“This Dangerous Book”: by the founders of the Museum of the Bible

I visited the Museum of the Bible in Washington DC near Federal Center SW on the first day of Winter, Dec. 21, and after the visit noticed the book by Steve and Jackie Green, founders of the museum, in the museum gift shop. The title, on a brown dust jacket, caught my attention. That is, “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World, and Why It Still Matters Today”.

My first thought was that Milo Yiannopoulos titled his book “Dangerous” and names his own publishing company that (he has published Pam Geller), and now his own main website, that.  In terms of world history, the Bible is a lot more dangerous than Milo’s work!  I really wondered if this title duplication was more than a coincidence.  As a matter of law, titles cannot be copyrighted, and normally they only become trademarked if they become a series.  (That raises a question about my own “Do Ask, Do Tell”). Business company names (like publishing companies) normally can be trademarked.  So sometimes their accompanying domain names are, too.

Steve and Jackie are part of a larger family, David’s, that founded the Hobby Lobby, which became controversial in refusing to cover the “morning-after pill” for employees claiming it was an abortifacient. So here we go, into the area of how much religious beliefs should affect your treatment of other people (like employees) on their private decisions.

The Museum is quite objective and neutral, covering both Judaism and Christianity well, but Islam much less because Islam has its own texts.

The book is partly about the history of Biblical codices and manuscripts (through the significance of the innovation of the printing press), and partly about the Green family’s own journey of faith and perspective on it.  The Green’s talk about their early life expenses of debt, and how it is hard to avoid when you have five children. (Note: single people, and in the past, many gays, tended to taken on fewer responsibilities for others that can lead to debt.  That’s changing with longer life spans, demographics, eldercare, and marriage law.)  Later they talk about prayer in whether to adopt a child from China, which turned out to be tricky legally.  The oldest natural sibling seemed to think that the parents were morally obliged to try to do so.  This is emotionally a close-knit family, in a way that I haven’t experienced.

I recall a particular moment, the first time I entered my tenth grade English classroom in September 1958, and saw a lot of classic books on a shelf, with a young adult male teacher. (Yes, he had played football but he was academically very well prepared.  This reminds me of a college athlete I met on a Metro in 2014 as he read a philosophy text.  Yup, a lot of “jocks” really are smart, too.  And that happened about the time of GWU’s annual Day of Service.  A lot flashes through the mind.)  Ever since then, I’ve wondered if some books deserve to be thought of as “good” and having more credibility to be believed by the public than others.  I can wonder that about my own “Do Ask Do Tell” series.

I can recall a 90’s book, “The Good Book” (legacy review), by African-American Harvard religion professor Peter Gomes, who also describes his coming out as gay.  I remember reading this book when I wrote my own first DADT book.

So then, I ponder, as the Green book explores, do you look at the Bible as a source of authority on moral judgements?  The Greens get into that, and try to maintain some flexibility.  The assorted literary forms in the Bible (especially New Testament letters) add to the authority.  (The remarks about John’s account of the Revelations seem particularly challenging.)  But for Christians this comes down to a personal “relationship” with and faith in “Him”.

Consider this: for most of my life, Jesus has usually been depicted visually as a slender, physically fit young adult white male.  As a gay white male myself, that image is what I would tend to want “upward affiliation” (to borrow a term from George Gilder) with. Suppose I encounter a young adult white male somewhat like an extension of the teenage Clark Kent in the WB “Smallville” series.  What if the individual shows “powers”.  Actually, I can think of two such persons now.   No, I won’t identify them (and, Milo, sorry, he’s not you). I am very careful about my connection to such a person, not wanting to blow it.  For example, nothing gets carried out on social media (so far). (As far as I’m concerned, we don’t know that “Smallville”, with the help of a nearby wormhole to deal with the speed of light, is impossible.  The legal rights of personhood for an “alien” like Clark Kent would an interesting question for the courts, and challenging to Donald Trump.  We have not treated orcas well.)  But a “Clark Kent” would never ask anyone to drop everything an “follow me”.

For someone who lived and experienced his own personhood at the time of Christ however, the miracles, including resurrection and ascension, would seem to be unchallenged and ultimate factual truths. There would be no other frame of reference for knowledge, like modern physics and cosmology. And there could be no nuclear weapons. No dependence on technology to be wiped away by an enemy with some unprecedented act.

I want to note with some interest that the authors consider the course of American history as underlined by the contents of the Bible, from the American revolution (they even make observations about the end of the French and Indian Wars) to the story of Amistad (the book and 1997 film by Steven Spielberg, legacy review), two decades before the War Between the States.

Here is my legacy review of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” (2002). The problem is, sometimes, it really needs to be “about me.”

