Rush Limbaugh died on Ash Wednesday, an appropriate date for a man who had done so much evil to, hopefully, meet his Maker with some rudimentary contrition and begin, I pray, the long purgatorial road to salvation that he, like all of us, does not deserve.
That he is capable of rudimentary contrition is shown in the fact that he regretted one of his most despicable acts: mocking the death of AIDS victims.
According to The New York Times, it ended after a few weeks. Limbaugh would call the segment one of “most regretful things I’ve ever done” because it was “making fun of people who were dying long, painful and excruciating deaths.”
It is to be hoped that either at his death or in Purgatory, he has burned away from him the many other grave evils he committed for which I, at any rate, have no knowledge of his repentance. Not that this makes any difference to my duty to forgive him. Whereto serves mercy but to confront the visage of offense?
Forgiveness is for sin, nothing else. Excuses are for things that are not sinful. To excuse is precisely to say that the hurt was not given in sin but through some non-culpable cause. I stepped on your toe because the bus lurched, not because I wanted to hurt you, and you excuse me. Forgiveness is reserved exclusively for when the hurt was given either with malice aforethought or with the sort of culpable neglect that says, “I could not care less about you and so did nothing to prevent the evil I should have tried to protect you from.” Forgiveness, in word, is for the guilty sinner, not for the hapless schmuck.
“All well and good for you to say, Shea. None of these things and countless more were directed at you.”
No argument from me. I’m not telling you what to do. I’m telling you what I believe my duty before God to be. And yet I deny that I have nothing to forgive him, because he sinned against me too. How? He taught me to be his fan in the 90s and to form my thoughts–thoughts that have done immense damage to my country and my faith and my attempt to imitate Jesus. I have discussed here in a very inadequate way some of that sin in which I participated. And precisely because I really do believe Jesus when he warns me that if I do not forgive I shall not be forgiven–especially if I am hypocritical enough to judge Limbaugh when I have committed many of his sins–I forgive him the wrong he did me.
“But he never repented that you know of. You don’t have to forgive people who don’t repent!”
False. Jesus commands, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins” (Mark 11:25). Not a word about whether they repent or not. Forgiveness is to be extended to anybody against whom we have anything. That is what Jesus himself did on the cross and we are to imitate that. And good thing too because forgiveness is for our sake as well as theirs. Otherwise, our bitterness holds us prisoner to the impenitent, sometimes years after they are dead. It is, like the man said, like drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die.
Forgiveness is not the pretense that the impenitent sinner meant well. It is the frank confession that the mean son of a bitch or the negligent bastard sinned against us, but that we choose to not let them have the power over us to destroy our love and we hand them over to God, who knows what to do with them. That, at any rate, is how I have found it possible to do it, albeit with great struggle and failure and imperfection as one for whom anger is the besetting sin. Seeing that I am not alone but that Christ Crucified himself is with me, himself suffering wrongs for which no human being ever apologized to him, is a help too. If it helps you forgive, use it. If not, drop it and try something else. Forgiving is like quitting smoking: you do it thousands of times.
Precisely one of the challenges of forgiving people who do great public evil is that in addition to the difficulty of forgiving their sin, it is critical to remember their victims, who must not be made to feel forgotten by your forgiveness of their victimizer. Forgiveness presupposes the sins the sinner really did commit. And many times, those who love those sins and love the famous sinner (such as Dittoheads do) will continue to trample their idol’s victims will weaponize forgiveness against those victims. So, for instance, we must not allow the Right Wing Lie Machine to sanctify and sanitize Limbaugh’s evils under the pretense of “speak no evil of the dead”.
This strategy for perpetuating evil is an old ploy of the RWLM. So, for instance, they use variations of it whenever there is a gun massacre. First we are told it is “too soon” to talk about gun violence. Any talk of doing something about gun violence is treated as a gauche intrusion of politics in the Hushed Sanctuary. Then they immediately start shouting “We need more guns!” The same thing happened with Limbaugh. Those victims who recalled his many cruelties and lies were told to shut up by the RWLM while the people he taught to savor cruelty looked back fondly in their “retrospectives” and “tributes” on the many times he taught them to savor cruelty. How transgressive he was! How daring! He really made the lib snowflakes cry with those Homeless Updates! And remember when he called 12 year old Chelsea Clinton a dog! How edgy! And that mockery of Michael J. Fox’ Parkinsons disease? That was when we really learned how to make Hollywood liberals squirm! They called us “deplorables” and we laughed and laughed at their lib sensitivity!
And while the MAGA cult of sadistic cruelty looks back with fondness on the man who taught them to be cruel and from whom a straight line can be traced from this…
…to this mockery of a disabled reporter (“You gotta see this guy”):
…the MAGA cult (who enshrined their imitative cruelty in their very name for themselves–Dittoheads) end by blinding only themselves to the sin they have chosen. They became liars who lied about their love for punching down, even when the disabled community cried out in pain at the mockery. Instead of apologizing to those they hurt, they denied it ever happened by lying that Trump does this to everybody, so the disabled should shut up and take one for the team.
