[Steve Hays' words will be in blue]
Steve Hays runs the large blog Triablogue. He is one of the most atrocious examples of a Christian apologist to be found online today. It's people like this who give my profession a bad name (I am an apologist myself, after all, so I can get lumped in with pathetic examples of apologists like Steve).
The latest nonsense comes in the aftermath of a dispute where I actually sided in part with Steve Hays, over against a fellow Catholic apologist and a Catholic woman and amateur apologist online, who has followed my work for some time (hence, received my amiable correction). It was implied that he wasn't a Christian, and I said he was (though assuredly a pathetic public example of one: giving Christianity a bad name, as well as apologetics). Then some claims were made that he made an illegitimate reductio ad absurdum argument in reply to what he was being charged with. I disagreed and said his use was quite legitimate, logically and ethically. I defended him in this way because he happened to be right, and his accusers wrong, in these particulars of disputational method.
The woman later apologized, in a great display of humility and Christian charity. That was blown off by Steve and not acknowledged, in two mocking posts (one / two). After I had defended his argument and right to be called a Christian, he had to (inevitably, with him) somehow question my motivation (since I am Attila the Hun and Vlad the Impaler all wrapped into one, in his eyes), so he wrote: "Armstrong’s contribution would have been preferable had he not turned this into yet another pretext for self-aggrandizement. But by hogging the limelight, his intervention now looks purely opportunistic."
I always have to be wrong, simply because the man despises me, and because I defend Holy Mother Church and Catholic doctrine. This is par for the course with all of the most active anti-Catholic Protestant apologists.
Hays is not only a first-rate sophist ("give the devil his due": he is very good at a bad thing), but also a world-class mocker, in the very worst, most obnoxious sense of that term. It's his method of choice now, having apparently tired of seriously slanderous insulting rhetoric. Calling folks "actually evil" (4-13-09) or of "evil character" (1-29-10) or "schizophrenic" and characterized by "wild mood swings" and "emotionally unstable" (4-18-10), and in one classic outburst on 7-16-09: "hypersensitive, paranoid, an ego-maniac, narcissistic, with a martyr and persecution complex . . . self-obsessive . . . self-idolater. . . . singular, autobiographical personality cult" or "a stalwart enemy of the faith. . . . no better than Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens" (1-28-10) -- all of which was directed towards yours truly -- got old, and so now he is trying to use humor to get across his ultra-irrational contempt, and to smear my name and integrity in any, every conceivable fashion that occurs to his oh-so-fertile brain.
Hence, recently, after his fallacious and sophistical arguments were dismantled in a "discussion" about the former Catholicism of the conservative commentator and author Dinesh D'Souza, Hays stepped up his usual mockery, with profound posts at my expense (complete with lots of photos!): "The Dave Armstrong Photo Gallery" (7-28-11), "Split-personality Narcissist" (8-3-11): where I was delightfully described as a "bipolar solipsist", and "Prima Donna" (8-24-11), complete with picture of a ballerina, where he states: "I'll be the first to concede that Dave is not a team player. By definition, a prima donna can't be a team player. Prima donnas don't play team sports." Then we have the follow-up, "Crowd Control" (8-24-11), with this passage-for-the-ages:
. . . Armstrong is so fond of talking about himself that whenever he goes to confession, you have a line stretching all around the block as other parishioners wait their turn while Armstrong updates his priest on the very latest installments in the story of Dave. The police require advance notification to erect barricades and reroute traffic. Concession stands are wheeled in to feed the waiting parishioners. Tents are set up for overnighters. Trapped in the Confessional with the interminable Dave-a-thon, the famished priest must order delivery pizza on his cellphone.
How could I possibly "refute" that, huh?