Author: Steve and Jackie Green, with Bill High; Foreword by Rick Warren
Title, Subtitle: “This Dangerous Book: How the BIBLE Has Shaped our World and Why It Still Matters Today”
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-0-310-35147-4
Publication: Zonervan (Harper Collins); 5 Parts, 18 Chapters, 251 pages, hardcover (also audio and ebook); many color photos and color maps.
Link: publisher 

(Posted: Friday, January 5, 2018 at 1:34 PM EST)

Milo’s “Dangerous”

I had to read “Dangerous”, by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos (aka Milo Hanrahan, aka Milo Andreas Wagner as a previous pen name) off my Kindle. The first print run (apparently 100,000(?) copies, self-published under the trademark “Dangerous Books”) sold out before Amazon could ship to me, so I forked out an additional $2.99 to get it now. I hope others will buy my “Do Ask, Do Tell” series on Kindle. In the meantime, I’ll just wait for my hardcover copy when it gets printed in a second run.

OK, I’m getting ahead of myself already. There is a lot of commonality between what Milo says and what I say in three books, even if the organization and expressive style is very different. But this is almost like a “Do Ask, Do Tell V” book (the first three are mine, and then a sketched out a IV online in 2016 here).

Remember, Simon and Schuster had cancelled trade publication of his book after the “scandal” Feb. 20 over supposed advocacy of “pedophilia.” In fact, the correct term is probably ephebophilia, or perhaps hebephilia. There is a curious parallel to an incident in my life regarding Google-finding materials on my own website when I was working as a substitute teacher in late 2005, which I’ve discussed on these blogs before. The new version of this book contains Milo’s explanation of this matter in the introduction. I am certainly convinced that Milo said or did nothing to suggest approval of illegal sexual activities with minors, although the age of consent varies among western countries and even among states in the U.S. (and in some states, like California, it is still as high as 18).

I didn’t find a table of contents on the Kindle, so it’s a little clumsy to verify, but there seem to be twelve chapters. The first ten are based on “Why (Identity Group n) Hates Me”. The last two are based on who does like his message (like GamerGate).

This may seem like a self-indulgent way of presenting one’s argument. I am reminded of how Gustav Mahler titled each of the last five movements if his massive Symphony #3 “What (X) Tells Me”. I’m also reminded of Pastor Rick Warren’s “The Purpose-Driven Life” (2002), where the minister argues “It’s not about you.” But for Milo it is. But given the history of violent reactions of foreign-organized protestors at some of Milo’s events (his “Dangerous Faggot” tours), which he discusses toward the end of the book, it seems appropriate.

I’d like to note the comparison of they way Milo organizes his material to how I did I started the first DADT book with an autobiographical narrative, in time sequence filled with ironies, motivated by the debate on gays in the military and how it had intersected into my life. Then I switched over to topical discussion as my issues fanned out. The second book was a series of topical essays, focused mostly on two themes: a “Bill of Rights II” in the context of 9/11. Book 3 reiterated the autobiographical narrative and added some topical fiction pieces. But, yes, a lot of this was “about me”. But my scope was always expanding into more areas.

So, I’ve always been concerned with the central question, of how someone who is “different” aka “special” should behave in the face of collective social pressures (to conform to the norms of the peer group and to “carry one’s weight” or share of the common risk). That concern can be discerned from Milo’s material. My driving and organizing principle was “personal responsibility” but I had to constantly enlarge upon what that means. It involves a lot more than facing the direct consequences of one’s choices. Dealing with stuff that happens “to me” has to start with “me” (so, it matters if people “hate” me). But I realize this can become “dangerous” (Milo’s wordmark) if overdone, and invite political authoritarianism, which is exactly what is testing America and western Europe right now. So, in a broader sense, “the people” matters too. My father always used to say, “The majority has rights, too.”

The end result is that Milo’s book, if moderate in length, seems monumental. In reviewing his list of “enemies” (and, by the way, I was told in my college years that “you have a tendency to make enemies”) he covers a wide range of important incidents.

The list of people he encounters comes across like Chaucer characters (indeed “A Canterbury Tale” is one of my own favorite classic films). He covers Shaun King, the civil rights activist claiming to be “black”. He gives a reasonable defense of the police in Ferguson MO in considering Michael Brown’s behavior (“Why Black Lives Matter Hates Me”). He goes into some detail over how he got banned from Twitter (Breitbart account) over supposedly encouraging retribution against (the remade) “Ghostbusters” actress Leslie Jones, where he says he was set up, (Indeed, “Why Twitter Hates Me”. He gives a curious defense of Martin Shkreli in the HIV drug fiasco (and Shkreli has since been prosecuted on other matters).

In explaining why mainstream gays hate him (he thinks, I’m not sure they do) he takes up the case of writer Chadwick Moore. He delves into the moral dualism of male homosexuality in a way that reminds me of George Gilder (“Men and Marriage”, 1986), considering it somehow unnatural as counter to procreation – yet, he says, gay men usually are thinner, smarter, richer and more successful than straight married men, partly because they (the straights) are weighted down with a family to support or wives to pamper and cook for them. He sees gay marriage as illogical – needing the idea of traditional marriage, with all its self-surrender (“the two become one flesh”, etc) in order to have something to stand apart from. I know the feeling and covered the same sentiments in my own books – equality cuts both ways, when you don’t have dependents.

