from any human act, which is what Walsh admitted to in his response. 

Moral value inheres in the natural law. So in the final analysis, everything that flows from the natural order implicates right and wrong, goodness and evil, being and privation. It's to this end that Pope Pius XII once stated, "The social and economic orders cannot be divorced from the moral" (Address of July 16, 1947). Putting a finer point on it, Pope John Paul II wrote in Veritatis Splendor, "A doctrine which dissociates the moral act from the bodily dimensions of its exercise is contrary to the teaching of Scripture and Tradition" (§49). Of course, the sexual act is not exempted from this paradigm — quite the opposite. And it's ironic that Rogan (an agnostic) intuited this better than Walsh (a Catholic), evidenced by his connecting the widespread disdain for sodomy to theology in his "gotcha" question to Walsh.

The social and economic orders cannot be divorced from the moral.

In Rogan's attempt to paint sodomy as reasonable, he simultaneously took a jab at Christianity as a whole, making jokes about Sacred Scripture and God's active will. This was a perfect opportunity for Walsh to feel the fire of righteous indignation, square up and then discourse finely on the immorality of homosexuality, the definition of love, and the purpose of the marital act. But Walsh squandered it, repeating ad nauseam what he'd already said: "We should be open to life. Sex has a procreative element. ... That's sex when it is properly ordered." Basically, a smattering of uncompelling canned points.

All in all, Walsh's compartmentalization resulted in another "defense" of marriage, wherein sodomy was never condemned as the obviously disgusting and degenerate act that it is, the "born that way" myth wasn't explicitly refuted and the oxymoron "gay marriage" wasn't rebuffed on the spot.

Walsh did what all Catholics seem to do in the spotlight: He chose his conservatism over his Catholicism. He chose to be a nonchalant diplomat instead of a zealous evangelist. 

Church Teaching on Evangelization and Defending the Faith 

Catholics have the fullness of the Christian Faith. And because of this, every Catholic is called to be an ambassador of that Faith, regardless of his position or state in life. This is a far loftier responsibility than most people would suppose. 

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, lay Christians have a duty "to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth" (¶900). And it goes even further: "In situations that require witness to the faith, the Christian must profess it without equivocation" (¶2471, emphasis added). In other words, there's a moral obligation to share the light of truth in a relativistic world.

Image
St. Paul Preaching
in Athens
, by Raphael, 1515

On this specific point, Doctor of the Church St. John Chrysostom challenges Christians: "We call a man's attention to a stain upon his clothes, but we do not tell him of stains upon his soul; which, if not washed away, will be his eternal ruin."

Evangelization, therefore, is not an option for Catholics. Rather, it's the mark of our authenticity and faithfulness. And that was surely the identity of the first Christians, who were "not ashamed of the gospel," (Romans 1:16) and "did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ" (Acts 5:42). 

It can be said that evangelization, which is the zealous proclamation of the gospel in order to bring others to Christ and His Church, is the distinctive mark of the true Christian. And it's worth noting that one of the chief fruits of Holy Communion is "a spiritual joy, which effects in the recipient an impulse to a joyful defense of Christ, and to a joyful acceptance of the duties and sacrifices of the Christian life" (Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, ed. James Bastible, trans. Patrick Lynch, fully revised ed. [Freiburg, Germany: Verlag Herder, 1952; London: Baronius Press, 2018], 419, emphasis added). 

Missed Opportunities 

During the conversation on gay "marriage," Rogan spewed his absurd and sacrilegious beliefs virtually every time he opened his mouth. And Walsh never competently checked him.

For instance, Rogan said at one point, "They're just gay. And if those gay people find other gay people and they fall in love, and they decide to get married, I don't see how that affects anyone." Walsh could have corrected three errors in that statement alone: (1) people are born gay; (2) gay people can authentically be in love; (3) such a thing as "homosexual marriage" exists. But Walsh didn't correct Rogan, at least not in any meaningful way. And the podcaster's errors were allowed to prevail. 

Because Walsh admitted that he wasn't operating "in the realm of a moral conversation," he countered Rogan with a worldly, utilitarian argument, merely pointing out that gay "marriage" has a negative effect on a societal level: "When you have this happening on a massive societal scale, and you have a society that has embraced this, and has officially embraced the idea that marriage is not permanent ... marriage is not procreative ... that's where the effect comes in." 

That quote for all intents and purposes encapsulates Walsh's entire defense of marriage. That's it. That's the content that caused Conservative Inc. to veritably exult over Matt Walsh's appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast. And yes, the chorus of praises rang out loudly.

Lila Rose, for example, tweeted out, "Thank you, @MattWalshBlog, for being unapologetic that marriage is between one man & one woman."

Ryan Anderson rejoiced, "Outstanding! Kudos to @MattWalshBlog for this clear explanation and defense."

Following suit, Megan Basham exclaimed, "@mattwalshblog just gave a bolder defense for biblical marriage than many evangelical pastors would."

The bar can't get much lower.

What kind of responses would actually merit such high praise? How about, "Homosexual acts are dehumanizing, immoral and degenerate on the natural level. These kinds of acts are 'contrary to the natural law,' 'intrinsically disordered' and of 'grave depravity' (Catechism of the Catholic Church, ¶2357). How about something touching on the Church's unchanging teaching on patriarchy, the domestic nature of women and the wickedness of divorce?

Simply putting on repeat the fact that marriage is between a man and woman is hardly unapologetic, clear or bold. It's self-servingly working within the extant Overton window, at the expense of truth. 

If Walsh would have gone deeper and stated that "the husband is the chief of the family and the head of the wife" or that "motherhood is woman's vocation" or that "divorce is a grave offense against the natural law," this may have actually needled the consciences of viewers, perhaps even pushing them to change their lives. This could prove transformative for society. Many dysfunctions can be sourced to a breakdown in familial life. Homosexuals and "transexuals," for instance, often hail from disordered homes wherein the father is absent or emasculated, the mother takes on the role of the father, or the two abandon their vows and leave the children to grow up bereft of two-parent stability. And in the words of Abp. Fulton Sheen, the Christian family "is the environment in which love solves personality problems."

But this stalwart transparency is antithetical to mainstream conservatism. And as a result, such a Catholic response wouldn't get the approval of Lila Rose, for example, who promotes feminism. 

Conclusion

Walsh was comfortable arguing against certain flavors of perverse act, but he was on his heels when confronted about the specifics of marriage. This is no surprise, as conservatives are united on the point that men cannot become women, whereas they're divided on the true nature of marriage. Perhaps Walsh should embrace his Catholicism more than his conservatism. That way, he won't compromise in the future.

Paul Brock holds an undergraduate degree from Hillsdale College and a master's degree (magna cum laude) in moral theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. Paul has worked as the producer of Church Militant's Mic'd Up program for the past three years, and also has four years' experience as a high school coach in the archdiocese of Detroit. 
--- Campaign 31877 ---

 

Have a news tip? Submit news to our tip line.


We rely on you to support our news reporting. Please donate today.
By commenting on ChurchMilitant.com you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our comment posting guidelines