Why ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Is Now an Important Christmas Song
Two weeks ago, I got a treat. One of my favorite living writers came to town and I had lunch with him. The occasion? A tour for the newest book by Daniel J. Flynn, Cult City. It unfolds the chilling backstory of the 1978 mass suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. It reminds us that cult leader Jim Jones was not a Christian or a conservative, but a radical socialist atheist. While he attracted followers with faked religious “healings,” he later ordered bibles torn up for toilet paper. What’s more, Jones was the darling of left-wing San Francisco. And a close ally of gay rights “martyr” Harvey Milk. The mass suicide Jones ordered had nothing to do with Christianity. It was, instead, a final gesture of defiance to the capitalist West. A dark story which I’m reading slowly. Expect my review next week.
But I got talking to Flynn about several of his older books. I highly recommend his page-turner tome on the foibles and dark obsessions of some of the last century’s luminaries, Intellectual Morons. It skewers Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, Noam Chomsky, Betty Friedan, Ayn Rand, and for good measure, Leo Strauss.
For a passel of worthier thinkers, see his Blue Collar Intellectuals. Learn how some of the best writers of the 20th century came from humble, hard-working origins. Flynn will make you want to go read (or go back and re-read in a fresh new light) some wonderful authors: Will and Ariel Durant, Milton Friedman, Mortimer Adler, and Ray Bradbury, for instance.
We Want the New Jerusalem and We Want It Now!
The Flynn book that’s relevant here is a longer one, which I’m still enjoying. It’s A Conservative History of the American Left. An honest, critical, but non-histrionic look at the motives that goad our opponents, I highly recommend it. Flynn identifies the roots of destructive social experiments in profound Utopian hopes. Founding leftist thinkers want to “fundamentally transform” not just America (as President Obama promised). They want to change human nature itself. Not redeem it, as Jesus did. Or discipline and direct it, as Aristotle and Adam Smith hoped to. No, to rip it up by the roots and replace it with something else, which we’ve made ourselves.
In that way, such leftists resemble those millenarian sects who formed bizarre little communes to wait for The End in the woods. Both groups find offensive three threads in the tapestry that make Western man what he is.
- Orthodox Christianity, which depends on received scriptures and an authoritative tradition of how to read them.
- Traditional, natural marriage as the proper sphere for sexuality.
- Private property rights as the basis for the economy.
Of course, Marx and Engels cited these three as the roadblocks to socialism. Their followers in the New Left have remade our universities as juggernauts designed to break them down.
We need not wait for the Second Coming. We could abolish marriage, pool all our belongings, and live in the New Jerusalem right here, right now.
But Flynn rightly ties the impulse to attack them to something older. He cites self-styled Christians, such as the Shakers, who found our fallen-but-redeemed state on earth … intolerable. (Read Norman Cohn’s The Pursuit of the Millennium for medieval and Reformation heretics who were likewise proto-Marxists.) The original Christian left, such groups desired and even demanded the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
Instead of playing Whack-A-Mole with human vices, as Christians have since the beginning, these fevered believers thought bigger. They relied on “prophetic” visions. On voices that told them we need not wait for the Second Coming. We could abolish marriage, pool all our belongings, and live in the New Jerusalem right here, right now. By our own efforts. If we just work hard enough to mortify our urges, and listen to the Leader.
Jesus Came to Save Us from an Evil Creation, Creator
And that point, you cease to be a Christian at all. If you think the world, even after the Incarnation, is still too dismal to live in. Then you agree with the Gnostics that the Incarnation was in fact a bad idea. Or else a fiction. Jesus was just a spirit, not flesh and blood. He came to skim off our spirits from the filthy world of matter, money, and marriage.
The real God whom you imagine you know via some secret doctrine that’s not in the Bible.… He didn’t mean to create such a world as we see. Christ came not to redeem it but to rescue us from it. Maybe the material world, with all its inequalities (of the sexes, and the classes), and suffering, wasn’t even made by God, but by the devil. Or some bumbling Demiurge. So the first great Christian heretic, Marcion, taught. And many listened. Many more secretly act on his doctrine without admitting it.
It’s not that many steps, when you think about it, from demanding universal celibacy (as the Shakers did) or voluntary Communism, or totally open borders … to passing around the Kool-Aid, when Jim Jones tells you to. Jones just sped up the process of self-extinction. He was the one truly honest Liberation Theologian. He alone walked their talk.
And that’s what brings us to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” It’s a wintertime classic which feminists are now pretending depicts date-rape, or something.
And God Saw That It Was Good
This beloved holiday number keeps getting stuck in my head. I think it’s because it represents precisely what hysterical leftists (some of whom claim to be Christians) are attacking. That is, human nature itself. A nature in which men and women are real things created by God. Not passing “identities” that slide like beads of mercury among some 47 “genders.” Real things, different things, made diverse by God on purpose. Real, fallen creatures who have different characteristic temptations. Not self-inventions of the god-like human self.
And part of that difference has to do with how we navigate the physical side of romance. With who usually initiates it, and who sometimes prefers to be persuaded of it. Because that, and absolutely nothing else, is what happens in the song. And that’s why normal people of both sexes find it charming, funny, and touching.
Feminism: Marxism in the Bedroom
Trust feminists, whose ideology traces back to a Marxist view of the family (with women as the proletariat) to pretend that seduction is rape. But then, Marxists view honest employment as “wage slavery,” so should we really be surprised? I wonder how many of these feminists obsessed with some vision of perfect “consent” protested when parents let an 11-year-old autistic boy dance as a drag queen for cash tips at a gay bar. Could he really “consent”? How many of them denounce child marriage in the Muslim world? Or the horror of female genital mutilation, now trending in Minnesota? Much easier, and safer, to latch onto crackpot, Gnostic theories of “gender identity.”
I won’t go into the details of male and female differences here. Sane people don’t need them, and insane people will deny them. (While secretly knowing they’re real, and raging against their Creator.)
The song is a lovely, funny account of male and female desire, which needs no unpacking by me. Frank Loesser wrote it as a duet, to sing with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their housewarming party. It’s often sung by real-life couples. My favorite rendition is by alt-country singers (and spouses) Bruce Robison and Kelly Willis. Here’s the performance my girlfriend and I saw in Fort Worth a few years ago:
There No Shortcut Back to Eden
On the surface, it would be easy for believers to join in the condemnation. After all, the couple in the song are clearly unmarried. The man is tempting the woman to join him in sin. But the differences between the sexes which the song wryly jokes about remain, long after marriage. That’s why happy couples hear the song and chuckle. Maybe ruefully roll their eyes. Or elbow a spouse. What the song affirms is that there’s a kind of mismatch, a glitch, an enduring difficulty between the sexes. But that we love each other anyway, and the whole thing is worth it. That “thing” being human life. The persistence of the species, which only happens one way.
Such couples know that even a loving Christian marriage is not a return to the unsullied eros of Eden. We are still partly disfigured by the Fall. No, the Redemption Christ offered didn’t wipe out all those flaws. We will never get back in this life to the unfallen state of Adam and Eve. Theologians tell us that our redeemed state is even higher. But it’s tempting not to believe that. Especially given our struggles, suffering, and sins.
That is a temptation. As in, from the Enemy. And we should flee the occasion. Sit back, and enjoy the song.