Ironically, he worships himself and certain other gay men as shamans or perhaps angels. (If you could be immortal, you wouldn’t need to reproduce – there is a jellyfish that actually does this by going through regression, as in “The Curious Life of Benjamin Button”. Unfortunately, the teenage Clark Kent in “Smallville” is presented as straight (not sure what kind of kids he could rather). Psychologists call his style of relating to people personally as “upward affiliation”. That was an issue when I was a patient at NIH in the later part of 1962, where I was diagnosed as “schizoid”. I just didn’t get much of intimacy with others (anticipation of the “family bed”) unless the partner would be perfect enough. But I was seen as possibly indicative of a dangerous trend accompanying the newly nerdy science and bookishness of the Cold War era – a slipping back into a perception that a personal level some people would no longer matter if they didn’t stay perfect enough. What had we just fought World War II about two decades before? Body fascism?

But the early chapters do present a convincing read on why Milo feels so repelled by the authoritarianism of the far Left, and its trying to pimp victimhood and draw everyone into identity politics, demanding loyalty to political leadership to speak for them as marginalized minorities. Milo particularly explains the idea of “intersectionalism” or “intersectionality”, a concept that author Benita Roth took for granted in her book on ACT UP which I reviewed here June 14.

Indeed, the Left often wants to suppress clear and objective independent speech from its own constituent individuals, because the Left fears that brining up complete arguments just gives fuel to its enemies and rationalizes “oppression” against less competitive individuals. I share this concern myself (as I outlined particularly in Chapter 3 of my own DADT-3 book). In this regard, Milo minces no words in reaffirming “fat shaming”, that obesity is unhealthful as aesthetically ugly (or is beauty if the eyes of the beholder – like in that 1970 song “everything’s beautiful in its own way” – although the early Nixon-laden 1970s were also a time when machete jokes about beer bellies were socially acceptable sometimes). I’ll add that I had named Chapter 2 of my DADT-3 book “The Virtue of Maleness”, a notion many would find oppressive (like to “trannies” or “gender fluid” people). Milo almost comes to making my point, that in the past many people saw open male homosexuality as a distraction for other men from trying to father children at all – which is one reason why Russia passed its anti-gay propaganda law in 2013.

In developing the duality of his own attitude toward his own homosexuality, Milo mentions one of his favorite authors, books, and films: “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde.  I rather like the idea of seeing more in a fixed image of one of my own “idols”.  I read it myself in 12th Grade for a book report (as I also read H. G. Wells’s “Meanwhile” and Nevil Shute’s “In the Wet“).

One of the last chapters is why “Muslims Hate Me” and this chapter is the darkest one. He indeed sees all Islam as radical Islam, and sees Islam as by definition political and seeking to impose itself on non-Muslims. He gives particular attention to the assassination of the staff of Charlie Hebdo (in January 2015, ten months before the 11/13 Paris attacks) and views the Jyllens-Posten Cartoon Controversy the same way as free speech advocate Flemming Rose (“The Tyranny of Silence”), as dealing with a consciously and deliberately combative culture that sees enemies everywhere.  Milo points out that Charlie Hebdo  (don’t confuse with l’Hebdo, which has stopped) had been a relatively small publication, so radical Islam was willing to put it in the  limelight (“Je suis Charlie“) by attacking it, which sounds like an self-defeating irony to a western person.  Think about North Korea (“The Interview“) the same way.

Milo denies he is part of the “alt-right”, no less a leader of it, and denies any belief in racial superiority of any group. (He dates black men, he says.) He gets into the misuse of the “Pepe the Frog” meme.  He denies that he is a libertarian, but he seems like a “moralistic libertarian” to me, somewhat like Charles Murray (who has also been the target of attacks at speaking engagements). He considers “troll” a desirable label, and his advice to young men is to become hot. We’re seeing personal attitudes privately held in the gay male community for decades going public online, and suddenly perceived as hurtful.

I can certainly imagine this book as a documentary movie, although it might take a strident course like some of Steve Bannon’s Citizens United films.  By comparison, my own narrative seems even more personal and ironic, but indeed filled with instructive twists.  But I would be interested in working on a documentary about gay conservatives if someone wanted to film Milo’s book (and not yet do mine). There is a 2004 documentary “Gay Republicans” (legacy review).

Author: Milo Yiannopoulos
Title, Subtitle: Dangerous
publication date 2017
ISBN 978-0692893449
Publication: self; 288 pages, endnotes, 12 chapters
Link: Milo’s site

(Posted: Thursday, July 13, 2017 at 5:30 PM EDT)