We regularly read Neil Steinberg’s column in the Chicago Sun-Times even though we rarely agree with him. He is almost always wrong. Take last Monday when he did an item on “Zealots-R-Us.” He didn’t even turn the “R” around. He was comparing zealots and lumped together PETA for defending cockroaches, pro-lifers for condemning contraception, and Muslims for condemning the Pope.
Steinberg Mocks “Zealots”
While we aren’t very interested in cockroaches, and don’t like Muslims threatening the Vicar of Christ, we think zealots are at least more interesting than the zealot-bashers. There’s a saying that if you haven’t anything you’d be willing to die for, you really have nothing to live for. Steinberg sits in his tower looking down disdainfully at special interests groups and brags about his superiority. But maybe he’s missing something, especially when he sees all zealots as one. In his words:
Nothing is more fun than to watch zealots go off the rails. They try to present themselves as rational, independent-minded persons like yourselves, balanced individuals who have examined our great wide world, weighed their options carefully, then coolly decided to devote their lives to Beanie Babies.
They put up a good front. Then one day their true colors emerge. . . . [L]ast week, three examples of the wild-eyed revealing their true natures. A trio that falls so naturally together it’s hard to believe they represent independent occurrences.
First, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals comes to the defense of cockroaches. Second, abortion opponents turn their gaze eagerly upon contraception. And third, radical Muslims continue their assault on the Catholic Church.
Reminders all, that though extremists might use the language of sense to score a point or gain a convert, they are not like you or me, processing the world based on a complex and sometimes contradictory value system of nuance and intelligence. Rather, they are true believers, holding up the world to their single measure and finding it lacking.
PETA—at its essence—would like all people dead and the world run without our interference. [W]hen Six Flags Great America invited customers to eat live cockroaches to gain quick access to rides[,] PETA sallied to the defense of the roaches.
In the same vein, a group of abortion foes— who in essence are about returning America to the Eden represented by Salem of 1690, where women dressed in black homespun and churned butter—tired of nibbling away at abortion rights, are shifting their gaze to contraception.
You or I might suspect that the ship sailed on that one 40 years ago. But no. They see this as an area where victories are to be had.
Thirdly, as the part of Islam that seems capable of public speech continues lashing out at Pope Benedict XVI and the Catholic Church, howling for further apologies. We non-zealots are reminded anew that past rationalizations for deep Muslim hatred—the existence of Israel, the presence of American soldiers in Saudi Arabia—are just that, rationalizations. The anger and violence are always there, hard-wired into a significant segment of the culture, waiting for any available provocation. . .
Those of us who see the world without the blinders of ideology, who don’t spend our lives trying to jam reality into a particular box, should recognize and welcome these moments of zealous candor on the part of those who, not content with living their own lives, insist on trying to live our lives, too, in the frayed theory that they know best. They do not know best.
Thus Steinberg. Neal and the non-zealots are smarter than the zealot bunch, or maybe they just haven’t found anything yet worth being zealous about.
Some Causes Are Worthy of Zeal
But maybe if the anti-zealots would look into the zealot mind they might see that there are some causes worth the price of zealotry. We’re not into defending cockroaches and we don’t like threats on the Pope, and we’ll let those zealots defend their causes.
But Steinberg’s linking all zealots as one is shallow at best, and when he says the contraception ship sailed 40 years ago he couldn’t be more wrong. What happened 40 years ago is that someone opened Pandora’s box and we got about fifty new venereal diseases, millions of sick women, predator males, fornicating chldren, burgeoning homosexuality, off the charts divorce, abortion on demand, an epidemic of pornography and a godless society.
Had Steinberg looked in on our conference he might have seen what a disastrous plague contraception is. But he didn’t, and he won’t, and he’ll sit there smiling in his tower at funny zealots, never knowing that some of them might know something that would make his silly grin go away—if only he had the wisdom and the courage to take a good look.