Now, I figured I could have some fun with the "team player" bit, and so I went into the combox for "Prima Donna" and wrote:
We certainly know that you aren't a team player, Steve, since you defend masturbation so passionately (no pun intended). (8-24-11)
One Dominic Bnonn Tennant (fellow rabid anti-Catholic) replied:
Wow, much as I laughed out loud at that comment, I hope you're going to confess it to your priest. (8-24-11)
I shot back:
Why in the world would I have to confess telling the truth? It was a joke, and all I said, substantively (the serious point underlying the witty remark), was that he defended it, not that he did it himself: a fact that is indisputable. Look it up. (8-24-11)
Hays does do this, as I have documented twice (one / two). Hays has written (it's still on his site now):
I don’t think that Christians should go around guilt-ridden if they engage in this practice. On the face of it, this seems like a natural sexual safety value for single men—especially younger men in their sexual prime. Like learning how to walk or perform other athletic activities, this form of sexual experience and physical experimentation may train an unmarried young man in attaining some degree of mental and muscular control so that he is not a total novice on his wedding night. . . . I can’t say absolutely if it is right or wrong, but I tend to deem it permissible under some circumstances.
("Too hot to handle - 2", 7-15-04)
But us poor "Romanists" must always be conscious in bigoted anti-Catholic environments, that however much we are mocked, we aren't ever allowed to joke back or have a sense of humor, even when it is perfectly ethical and understandable to do so. That's a naughty no-no. As I explained, I was joking, yet it had a serious underlying point: Hays does actually wink at masturbation and at the very least takes a lax view on it, and compromises. It's the classic tendency of the liberalization of traditional sexuality within Christian circles, that we have seen for at least a century now. But I am not allowed to joke, and because I am so despised in Hays' circles of know-nothing anti-Catholic cronies, based on his years of mockery and slander (what else would people think, who follow him?), I receive back a reply like the following, from Dominic Bnonn Tennant:
I see that reports of your willful obtuseness and self-justification are not exaggerated. (8-24-11)
No attempt to actually interact with the claim that I made: that Hays defends masturbation . . .; rather the immediate personal insult, with the obligatory swipe at my supposed unsavory interior motivations. So I came back with this remark:
Right. Hays defends masturbation. If you can't see that, then I am talking to the wind as usual around here. Be well. (8-24-11)
And Hays himself chimes in with the good old standby , when no rational answer is forthcoming: the catholic sex scandal:
Armstrong defends institutional pederasty. (8-25-11)
Ally Matthew D. Schultz enters in at this point, delightfully supporting by personal example the long stereotype of the humorless Calvinist:
I wonder why Dave so regularly raises the issue of masturbation. It clearly wasn't the subject of this post. (8-25-11)
Yes. The "subject" of the post was that I was a "prima donna": like that is to be regarded as a serious topic? LOL But I don't dare joke about it and make a wisecrack about Hays' defenses of masturbation! Then I made a serious reply:
You're the one defending grave sexual sin, Steve, not I. I have never countenanced sexual abuse from priests. I condemn it wholeheartedly as an abomination and an outrage, as my Church did.
[see the lengthy statement on my "Catholic Scandals" page and my posts collecting many articles about it (one / two) ]
There is just as much (usually more) abuse, statistically, among Protestant clergy or any other large institution, as I have documented more than once. [one / two]
But you sit there and defend what has always been regarded as grave sin, by Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants, until recently. Luther doesn't defend it,
[Here's what Martin Luther wrote about Onan and his practice of contraception that is the same in essence as masturbation (ejaculation deliberately separated from any possibility of conception):
Onan must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin. For Onan goes in to her; that is, he lies with her and copulates, and when it comes to the point of insemination, spills the semen, lest the woman conceive. Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed . . . He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred . . . Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . . That worthless fellow . . . preferred polluting himself with a most disgraceful sin to raising up offspring for his brother.
(Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 38-44; 1544; Luther's Works, 7, 20-21) ]
[Here's what John Calvin wrote about Onan, in his Commentary on Genesis:
I will contend myself with briefly mentioning this, as far as the sense of shame allows to discuss it. It is a horrible thing to pour out seed besides the intercourse of man and woman. Deliberately avoiding the intercourse, so that the seed drops on the ground, is double horrible. For this means that one quenches the hope of his family, and kills the son, which could be expected, before he is born. This wickedness is now as severely as is possible condemned by the Spirit, through Moses, that Onan, as it were, through a violent and untimely birth, tore away the seed of his brother out the womb, and as cruel as shamefully has thrown on the earth. Moreover he thus has, as much as was in his power, tried to destroy a part of the human race. When a woman in some way drives away the seed out the womb, through aids, then this is rightly seen as an unforgivable crime. Onan was guilty of a similar crime, by defiling the earth with his seed, so that Tamar would not receive a future inheritor. ]
most historical Protestants have not [folks like, e.g., C. S. Lewis and John Wesley]. But you do.
You can lie all you want about myself, about my church, mock away and make an ass of yourself, and be a reprehensible example of a follower of Jesus Christ. You only hurt yourself. You're not harming my work at all: it is thriving more than ever, with two new book contracts in the works, etc. (8-25-11)
Without missing a beat, Steve "Whopper" Hays (you can see the basis of the richly-earned nickname by now) promptly put up another post in response, where he assumes the false premise (that sexual abuse is sanctioned at the highest level of the Church, and that individual sin is somehow the fault of the entire Church) and quixotically proceeds with his irrelevant analogy:
On weekends, Dave is a Green Peace activist condemning water pollution downstream. During the week, Dave is employed by the factory further upstream that contaminates the water. Dave the loyal company spokesman stoutly defends the polluting factory while Dave the volunteer protester roundly condemns the pollution.
Then he did his usual obfuscation, obscurantism, and sophistry in a further reply in the latest combox thread (8-25-11) -- my interjections in brackets:
When you have no argument, beg the question. [I have documented above how he defends or winks at masturbation] Are you claiming that Evangelical pastors sodomize underage boys at the same rate as Catholic priests? [see the statistics in the two links I listed above, for sexual mischief among non-Catholic clergy. Sexual abuse is a huge problem in society-at-large] When you don’t have an argument, quote tradition.[opposition to masturbation and the related sin, contraception, historically, is a fact, among all Christian groups. I cited as examples, above, Luther, Calvin, Lewis, and Wesley] . . . Since you’re not Lutheran, that’s [citing Luther's opposition] a disingenuous appeal. [it is absolutely irrelevant what I believe, in discussion of known historical facts: folks' positions on this issue] Since you’re not Reformed, that’s [citing Calvin's opposition] a disingenuous appeal. [is Steve truly this dense, to not get this?] You’re resorting to the same peer pressure that liberals and atheists deploy to bully the masses into accepting global warming or naturalistic evolution.[Right. Rather, I am merely noting what all types of Christians have held about sexual morality, until very recently] I’ve never lied about you or your church. However, that raises a striking conundrum: If I lie about a liar like you, or if I lie about your lying denomination, does that double negation mean I’m telling the truth? [its own refutation . . .] As P. T. Barnum said, "There's a sucker born every minute." I see you share his business ethic. [his self-refuting "reply" to my mentioning that my work is thriving despite his relentless attacks upon it]
There is no rational discussion with this guy. I've known that for several years now. This is a prime example of why I refuse to engage in an actual back-and-forth dialogue with anti-Catholics anymore, and have not for over four years now. No true discussion is possible. It's literally impossible. It never is possible when extreme hostility is in play. It's like the difference between an angry quarrel with a spouse, with one party in a rage, and a calm, loving, amiable, pleasant mutually respectful discussion with a spouse. It's like night and day.
But on occasion I like to document and expose for everyone to see, the sort of garbage and ultra-irrational slander and tomfoolery that characterizes anti-Catholic "thinking" online today. Is this the sort of person -- a man who "argues" in such a fashion -- who would make Christianity appealing to you if you were an atheist, or Calvinist Christianity look like a great option to you if you haven't decided what Christian communion has the most truth, or the fullness of truth (as we Catholics say about our Church)?
