#29: How Art Became a Tool for Political Correctness With Sohrab Ahmari


Iranian-born atheist Sohrab Ahmari has had an unlikely path to the Catholic Church, He announced his intentions to convert upon learning that Father Jacques Hamel was murdered on the altar of his quiet Normandy parish church in July 2016, and was received into the Church some months later.

Ahmari is a London-based editorial writer and editor for the Wall Street Journal, and he has a new book that will help you understand how modern art (really post-modern, but you knew that) became corrupted by identity politics and hard Left messaging. The book is titled The New Philistines and if you’re looking for the answer as to why beauty is not (primarily) in the eye of the beholder, this is a conversation worth hearing. Theatre, movies, books, painting, even architecture: art is now mainly driven by PC-driven concerns.

So much of contemporary art is ugly, politicized, and incoherent. And that’s supposed to be its charm!


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Open invitation to Steven Crowder

Dear Steven:

A fellow Canadian here (grew up in Halifax, went to grad school at McGill). I first saw you in the Fox News days and have appreciated your blend of comedy chops and conservative worldview. (Very few people doing that.) The fact that you’re a pro-life Christian who makes no bones about it adds to the esteem. Plus, we have a couple of show guests and friends in common.

About your call to invite on Catholics to “convert you,” for a Catholic to bring a dogma and papacy show onto Louder With Crowder strikes me as analogous to the famous atheist publicity stunt of paying a Christian a million dollars if he can prove the existence of God. Of course, no evidence quite suffices, so the atheist doesn’t have to pay a dime.

Much more effective, it seems to me, is if you approached the issue from the opposite direction. Come on my show and tell me why you’re not Catholic.

That is, if you’re serious. If I announced a “#convertcoffinweek” on The Patrick Coffin Show and invited Protestants to come on to convert me away from the Catholic Faith, my audience would know I was being glib.

For almost eight years, as host of Catholic Answer Live, along with our crack guests, I explained and defended the teachings of the one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church with callers of every imaginable faith, or none at all. I’m very familiar with the standard Protestant misunderstandings of Catholicism and how to resolve them.

My only caveat is an admission: I can’t convert you. No one can – on or off the air. Conversion is wrought by the Holy Spirit. And if some Catholics told you were “hell bound” if you don’t become Catholic, or that “if you were reallllly a truth seeker, you’d be Catholic,” well, that’s regrettable. Those are stupid things to say.

While we’re definitely allies in the broader culture war, truth matters. So regardless of whom you dialogue and debate, mad props for opening the door to the conversation. Not long before He died for our sins, Jesus prayed a prayer that will be answered one day if we don’t throw obstacles in His way: “Father may they be one as you and I are one” (John 17:21). We all know what Jesus said from reading the Gospels. The thing is: what did He mean, who’s to say, and what am I going to do about it?

We can even dialogue publicly, in writing, and post on our respective blogs. Up to you.

Your brother in Christ,




Catholics Cannot Be Pacifists

There is a romantic wistfulness for the pacifist cause. Last year’s Mel Gibson’s excellent film Hacksaw Ridge depicted the heroic actions of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist who conscientiously objected to taking up a firearm during World War II. Gary Cooper played World War I pacifist sharpshooter Alvin York in the highest grossing film of 1941, Sergeant York.

Part of the wistfulness may be rooted in the desire for some ideal “Super-Christian” who is so profoundly devoted to the Prince of Peace that he refuses to arm himself against any threats from a violent aggressor. He rather leaves his fate to God’s will, a kind of Gandhian striving for absolute non-violence.

But Catholics cannot be pacifists, at least not at the level of principle or doctrine.

I got a letter from a listener to my show recently. The gentleman chided me because I advocated the killing of ISIS combatants, and he wrote with sadness that “he would become a Catholic except that the Catholic Church justifies war.”

Better a sad non-Catholic than a compromised Catholic. For the Church does not sanction pacifism and has a rich tradition known as just war doctrine (not, as some put it, “just war theory”) The conditions for a just war are laid down in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, starting in no. 2308.

