Earlier in the week, Norm MacDonald went on one of his familiar, lengthy Twitter sprees. These are binges of tweets and retweets — usually about golf, sometimes even attempts at literary fiction — and they're great. If you have any affection for his style of sincerity and unpredictability, this look at Norm amusing himself 140 characters at a time is a golden dream. Earlier this week was different. A golfer had mentioned scripture, someone reacted angrily, and Norm aired his concern about that reaction.
If you were online when it happened, you would have seen hundreds of retweets by Norm and his responses to them one by one. A lot of people don't know this, but Norm MacDonald is a pretty devoted to studying scripture. He spoke about it on his episode of WTF with Marc Maron (the only podcast episode I've gone back to relisten to):
I've been struggling with faith, I'll just throw myself into religion sometimes. The problem with that is you get into churches and stuff, and then you get into men and stuff like that. It's very easy to fall into the trap, "God's bad because this priest fucked a kid," which is retarded, why's that mean God's bad? If you go to any church, obviously it's led by fallible men,and you can't believe in them, so you've got to come to it yourself somehow. But I don't have the answer of how you do that or anything.
He seems to be religious in the way the great Russian authors were religious, and skeptical of people who have things figured out. The problem is, in the context of modern day America, and especially on Twitter, siding with religion is a highly loaded political position. The voice of religion has been co-opted by the loudest on the right, while the left's loudest have been very willing to cede that ground.
The outrage online was predictable. Many were disappointed at Norm, some were angry at him, several challenged him on the grounds of "what about dinosaurs??????" and other incisive gotchas. There were those who supported him, declaring that believers were oppressed in today's America. When it got to the more ethical criticisms, such as the church's association with pedophile priests or its stance on homosexuality, Norm's responses were pretty mainstream: pedophilia is a problem with man, not with scripture, and the stereotype to which we hold men of the cloth is unfair when most work very hard for little pay, and other professions are just as infected but not held to such judgment. On treatment of gays, Norm's response was along the lines of, "Says who?" and found it irrelevant to his understanding. In his response, the bible was a way to salvation, not a rulebook on how to live.