I utterly despise and detest the methodology that Hays uses and several things that he defends. I don't despise him as a person. By exposing his unethical, shameful tactics, which sadly typify anti-Catholic methodology, then indirectly I am showing that there is a much better way than this rotgut, and that way is Catholicism.
I hasten to add that not all Calvinist (or Reformed Protestants) act this way: not by a long shot. I have several Reformed friends, and many more Protestant friends of other persuasions. But sadly, anti-Catholicism and the usual accompanying bigotry is far too prevalent in Reformed circles: especially online (the Internet seems to bring out the worst tendencies of folks for some reason).
Thus, the present endeavor, tedious though it is, is a legitimate aspect of Catholic apologetics: exposing the unsavory methodological tactics of so many of the enemies of Holy Mother Church. Many misunderstand this, and I will get criticized for this post as I always inevitably do, by folks who don't grasp its rationale and purpose.
I am despised and detested by these sorts of apologists because I defend the Catholic Church and her teaching. Period. If it weren't for that, they wouldn't know me from Adam and I would never cross their minds. I would be perfectly irrelevant. But because I defend Catholicism and critique their garbage (and am publicly known in apologetics circles and to a lesser extent, larger theological circles, as one who does this), they attack me personally and engage in all the usual timeworn smear tactics: standard practice for those who have run out of arguments, ideas, and reasonable discourse. What we see in politics in that regard, we also sadly observe in the Christian world of competing theological truth claims.
* * *
Steve is sadly continuing his mockery; now with yet another attack-post, "Tooting his own horn." He opines (my interjected words in brackets again):
Armstrong is a roided up version of Catholic piety. Incapable of doing any good deed out of purely disinterested concern for others. [Right. As always, Steve knows my interior motivations and every nook and cranny of my heart. Imagine saying about someone else that they don't do "any" deed for the right motives? It's mind-boggling how he cavalierly assumes that he can make such outrageous, unsupported claims. This is "Pharisaic method" x 100. It's wicked. Our Lord Jesus and St. Paul condemn this sort of attitude times without number] When I read his original post correctly defending my use of the reductio ad absurdum (before he had second thoughts and scrubbed the original post), [no "second thoughts" whatsoever; I was respecting the privacy of my Catholic friend, who had apologized; apparently that is a sort of ethics and Christianity that is incomprehensible to Steve; I had to have removed it for unsavory reasons; couldn't possibly be otherwise.] I asked myself, “Where’s the catch? Where’s the hidden fee?” [Again, Hays seems utterly unable to grasp the notion that I did it simply because he was right in that instance, and some Catholics were wrong, and I was defending the truth of the matter, as I saw it. His personal hostility to me (the wicked, "evil" person) is so great that he is almost totally blind when it comes to anything I do. According to his belief in the false doctrine of Total Depravity, he has no option but to think this] And sure enough, it didn’t take long before he dropped by our combox at Tblog to collect tribute. [what tribute? I informed him that a person he was vociferously objecting to had apologized and retracted their position. This should have been good news. But Hays didn't have it in him to accept an apology, because of the rude, boorish ass that he so often is online. Minimal Christian charity was too much to ask of him, I guess] It’s always for the greater glory of Dave. What’s in it for him? That’s the bottom line. [LOL Quite obviously, nothing at all was "in it" for me. I risked offending a fellow apologist; I did in fact cause some pain and consternation in the woman I publicly corrected, which was unpleasant to me. I knew full well from past experience that I would likely be mocked here afresh (precisely what happened). It's ridiculous to think that I thought I would personally gain anything from it, and that this explained what I did. I did it because it was right. Period. End of story.] So naturally he came by, with outstretched palm, demanding reimbursement for his good deed. [this is a total distortion of what happened, and a bald-faced lie. One would think that such continual lying and distorting of facts would become wearisome after a while. But all Hays has (very much like the liberal Democrats today) is insult and calumny, if no rational reply is forthcoming from him. He's trying to make as big a noise and throw enough manure on the wall (at my picture) so that some will eventually stick. But he only harms himself. it doesn't have the slightest effect on anything I do] And, come to think of it, that’s the essence of Catholic piety: “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs.” [leave it to Steve, to utilize a distortion of Catholicism, that was never official teaching, to supposedly describe the "essence of Catholic piety." Thanks for the laughs and comic relief, Steve. That was very rich in both irony and absurdity.]