Pacifists often turn to the Fifth Commandment to justify their position, asking, “What part of Thou Shalt Not Kill is hard to understand?” The key here is, the Hebrew word for kill in the Fifth Commandment is ratsach, which means murder, not kill per se. Otherwise, Israel sinned gravely by going to war against her enemies, and by administering capital punishment, which God set forth in the Law of Moses for 36 offenses against God and man.

Turning to the New Testament, our Lord Himself pointed to the military chain of command as a symbol of the obedience of faith when He praised the faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:10. Remember that the centurion was the representative of the oppressive occupiers of Israel.

In Luke 14:31, Jesus relates a parable in which a king is advised to make sure he’s ready before taking on a larger army. “Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?”

In Luke 22:16, He tells His apostles in effect to bear arms: “Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one.” He says this at the approach of His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, where we particularly remember Jesus’ line from Matthew 26:52, “those who love by the sword shall perish by the sword,” which He says after the disciple cuts off the slave’s ear.

But note the slight variation in Luke’s rendering, which doesn’t contradict Matthew, but adds information:

“And when those who were about him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:49-52).

A pacifist might look at Jesus’ sharp rebuke, “No more of this!” as a prohibition against the use of swords in self-defense. But that’s not what our Lord said. He never condemns previous uses of lethal force, never scolds the disciples for wanting to defend their Master. He simply, at this critical moment in the Garden, turns His face to the events of the next day and offers healing to the slave’s ear—a scene rendered so movingly in another Gibson masterpiece, The Passion of the Christ).

And notice, too, the question Jesus poses to the band of Temple guards and elders, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs?” This strongly implies that swords and clubs are the ordinary means of dealing with robbers, i.e., not by the tenets of pacifism.

And who is more peaceful than Jesus Christ?

While we’re thinking about force, and protection, let’s bring to mind our military men and women overseas, and our brave law enforcement professions here at home, and ask God to protect and strengthen them.

They deserve someone to have their back, even if spiritually in a prayer of protection and gratitude.

#28: Marcus Daly– Mercy and the Denial of Death



Marcus speaks with a quiet authority, with the air of a contemplative craftsman. Founder of Marian Caskets, his avocation in life is now his family business.

He makes beautiful wooden caskets.

Moved by the funeral rites of Pope John Paul II in 2005, particularly the plain wooden casket of the late great Holy Father, Marcus took on a life of service to the bereaved and, by his intercession as he works, the deceased themselves. He joined me to talk about the carved messages in these elegant, rough-hewn caskets and about how our culture’s widespread denial (and fear of) of death has kept us far from the presence of God, although He is near.

Check out his website and accompanying intro video at www.mariancaskets.com


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#27: My parents’ divorce still hurts, with Leila Miller


We live in an age of divorce parties, Hallmark Cards that celebrate divorce, and sit-com plots that revolve around the “hilarious” hi jinx that ensue when the ex comes over. The necessary premise for this age is the notion that kids don’t really suffer because of divorce, not really, right? The kiddos are resilient, right? Mommy and daddy were so unhappy, until that boo boo was fixed, right?

Wrong, says author and married mother of eight, Leila Miller. The 70 courageous men and women in her new book Primal Loss: Now Adult Children of Divorce Speak tell a very different tale. Their experiences – laced with uncomfortable truths about how divorce is almost invariably the “gift” that keeps on taking – are finally brought into the open. Finally, we’re having a conversation about the central characters in the drama that are usually not given a speaking part: the children.

If your parents were divorced or if you’re on the verge yourself, pay attention to this interview.


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Good stuff from guest-hosting Al Kresta’s show


I had a blast guest hosting for my friend and mentor Al Kresta.

Here are books mentioned on the air.

Why Catholicism Matters by Bill Donahue

Courage and Conviction: Pius XII, the Bridgettine Nuns, and the Rescue of Jews by Joanna Bogle

The site DecentFilms.com by Deacon Steven Greydanus

Citizen Hollywood and The Crusader by Tim Stanley

How Marx Made the Right, BBC 4 Radio documentary by Tim Stanley

Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayak

Defeating Jihad by Dr. Sebastian Gorka

Thanks for listening, and, for these great resources, you are most welcome.