All this has deep roots in Limbaugh’s long career or dripping contempt for the very word “compassion”. I cannot recall a single time I ever heard him say the word without sneering sarcasm and loathing. So, for instance, when 200 women were kidnapped by Boko Haram in Nigeria in 2014, a hashtag campaign began to try to raise awareness and put pressure on Nigeria to save them. It was well-intended and did nobody any harm. Indeed, it eventually resulted in their rescue. But Limbaugh, out of pure culture war spite and his customary racism, mocked it.
And that is pretty much his legacy to the world. He, probably more than any figure till Donald Trump himself, was the driving engine in purifying conservatism from a movement that used to at least attempt virtue in the form of conserving the good both in creation and in human affairs and turning it into a shamelessly spiteful, proud, gloating, cruel and vice-signaling cult of malignancy that gloried in hurting those weaker and poorer than themselves.
And for a far longer time than I should have back in the 90s, I fell for all this and thought it edgy and transgressive and funny. That’s why I have to forgive him and ask for forgiveness myself. I was never one of his victims. I was something worse: one of his accomplices. There is, after all, no sin in being a victim. Some of the greatest people who ever lived, including Jesus Christ himself, have been victims. But there is hell itself in being a victimizer and I helped do that.
That is why Jesus warns Christians, not against persecution, but against seduction; not against suffering for the Faith, but against betraying it. I betrayed Him in buying Limbaugh’s swill, so I am bound to forgive Limbaugh since I am guilty too. And I have to do what I can to try to make it up to Limbaugh’s victims–and mine–in obedience to Christ who suffered in those victims, victims who still suffer today at the hands of a perverted antichrist MAGA religion parading around as Christianity, making war on Holy Faith, and causing God’s Name to be blasphemed among the Gentiles.
May God have mercy on the soul of Rush Limbaugh, and on mine, and may he help me make reparation for my many sins through Christ our Lord.
Dominion Lawsuit 67. While Lindell was on Facebook blaming Antifa for the storming of the Capitol by
people shouting “Fight for Trump,” MyPillow was offering discounts to people who used the
promotional code “FightForTrump” at checkout.
No worries though, kids. There is always an imaginary liberal socialist under the bed, capable of doing so much evil that just imagining it washes away all sins on your part.
I confess that I hated reading this, because it convicts me. I have never even considered forgiving Rush Limbaugh, still less my personal bete noir, Newt Gingrich (whose conversion to the Church, followed by the fond embrace of the unrepentant adulterer by the Bishops, unfailingly irritates my soul.)
I clearly have work to do. Many thanks.
Mark, I’ve had to think a lot about this, and I’ve certainly had a lot of thoughts. I read your column twice already, but maybe I missed something.
For myself, I truly can’t say that I’ve ever hated Limbaugh, though I have absolutely despised what he has said, what he has done, and the damage that he has inflicted on our country, and because of our wealth, power, and influence, on the entire world. I certainly also shed no tears for his passing. I would never say “i hope he suffered like hell” because I don’t. But I also would never go the route of saying: we shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, or too soon, or God will judge him. But then, I’m an atheist. He was slime, and I think the world was better off for his departure to warmer climes. I’m not going to shed any tears for him, or think that I am somehow diminished because I think the world is better off. i thought the same thing about Idi Amin.
Limbaugh wasn’t the first of his ilk, not even close. Anita Bryant, Jerry Falwell, pat Robertson, and a number of Catholic relates, imams, and rabbis, long preceded him. And those are just the religious ones, and just in MY lifetime. He’s not going to be the last, either, not by a long shot. What they all have in common is that they had learned to monetize and “powerize” hate, ignorance, fear, and despite. Just so the former occupant of the White House.
I have written before of two very interesting man gods in the welsh national epic, the mabinogion: nissyen and evnissyen (unlike Nissyen). Nissyen liked to destroy things, merely out of spite. Evnissyen spent his life trying to prevent Nissyen from his causing destruction. In one of those incidents, after being prevented from causing destruction, nissyen threw himself onto the grass and started ripping it up, desiring to hurt something.
BECAUSE HE COULD NOT FILL THE HOLE IN HIMSELF UNLESS HE MADE SOMETHING ELSE LESS. Not that that worked, but it least it gave him the illusion of working.
It seems to me that Limbaugh was very much like Nissyen, except that he earned a very nice living at it. I have my own theories about him. There were rumors about him for decades in the gay world. Four marriages of his own while proclaiming the dangers of my one marriage are a clue. His ugly glee at decent young men dying from AIDS was another clue. I have long maintained, with plenty of evidence, that some of the worst people in the world are homeau hating homeaux. You can google “Limbaugh Pedophilia Dominican Republic” for a boatload of questions and innuendos. 29 100mg Viagra pills— 25 mg is usually plenty— in a prescription for someone else might raise a few questions about a single man traveling to a premier destination for sex trafficking, as a certain polish archbishop might attest, were he not dead.