Not content with this ludicrous piece of sophistry and calumny, Hays waxes eloquently and stupidly in another combox comment:
First of all, masturbation has nothing to do with this post. For some reason, Catholics like Armstrong suffer from a masturbatory fixation. That says a lot about what they have on their minds most of the time.
Yeah, right. I'm a very happily married man, with a beautiful wife whom I adore (and am quite affectionate with!), and four children, yet according to Steve (a single, 50ish guy), I am obsessed with masturbation (as if there would be any need). Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?
I'll repeat it again, s---l---o---w---l---y, so that maybe even Steve will "get it" this time, seeing that he has (for all his vaunted brain power) the most extremely difficult time comprehending the argument or tactics that someone else uses. It was a joke! Got that, Steve? He called me a "prima donna" (to add to his collection of 10,000 other insults through the years) and said I wasn't a team player (he was using as a springboard here certain aspects of the previous controversy over the reductio ad absurdum that he used, and I defended). He used humor; so did I. I "get" his, but I know that the serious charges underneath it (his really believing all this patent nonsense about me) are simply untrue, and I know that his "jokes" aren't funny when they are based on lies, because good humor (especially satire, above all) has to be truth-based in some respect in the end.
He talked about "team player" so I got the idea of making a joke about masturbation, since I knew he has defended that. My joke was funny, because even Hays' buddy Tennant admitted that he laughed at it. But Steve doesn't get it. My joke was based in truth (his views on masturbation), which is exactly why it was funny. But Hays didn't get it, and had no comeback, so he resorted to more insult (including bringing up the ubiquitous sex scandal in the Church) and lied some more, saying I am obsessed with masturbation.
Now, let it be known that I am not saying that Hays himself engages in this sinful practice. Who knows? I don't read minds and know all interior motivations and secret acts of others, as Hays clearly thinks he does. But I confess that I did get a big chuckle over the analysis of Jon the atheist, who wrote on my blog:
I am genuinely baffled that people regard Steve as intelligent. I used to argue at Triablogue prior to being banned and I tried interacting with Steve for a while, but after much effort I finally told him that I would no longer address his criticisms of my statements. He had no ability to actually internalize what I was saying and respond to it in a coherent way.
I honestly concluded that Steve has an unhealthy and unnatural lack of empathy. His inability to walk in someone else's shoes, sympathize, and even understand what a critic would say, in my judgment made discussion with him completely unproductive. I involve myself in online discussions to learn, and to learn you need your critic to understand what you are saying. Steve either could not or would not. So there's nothing to be gained. Why do people read him? I have no clue.
My first inclination regarding his thoughts on masturbation was that it was good to see him defend something like this instead of being so legalistic, as is typical of Reformed Protestants. But having read enough of him and understanding his unnatural lack of empathy it's pretty clear that the only reason he allows devation from legalism in this case is because it's a practice he engages in.
Again, I am not agreeing with his assessment, as to Hays and masturbation, but if Hays insists on positively lying about myself, relative to this issue, then it is fair game for someone else to speculate about him. Hays lies about me and is dead serious; I merely share a chuckle about him, and joke about it: just as in my initial remark that he couldn't stomach and is now trying to spin away so vigorously that he is (physically and intellectually) dizzy as can be.