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26: Dana Gioia-The Great Poetry Revival


Dana Gioia is a poet, a librettist, the Judge Widney Professor at the University of Southern California. As the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana was unanimously confirmed twice by the Senate to lead the NEA from 2003 through 2009. He has been given ten honorary degrees and won numerous awards, including the 2010 Laetare Medal from Notre Dame University. In 2015, Gioia was named the Poet Laureate of California by Gov. Jerry Brown.

This is one of those conversations deserving close attention, even if your only exposure to poetry was in high school with e.e. cummings and Alan Ginsberg. Dana is a master at communicating subtlety and mystery, and bears interesting insights galore. And check out his account of his long rambling dinner with novelist Anthony “A Clockwork Orange” Burgess!

Catholics and other Christians need to get into the game of creative writing, music, poetry, and other sources of beauty for which this sad world is…starving.

Here is a great intro to his work, 99 Poems: New and Selected .

Watch this video of Dana reciting the poem Prayer, this one is about his late infant son.

You’re welcome!


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London is falling

Fans of The Clash will get the title’s allusion. Another Islamic attack has unfolded before our eyes, this time at the iconic London Bridge. As of this writing, there are victims and scores injured. One man tried to describe a woman who stumbled into a nearby pub with her throat slashed, with her blood shining crimson everywhere, but he couldn’t finish his sentence, the trauma of what he had just seen was too much. ISIS websites are already gloating.

To their credit, the U.K. press framed the story immediately as a terror attack. The ferocity, regularity, and similarity of these attacks is too obvious to deny even for our betters, The Journalists, whose daily brain function has been shown in this study to be impaired due to dumbness and/or drunkenness. I’m sure viewers of CNN are shocked, shocked to learn this.

With this London attack, however, they media correctly and quickly named the attack as Islamic in nature and motive. Progress!

The latest atrocity comes on the heels of the Ariane Grande concert in Manchester two weeks ago and the Westminster terrorist attack on March 22. Very similar m.o.s: mow down crowds of innocent people who have no means of escape. Very deliberate location choices. Same with the timing. They succeeded in disrupting the British election process. Very bad sign.

My friend Mike Miley. drummer for the Rival Sons rock band, texted me the other day to tell me their huge gig in Germany, the Rock am Ring festival was cancelled and the crowd evacuated because of a terror threat last weekend. It’s going to get worse as long as leftist politicians keep coloring inside the politically correct lines.

Have you noticed how hard it’s getting to use words that adequately describe the horror in these attacks? After using words like sickening, atrocious, horrible, terrifying, revolting, ultra-violent, amoral, insane, evil — the mind shuts down. It’s all too much. Hannah Arendt wrote a book about this problem, titled, Eichmann in Jerusalem : A Report on the Banality of Evil. Arendt covered the trial of Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker and the book is an expanded treatment. One of her insights is that “six deaths is a tragedy; six million is a statistic.”

Evil is banal, a cypher, a nothing. In the classical philosophical tradition, evil is not a substance, it’s a lack of a due good. As a preternatural reality, it defies finely calibrated analysis. Same with Islamic terror.

Ms. Grande’s visit to some of the recovering victims in Manchester hospitals was lovely. And brave was the decision to go ahead with the large-scale benefit concert at the Emirates Old Trafford Cricket Ground to benefit the victims. Let’s keep holding concerts, having fun, enjoying the music, culture, and artistic freedom that typify modern democracies.

Obviously the need for armed security for these events is crucial, and provides quite the dilemma for anti-gun activists: can guns be legitimately used to protect thousands of innocent young fans of Ariane Grande, Justin Bieber, Katy Perry et al? If yes, then why oppose their use for self-protection? Is it really a mystery why American concert venues have not been deemed as vulnerable to attack by armed terrorists? Could it have, maybe, possibly, in some dim way, have something to do with the Second Amendment? Terrorists may be evil but they’re not stupid.

