Has Matt Walsh heard of the fruit of the Spirit?

A fellow Christian asks a commentator where the line is

Can Matt Walsh say that? It’s a question many are likely asking daily. I’ve asked myself for a particular reason. Cultural commentator Matt Walsh is a practicing Catholic. I’m from the Protestant wing, an admitted adherent of John MacArthur’s teachings. I listen to Matt Walsh as one Christian listens to another.

What I hear is, often, what many Christians feel about culture. The way Matt says it? The tone and language of a single Matt Walsh tweet could land you in a Biblical penalty box. And yet, Matt Walsh doesn’t tweet angry. He writes with measured combat. Which means, Matt is making a career out of ignoring Galatians 5.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Where does Matt Walsh run afoul of this verse? It’s a dirty job to repeat Walsh’s aggressive zingers to his opponents. I’ll try to keep it brief.

In response to a tweet about him on January 15, Walsh replied on Twitter, “If my sons grow up to be bitter, lonely, woke losers like yourself than (sic) I will have been a terrible father. But I’m not too worried about that. All my kids are already more impressive than you and they’re not even 10 yet.”

Walsh’s reply got 1.2 million views. The original tweet was deleted. (Boom. Roasted.)

In response to a story about the NHL on January 18, Matt Walsh retweeted this message. “What I’ve learned from this news cycle is that hockey commentators are apparently the whiniest, most insufferable and annoyingly effeminate assholes in all of media. Which comes as a bit of a surprise to me.”
That same day, Walsh sent a general tweet to everyone, “You’re not ‘non-binary.’ You’re just a narcissist.”

Followers of Walsh know about his spicy tweets. It goes beyond Twitter, as well.

The top post on Matt Walsh’s website has the headline: “To the leftist vultures at Media Matters: Kiss my ass.”

The article is paywalled. If I recall, it was about Media Matters trying to dredge up statements he made when he started his career in a clumsy attempt to discredit him.

I’m not here to pretend people don’t talk this way. I’m not suggesting that Christians act as cloistered virgins in the culture. I’ve included Walsh’s profanities here. In no way do I think I’m better than him. Also, no one thing he said, by itself, is a reason to moralize about Matt Walsh. But Matt is bound by Christ.

Did Christ ever speak this way? To the rich young ruler who debated him? To the religious leaders who ultimately killed him?

There’s no need to pad that previous paragraph. Everyone knows Jesus did not verbally attack opponents. His famous turning over tables in the temple was notable. It was a response to some people making a mockery of worship. Jesus’ anger was over a damaging practice. His response was an action, flipping the tables to stop it. He didn’t verbally abuse anyone.

For those who read the Bible, it’s interesting how many warnings are given about the tongue. You would think the Bible would be filled with caution against fists. It’s the misuse of the tongue, the use of coarse and aggressive speech the Bible condemns often.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. (James 1:26)
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil” (1 Peter 3:10)

That was then. Could what the Bible requires of Christians work in today’s loud world? Could Matt Walsh still be a cultural commentator? Would he have a career left? Maybe not.

There’s a certain amount of bravado you come to expect from cultural voices. To be heard, you have to make noise. Conservatives especially face rejection. To share a message that is unpopular with mainstream culture often means delivering it forcefully and with conviction.

Walsh rose in popularity by combining the requisite force with wit and intellect. Usually, what he says is not extraordinary. The message is often a boilerplate conservative one. And why should he reinvent the wheel? The problem today with traditional values isn’t the message but with engagement. Supposedly, an acerbic tone will cut through and deliver.

Does a negative delivery of a positive message work to persuade? Walsh is very popular with fellow conservatives. Undoubtedly, many wish they could speak as freely and keep their jobs. Walsh suffers no fools. His reply to an opponent is weapons-free.