But back to your column. My question to you is: are you trying to find room to forgive limbaugh, or are you trying to forgive yourself? I’ve said this before: you’re a good man, Mark.
“I’m going to have to think about this”
Me too. Limbaugh brought out the worst in people, including those I love. I think Libertarians might have Dad issues.
Hey, can you believe this weather?? It hit 80 degrees here today. I’m more worried about the redwoods than the state of L’s soul.
These are perfect Bay Area days. We had dinner out on the deck last night for the first time in months. I just got back from a walk where I’m actually sweating. I was thinking the same thing about the fire danger.
@ben – I lived in San Francisco for six months once long ago. We had a wonderful summer – I think it happened on a Wednesday.
@JJ, microclimates! That is what the Bay Area is known for. You cross the bridge, and it’s like a curtain parting. It can be cold in SF and sweltering just up the 101 :). The weather in Belvedere/Tiburon, Sausalito, Mill Valley is just right. 🙂
SF just had the driest winter in over 100 years btw
Shades of Mark Twain! San Francisco can be miserable during July and August. I can remember weeks going by without seeing the sun or anything but gray, leaden skies. Even in my part, those two can be the worst. But the days when it isnot paying a visit to Jotunheim? Glorious!
It can be cold and dark in SF. Cross the bay, it’s 10° warmer, maybe sunny. Cross the hills, and it is for sure sunny, and 10° warmer still. Cross the next set of hills, and you’re in hell. the Southern one. Not the northern one.
In that case a lot of his vile behavior sprang, clearly, from self-hatred.
Obviously, I think that that’s part of the answer. But I also think a good part of it is the very nature of the corruption caused by despite, which is why I mentioned the man-god twins in the mabinogion. Like the former occupant of the White House, I suspect he got quite a thrill from being a narcissistic bully.
@taco – Bay Area microclimates – yes, I know. I did all but the first year of my undergraduate degree at UCB, lived quite near campus.
Limbaugh smoked cigars his whole life and then died of lung cancer. Trying to find a larger narrative in his death seems rather pointless. It was just cause and effect.
There’s a simpler cause-and-effect: he was born, thus he had to die.
But not everyone actively hastens their own demise.
Beautiful, Mark. This:
..hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought of my late father and the grudges I’ve kept, and suddenly I was weeping. God showed be the folly of my own resentment. Thanks be to God, and to you for being His instrument.
And thank you, Matt, for drawing attention to that quote because I obviously needed to read it again. Again and again I need to will forgiveness towards my narcissistic mother, and hand her over to God to deal with every time she hurts my family. Praying for you on your own journey to healing.
If you think about it, Limbaugh was kind of an anti John the Baptist. He greased the wheel for a beast–not THE beast, but quite a beast.. I don’t hate Limbaugh at all, because it was pathetic. if anything he makes me ashamed of ever having listened or been entertained by what he had to say. His silly acting and drama was of a man who was relishing the spotlight–a man who was loving every second of having risen in the ranks from being bullied, to head bully.
If I need to repent of anything it is probably that I believed some of it, –but considered him a round little big mouth. My husband and I got sick of him quickly. My mother would roll her eyes about my father listening to him with religious fervor. He even lost some patients over his need to have it in the background at 9 or whenever his show came on. I used to warn him that it was giving him high blood pressure and that it wasn’t worth it. I really worried about his health, both mental and physical.
But he’s dead now.
What I worry about is this whole new crop of male talking heads that have some of my boys sucked in to their podcasts. The girls don’t seem to be at risk as much. The boys will say “Mom! How can you let her watch tik tok?!” when they are listening to some know-it-all who’s interviewing Alex Jones. I looked up another one of them–some kid named Poole who is so obviously a click-whore. He voted for Bernie, did the Wall Street sit -ins and then became a Trumpy. Omg, give me a break. The boys love that cr*p. When did men stop playing sports with each other to get their aggression out?
I don’t watch any of the right-wing media but I’m peripherally aware of some of the stuff they put out through some of the left-leaning shows I do frequent. On that note, I heard that Tim Pool got taken to task by the YouTuber “Vaush” on Tim’s own show. I guess its not so easy to keep up the grift when you have to debate a real person who knows their stuff instead of a poorly constructed strawman.
And that’s what it really is: a grift. Like you said, its all click-bait and using the whole “former leftie” stick to boost their credentials amongst their target audience Just like Rush, for these people, politics is not about dealing with real issues and real people; its all theater. Its about getting paid, consequences be dammed.
Thanks, I looked it up and have it saved to watch.