Well-intended no doubt, most European countries have doubled down on even stricter gun control laws in response to the spate modern Islamic terror rampages. The Brits, however, might reconsider their tradition of unarmed police officers. Islamic terrorists bring a hell of a lot more than batons to the fight.

I have a question. Since the weapons of choice in the last decade have been machetes and vans, why not pass machete control laws and van control laws? Don’t they kill people? And whatever we do, let’s keep changing the subject about the ideology that inspires and excites the killers to action.

I write this as we continue to celebrate the great Solemnity of Pentecost. Is there a more powerful prayer today than, “Come, Holy Spirit”?


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Notes on humor and women

To say that “women (as a rule) aren’t funny” may sound rude and blunt. But there is a way in which it makes sense and expresses a truth about the difference between men and woman. A better way to put it would be to say that comediennes (remember when it was permissible to call female professional funny people “comediennes”?) like Kathy Griffin tend to ape the edgy raunch of their male counterparts. And it doesn’t quite work. There is something about “being really funny”– and this goes to a mystery of the universe — that is not naturally associated with femininity.

This is not to say that individual women have never induced big laughs in others. Obviously they have, and they do. My mother and sister have offbeat senses of humor and my daughters keep me smiling daily. Yet women bring profundities to the human table. So if someone says, “Go outside and look around — everything you see built was made by a man, sucka!” I reply, “Yeah, look closely at the human beings around you who are enjoying the things made by men. Every last one of those people was brought into this world, at great cost, by a woman.” Mere comedy can’t compete with what femininity is.

Here is a list the top-flight comediennes in the last 50 years. It’s surely incomplete, but I believe representative:

Moms Mabley

Phyllis Diller 

Lily Tomlin

Carol Burnett

Joan Rivers

Roseanne Barr

Ellen Degeneres

Margaret Cho

Amy Schumer

Rosie O’Donnell

Jane Lynch

Judy Gold

Sandra Bernhard

Wanda Sykes

Kate Clinton

Paula Poundstone

Carol Leifer

Kathleen Madigan

Janeane Garofalo

Whoopi Goldberg

Kathy Griffin

Notice any trend here, any commonality at all? I spot three. First, these talented women  — to be delicate but factual — are on the mannish side, no? Which is to say, the affect of their schtick reflects the brash, blunt-edged attitude that is almost invariably identified with men. By the way, I left out Lucille Ball, Bea Arthur (Maud) or Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker), simply because they were more actresses who played funny characters (and had most male writers, as was the case with most TV shows) than standup performers. Mabley and Diller are generally considered the first female stand-ups, a phenomenon that didn’t exist before the late 1960s.

Second, except for the first four ladies — whose careers peaked before the era in which entertainers didn’t constantly politicize their acts — all of them are doctrinaire liberals. This wasn’t always so, as Dennis Prager notes in this thoughtful column. Pre-early 1970s, we didn’t know the politics of entertainers, and we didn’t care. They entertained, we laughed; full stop.

Finally, there’s also a high proportion of lesbians among their ranks, as openly gay writer Jesse Bering pointed out on the Scientific American magazine blog post (2011). I’m not sure why that might be, but there it is.

Maybe this male-female difference an evolutionary biology thing. Maybe it’s that most men are attracted to women who find them funny as opposed to being funny per se. I don’t know. What I do know is that the enterprise of stand-up comedy is much more aligned with masculinity than with femininity. To call it phallic would be to over-literalize the point; masculine gets it about right: The funny man gets up before a crowd and delivers his material, which is, seed-like, received in the soil of the audience. And voila, belly-laughs are born.

(Boy howdy, is anything less funny than explaining the ontology of comedy and why some things work and others don’t?)


Women also tend to laugh about different things than men do. And yes, there is a strong subjective element at play here. Still the class clown is typically a boy, and some of them grow up to make a lot of money off their clown skills.

As more than one person said on Facebook in response, “Patrick, women need a sense of humor to put up with men.”

Who could disagree with that?