How Many Anti-Semites Should Speak at Your Christian Conference?
What's the really optimal number? One, six, or 27?
Sometimes it’s fun and enlightening to play out “what if” scenarios. To pose purely hypothetical ethical questions that set up a dilemma. Then explore the various options of how a good person should best make the most prudent decision.
Those who took philosophy classes will remember questions like this one, such as famous hypotheticals involving life rafts with too many people. Okay?
Gathering Christian Leaders to Inspire People
The fantasy situation we’re dealing with today is this one: Let’s say you’re a Christian, specifically a Catholic. You’re troubled by the division, lack of leadership, and even heretical leadership that afflicts too many inside your church. Furthermore, you see that the political situation for Christians of every kind is becoming toxic and ugly. You worry that too many people inside your church are losing hope, drifting away, or isolating themselves and abandoning any effort to evangelize the culture.
You want to lift people up, offer solid insights from leaders, and give people both intellectual guidance and spiritual uplift, by drawing on the best minds and most dynamic approaches current in Catholic circles today. To that end, you invite a wide array of highly credentialed people, both clergy and laity, including important pro-life activists, journalists, theologians, and philosophers.
The conference will be online, and pre-recorded — that’s the only way to get so many luminaries gathered together at once. To achieve this, you use all the contacts and connections you’ve built up over many years.
Are you with me?
Now a Real Ethical Head-Scratcher
So, given all these things, let’s consider the question: How many public anti-Semites — who minimize the Holocaust on Iranian TV, and blame “the Jews” for Communism, Capitalism, abortion, pornography, the Sexual Revolution and most recent wars — should you invite to speak at the conference?
What’s the optimal number, do you think? Here are the options:
a) 27 of them, because it would be fun to watch them squabble and savage each other.
b) Six of them, evenly divided between those who think the Holocaust was greatly exaggerated and also kind of justified, and those who claim it never happened at all — but that next time, we’ll make sure to finish the job.
c) One of them, quietly added to the program after other conference speakers agreed, and without informing them so they won’t back out. This is what white nationalist Richard Spencer did in the past at a conference he ran, and it worked for him.
d) None, because it’s evil. And also destructive to the work of every other speaker at the conference, whom you sand-bagged by inviting one without telling them.
Before you make your pick, remember: You are fully aware of this prospective speaker’s views. (You have actually interviewed him, and heard him blame “the Jews” for a long list of evils. You published this video on Youtube, then prudently removed it when you started getting blowback.)
But there’s no reason why his views on Jews should be known to the other speakers, who signed on before the anti-Semite you added at the end. He himself is fairly obscure now, but used to be known for his mainstream, sensible conservative and Catholic writing — before he had his “epiphany” about “the Jews.”
Okay, now pick.
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A Tough Choice, No Doubt About it
Are you agonizing over this? Wringing your hands? Going into your prayer closet to seek the “still small voice” to guide you?
It’s a tough choice, I know. I don’t set up these hypotheticals lightly!
Okay, let’s assume that you picked c). You’ve only invited the one anti-Semite, and kept the facts from your other speakers. Let’s play the scenario out.
Winsomely Dealing with Critics
What happens next is that some left-wing Catholics get wind of Mr. Anti-Semite’s appearance. They start to make a stink. Then some faithful Catholics hear about it, and also start complaining. They privately contact (or publicly challenge) the other speakers whom you sandbagged, and urge them to cancel. They forward these speakers instances of vicious scapegoating of Jews by your surprise participant. One after another, the mainstream speakers start canceling, saying privately or publicly, “I didn’t sign up for this!”
Here’s your next tough ethical choice. Should you:
- Tough it out. Accuse your critics of giving in to “cancel culture” and “political correctness.” Omit any details of this controversy from the conference’s website. Get allies and friends to weigh in and claim this is a “free speech” issue, akin to critics of the COVID vaccine getting fired or banned from Twitter. On your website, name and try to shame those speakers who pulled out “under pressure,” without giving any information on why they withdrew.
- Disinvite Mr. Anti-Semite, and apologize to the speakers whom you tried to associate with him, without their knowledge.
Of course, you pick 1), because what are you, some kind of wussy? A coward who caves in to pressure from the left? Or from the right? Or from your conscience, the moral law, or any sense of decency or honor? Nah, that’s not how you roll. You ask yourself, “What would Steven Seagal do?” and you’re 100% sure it’s 1).
The Real Conference Where This Is Actually Happening
I’d like to thank you now for taking part in my hypothetical. Except that it wasn’t one. The exact scenario sketched out above is unfolding now. The protagonist is Patrick Coffin, the conference is called “Hope Is Fuel: Catholic on Purpose” and the anti-Semite he invited is E. Michael Jones.
Coffin did pick option c), then option 1). The ally who chimed in to support his choices is Eric Sammons, who now edits Crisis Magazine, published by Sophia Institute Press. The conference speaker who went public and canceled, and recounted how Coffin sandbagged her by inviting Jones after she’d accepted and without notifying her, is Jennifer Morse, a regular Stream contributor.
Most of the eminent Catholics whom Coffin had secured to speak have pulled out (several after I contacted them personally). They obeyed St. Paul by shunning “evil company.” (1 Cor. 15:33)
But a few are still agonizing — apparently struggling with the dilemma laid out in this column. Pray for them, that they make the right decision — and don’t have to spend the next 20 years explaining how they took part in a conference apparently intended to mainstream E. Michael Jones and his poison.
“Donald Trump Is Controlled by the Jews as Well”
And if you’re not sure whether Jones really should be a deal-breaker, here’s a small sampling of the evidence:
Jones’ latest appearance on Iranian regime TV, where he calls the Holocaust the governing “myth” of the American “empire,” and warns us “Donald Trump is controlled by the Jews as well.”
Jones debating The Stream’s Michael Brown, in which Jones gradually melts down into a sputtering, incoherent pool of resentment, who cannot even speak well of pro-life Orthodox Jews.
Jones himself weighing in on the Hope Is Fuel controversy, and explaining the “Jewish Revolutionary Spirit,” from his book on the subject where he refers to all Jews who didn’t accept Jesus over the centuries as “the Mystical Body of Antichrist.”
An article with extensive quotes from Coffin’s interview with Jones about how “the Jews” destroyed higher education, which Coffin memory-holed by deleting it from Youtube.
This piece, which quotes Jones on a show with a white nationalist, asserting that it was fitting for white immigrants to throw rocks at Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., when he came to their city, because “they were justified in trying to defend their neighborhoods.”
A Final Nail
A skilled marketer of his brand, Patrick Coffin has dubbed his movement “Coffin Nation.” I’ve got to say, that’s pretty good. But he has failed so far to use the slogan, “Jump in!” I called that a missed opportunity.
John Zmirak is a senior editor at The Stream and author or co-author of ten books, including The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He is co-author with Jason Jones of “God, Guns, & the Government.”