Because Pigs Are Not Potatoes

Staples and Tell

Because Pigs Are Not Potatoes

Staples and Tell

Because Pigs Are Not Potatoes
New books dissected over email.
Oct. 7 1998 10:31 AM

Staples and Tell

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Dear David,

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Thank you for putting me at ease on the blasphemy issue, Dave. That section of The Death of Outrage seemed blatantly blasphemous to a small-town boy like me; I am relieved to hear a more soothing interpretation. We can also stipulate, as you suggest, that Bill Bennett is not one of the "wackos" who pledged to bring down the president.

If you are looking for a church--for sociological purposes, I mean: In Dallas, try the Potters House (congregation 16,000), run by the Bishop T.D. Jakes. In Martha's Vineyard, catch the rustic First Congregational in West Tisbury--the Rev. Jim is a haiku artist in his sermons--I dig him the most. In Brooklyn Heights, try Abraham Lincoln's old church, the Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims; once pastored by Henry Ward Beecher, currently by a little housafire, the Rev. Sharon Blackburn. In Philadelphia, the former Congressman Bill Gray's Bright Hope Baptist. The choir has grammies and is the most innovative I have heard. Gospel Rocks!!

On resignation. My judgment on that has nothing to do with "sin." (If "sins" were disqualifying, the Congress and halls of government would be ghost towns.) As I said yesterday, the resignation would have saved the country this seizure and apoplexy. On the commonplace nature of adultery and fornication: I'm not making it up, Dave. Half the population finds itself in loveless, sexless relationships--and succumbs to lust elsewhere. You've heard of lust, haven't you?

Do I "approve" of adultery and fornication? What would you have me do, Dave? Arrest these people, cast them into a fiery furnace, bludgeon them with speeches by the two Pats, Robertson and Buchanan? The church on the whole has tacitly recognized that strictures allowing sex only within marriage are no longer tenable. In Italy, one of the most religious countries in the world, the adjustment to the inevitability of sex outside marriage is old news. (I know, Bennett holds Europeans in contempt, but then again he despises American common folk, too.) In America, churches that insist on brimstoning healthy, loving sex lose relevancy and eventually their people as well. Americans are religious but want their christianity with a small "c."

Why can't we judge an alleged perjurer the same way we judge a bank robber running down the street? First, Dave, cause pigs ain't potatoes. Second, because the "we" in your question is synthetic, covering millions of disparate persons and many different tastes. Americans who equivocate on impeachment are not moral weaklings. They fear that the public is swallowing up the private. They fear that consensual sex will be criminalized.

After church, Dave, go to a bar and ask around about impeachment. Some men will wink and nudge and brag. Others will express fear of what a herd of lawyers might turn up in their sex lives. I know, Dave. They are forgetting about the lie, the lie, the lie, the lie.

Do you swallow Bennett's claim that Kennedy's philandering was more moral than Clinton's because Kennedy knew that Alsop, et al., would not rat him out? Please, Dave, put that to the guys at the bar after church.  

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Brent

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Brent Staples writes editorials on politics and culture for the New York Times. David Tell is opinion editor and lead editorialist at the Weekly Standard. This week Staples and Tell read The Death of Outrage: Bill Clinton and the Assault on American Ideals, by William J. Bennett (The Free Press; 160 pages; $20).