I try to make a practice of not gloating when a public figure is embroiled in a sex scandal. I imagine gloating would get me into the weird habit of “hoping” more people have been sexually abused so I can finish building a case of how horrible Person A is compared to B and C. Also every now and then I happen to like one of those public figures embroiled in a sex scandal.
Comedian Louis CK’s long-looming imbroglio has dropped like a bomb. In the echoes of the air raid sirens, multiple women—and surely more soon— have accused him of performing lewd acts in their presence. Lewd acts in this case defined as disrobing and masturbating. The New York Times stopped short of calling it “assault,” preferring the demerit “sexual misconduct.” Whatever the euphemisms, even for a comedian who makes light of his own misery, today is the worst day of Louis CK’s life. It comes years after perhaps the worst day in the lives of his respective victims.
In most of the accounts, Louis didn’t force anyone to watch him masturbate. He didn’t grab anyone anywhere they didn’t want to be grabbed; he didn’t exert his physical strength to pin anyone down; there was never an “or else” in the moment (post-hoc perhaps). Apparently, he asked explicit permission before each in-person occasion, revealing at least a bit of shame. He even followed up with apologies in some instances— perhaps at the behest of his agent; perhaps out of compunction.
None of this is to excuse Louis, because regardless of how you or I or anyone not involved categorize Louis CK or order him in the hall of shame, his victims felt abused, and the victims get to define the severity of the abuse.
Louis behavior reveals an obviously sick and sexually deviant man, but, wait, wait, wait, weren’t we all laughing about his sick behavior during his last comedy special? And the one before that? Hasn’t he been confessing this to us the entire time?
Comedians are our modern day prophets, and Louis CK has been denouncing “proper sexual conduct” since the day he picked up a microphone. His blend of Catholic guilt and atheist absolution led to a style of comedy that is relatable—eating until you hate yourself—and revelatory of the moral incoherence of secular America. His taboo bits, like riffing on child molestation or his belief that abortion is akin to a bowel movement, have baffled secularists who have thus far not had to defend the logical conclusions of their moral assumptions to their own team. Louis wasn’t trying to be a moderator for a great postmodern debate; he was just telling it like it is. And “it” is really dark and miserable.
I think this is why I, and so many other Christians I know, appreciate Louis CK’s insights. Like writer Chuck Palahniuk or late comedian Bill Hicks, men who stare at the abyss and report back truthfully, Louis gets half of the equation correct. Without God, everything is meaningless. And in place of God you can only honestly place anarchy (Palahniuk), anger (Hicks) or absurdity (CK). One of Louis CK’s most biting insights into this hypothetical godless universe:
An optimist is someone who goes, “Hey, maybe something nice will happen!” Why the ____ should anything nice ever happen? What are you, stupid?
He’s right, you know. Nothing in the animal kingdom would lead us to believe that good things should happen to good humans. For every deer rescued by a dog there are millions—literally millions—of weak and vulnerable animals eviscerated by powerful predators who shed not a tear. Cue Elton John’s “Circle of Life.”
Those who see tragedy, and don’t see God, are driven to despair or distraction. I remember reading about how militant atheist Richard Dawkins finds the will to live. He looks forward to lunch. #relatable
In pursuing his dark thoughts on stage, Louis CK was tipping his desperate hand, and he was showing just enough so that no one would ask any follow-up questions. It’s a trick we play every day to avoid difficult conversations— surely someone who can be so honest about himself or herself has little to hide. If you’ve ever been praised for your candidness, you are probably very good at this. I know I am.
For so many jokes about masturbation, Louis was being dead serious: “[Masturbation] keeps me sane. I’m a good citizen, I’m a good father, I recycle, and I masturbate. And I’m proud of it, and God’s happy.” It’s obviously a ‘joke’, but Louis CK is never really joking. What makes Louis CK, an ex-catholic with no moral obligations, act like God is still in the room waiting to bring the hammer down?
Maybe Louis is happy now. Not as miserable. Maybe he doesn’t have to joke about his pain anymore. After all of the apologies and reparations are made, after everything he ever built comes crashing down, maybe he’d prefer being the king of the rubble. Louis has torn himself down, performed vivisections of his psyche for millions of paying customers, this isn’t entirely new to him. But now his reputation will be justifiably ruined, his career stunted, and his behavior set as an example of what is wrong with men, America, the earth, the cosmos. In the olden days we called it sin.
If you think religious terms reduce wrongness or excuse Louis CK, then you misunderstand sin. Louis CK can’t and won’t pay off his emotional debt, much less his spiritual debt, by simply being more candid or apologetic. He’s flush with that kind of currency, we all are. Words are cheap but the wages of sin is death (does anything cost more?). And when the Man comes to collect, there will be hell to pay. It doesn’t matter if you recycled or were a good dad.
Now Louis can finally be honest about himself. Not the fake “stage honest,” but the “this is all I have left” honest. The destruction of his self is out of his hands now. He has been relieved of tearing himself down. And at some point when the smoke clears and he’s sifting through what’s left of himself, I hope he finds something meaningful outside of himself. I hope—I really do!—that he stumbles back into a church and he’s presented with a man who only takes seriously men and women who have been humbled to the dust. The man who pays the debt, whose kingdom is made up of peasants and prostitutes. Who himself was defaced and destroyed and in three days raised up again, so that he could present poor, ignorant perverts as Sons and Daughters of God, draped in garments they don’t deserve. Jesus didn’t die for you on your best day, Louis. It was on your worst day. Same for everyone who calls on his name.
Why should anything nice ever happen? It shouldn’t, and it usually doesn’t, but it did and it does.