Whether this strong talk works on the unconvinced is unknown. Walsh’s film What is a Woman? has been credited with opening up lines of communication with people who disagree with conservatism. Notably, Walsh said little in that movie. He was commended for creating a platform where people spoke for themselves. What is a Woman? is a victory in the cultural crusade he wages. It’s where he said less and was purposefully gracious.

Walsh understands he pays a high price for his language. He has lamented being the target of so much vitriol over his views.

As he tweeted on January 19, “[L]eftists frequently threaten to come to my house and kill my family and leftist ‘watch dog’ groups have entire sections on their websites devoted to generating boycotts and pitchfork mobs against me.”
In a follow-up tweet, Walsh asked, “How often have you been doxxed and threatened by leftist activists? For me it’s a daily occurrence.”

This behavior against Walsh is reprehensible. He disagrees, sometimes vehemently, with certain groups. And yet, he does nothing to spark this level of retaliation. Most of us couldn’t handle it. We’d give up. At the same time, many feel it’s the price you pay to be a leader. It’s often said, “When you’re getting flack, it means you’re over the target. Don’t let up.”

And yet, could Walsh’s strident tone cause some of the issues he’s facing? Could Walsh be feeding a negative cycle? The Bible warns our hardships are sometimes of our own doing.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)

The Apostle Paul, persecuted more than any other Christian in his time (and maybe since), raises the Spirit here. Paul also wrote the verse about the fruit of the Spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

Setting aside the demands of a 21st-century cultural commentator, why did Paul, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, write this?

Likely, we know. Despite the tug of the culture asking us to fight evil for evil, we know it ends in disaster. The way to improve the culture is to improve oneself. The war within each of us is the problem Christ came to fix. Without striving for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, we’re useless. Without following the Spirit, we’re one self-righteous domino falling into another.

This post is not a lengthy attempt to brand Matt Walsh as self-righteous. The effect described above applies to everyone. What we’re most passionate about drives us to extremes. How many of us relate to the verse, “Zeal for your house will consume me?” (John 2:17)

Let me acknowledge, Matt Walsh gets criticized a lot. I’m sure there are bloggers who signal boost their anonymous careers by taking shots at him. It’s probably impossible to be seen any other way by Matt’s fans. I didn’t use a photo of Walsh here because I don’t want to draft off of his hard work. He has become famous for doing what others talk about doing. My one question about Matt’s career is his Christian duty to the Bible in his professional message.

Walsh doesn’t tweet aggressively all of the time. When he’s not personally under attack, Walsh has strong analytical skills. Gifted in the area of communication, he’s not famous by accident.

I mentioned John MacArthur at the start of this post. It won’t do me any favors with a segment of Christendom, for whom MacArthur is unpopular. I raised MacArthur, in part, because he and Matt Walsh have something important in common. Both men are inveterate truth-tellers. They both speak about hot-button topics in a controlled way. Both men also have a strong following and passionate detractors.

MacArthur does it better. He often teaches the most difficult and polarizing aspects of the Bible. Some listeners hate this teaching. And yet, MacArthur keeps the focus on the subject at hand. Detractors may attack MacArthur for sharing what they consider to be hateful words. Rarely is MacArthur personally attacked. His message, whether popular or unpopular with listeners, is the focus. He emulates the fruit of the Spirit. He doesn’t return evil for evil.

Some might say, acting that way will leave you ignored by the culture. Except, MacArthur remains popular now in his 80s. In his What is a Woman moment of cultural recognition, MacArthur defied Gavin Newsom’s lockdowns and entered the national news cycle. In years past, MacArthur was a recurring guest on Larry King’s CNN program. MacArthur doesn’t fight the culture’s way to get his message across, and yet, he is recognized. If Matt Walsh studied John MacArthur’s high-profile career, what could he learn?

How we say a thing matters. It leaves us with a choice. Paul chides in Galatians 3:3-4, “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Displaying the fruit of the Spirit may handicap us culturally. What if it leads to the change we seek?

Eugene Havens

Eugene is a writer working on books and websites. Check out Eugene's novel here.

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