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I’ve long found The Babylon Bee to be fantastically funny—all the more so because its editors and writers are hardcore born-again evangelical Christians who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God. That’s not a creed one usually associates with anything remotely funny, at least intentionally. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker aren’t people you seek out for the jokes.
Other comedy sites like The Onion don’t have to operate under such limiting, self-imposed strictures. The fact that the Bee is very funny, day in and day out, is almost enough to get me, a lapsed Catholic, to believe in divine intervention, if not a covenant of grace not works.
I caught up with Kyle Mann, the Bee‘s editor in chief, in July at FreedomFest, the annual gathering in Las Vegas. I was especially interested in talking about the site’s Twitter account getting frozen earlier this year. Back in March, Twitter suspended the account after it awarded “Man of the Year” honors to Rachel Levine, a trans woman serving in the Biden administration who had been named one of USA Today‘s “Women of the Year.”
The Bee‘s article struck me as mean-spirited, especially for Christians, and not particularly funny—ditto for recent trans joking by great standups like Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais, too. In today’s show, Mann tells me that the offending article was intended to satirize media treatment of identity politics, not demean trans people.
“We love trans people,” he says. “We don’t consider people like that beneath us. You know, the Christian worldview is that everybody has the opportunity to be saved and we can love everybody. I’m no more deserving of God’s grace than a transgender person is. But when the culture bows down and starts handing out trophies to people for stuff like this is when we say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you know, we need to protect women in our society as well.'”
The Babylon Bee‘s Twitter account remains locked because the publication refuses to delete the tweet and acknowledge that it violated Twitter’s policy against hate speech. In response to the Twitter ban and what Mann says is persistent demonetization and minimizing of the reach of its content on Facebook, The Babylon Bee has created its own social network and subscription model, both of which are flourishing. The episode shines a light on how contemporary culture wars are waged online and illustrates the specific travails that evangelical Christians face in a country that is increasingly secular and socially liberal. It also shows one successful way of routing around platform-specific censorship.
Beyond that, we talk about why Mann saves his deepest burns for megachurch pastors such as Joel Osteen; why he believes that the left—and Gen Z—can’t deal with humor that makes fun of them; and why he loves “personal liberty and personal freedom” even if it creates a culture that is deeply hostile to his faith.
Video version here.
The Party of Trump Rages On
is an editor at large at Reason and host of The Reason Interview With Nick Gillespie.
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