By Jonathon Van Maren
A few people have asked me, every now and again, why I still bother to occasionally respond to Michael Coren’s incoherent attacks on Canadian Christians, considering that he isn’t taken much seriously and that the liberal denominations he champions are dying off at a rapid clip. My answer is two-fold: First of all, I respond to most commentators who make it their business to slander social conservatives, however lazily. And secondly, I have it on very good authority that Coren is consistently irritated by my insistence on pointing out the obvious—that he is a preening fraud—and while he has every right to sell his sad paragraphs to those he once mocked (and probably still feel a healthy amount of contempt for his progressive boot-licking), he doesn’t have the right to enjoy it.
So with that out of the way, I noticed that Coren wrote a column on the Trinity Western University case. As is his modus operandi, he waited until everyone else had published their analysis, and then promptly submitted his. Ignoring all the facts of the case, he leaped directly into the sort of thing he presumes his new bosses demand of him:
It’s happening again. Once more, a group of conservative Christians is working to make a revolutionary faith based on social justice, egalitarianism and caring for the poor appear stale, reactionary and obsessed with how, why and when people make love to one another.
Indeed, it’s happening again! The Christians are coming! What is there to do with such banal drivel but offer a painful chuckle at the depths to which Coren, who was clearly desperate for a job, is willing to sink? He strings together buzzwords like Christmas lights, but cannot find anywhere to plug them in. He carries on in this vein for some time, repeating what he has said in more or less everything he has written since his “epiphany” that a cluster of pseudo-Christian bloggers and footloose theologians are correct about marriage and the Christian geniuses of the last two thousand years are wrong. Then he manages, unsurprisingly, to screw up the basic facts of the case:
Trinity’s advocates respond by claiming the covenant is about protecting the sanctity of marriage, not homophobia. That’s a rather disingenuous claim, to say the least. What if a heterosexual student had a sexual relationship while enrolled at the college? Would that student be expelled? Maybe forced to wear a scarlet letter?
The covenant Coren is referring to is Trinity Western’s lifestyle covenant, which students must sign if they choose to enroll. And the covenant encompasses any sexual relationship outside of heterosexual marriage, so yes, actually–this would apply to two students shacking up or heading off on Friday nights for one-night stands. But such key information impedes both Coren’s hysteria as well as his main accusation, which is that lawyers from a TWU law school would be unfit because they would be “homophobic.” He then follows that up with some incomprehensible blather about Christian lawyers with a Christian view of marriage being unfit to practice law because they can’t practice the law, proving that Coren is incapable of understanding that people are quite aware that many things they morally disagree with are not illegal. Like adultery, for example.
Coren then closes off his column with a melodramatic lamentation:
It’s not atheists who are pushing Christianity out of Canadian life. It’s conservative Christians. May God forgive them — because for the life of me, I find it difficult to do so.
Well, “LOL,” as the kids say these days. It might surprise Coren to know that nobody is asking for his forgiveness, and that most of us view him with acute pity. (I’ve even begun to believe his assertions that he’s lost a lot of money over the last couple of years—why else would he write such sad, maudlin stuff?) But it’s important to remember that this isn’t the first time that Coren has transformed in such a dramatic fashion. In fact, he’s been considered a “literary prostitute” by those on all sides of the political spectrum for quite some time. In an essay on Coren’s career published way back in 1994 in the Ryerson Review of Journalism, Christopher Ovsenny sums Coren up nicely, proving that nothing has changed but his affiliations:
Coren’s reputation is that of a sharp witted satirist–a brackish, bow-tie-sporting man who regularly
assails Canadian political and journalistic heavyweights. But on this day in October, Coren has been demure, reserved-cherubic even. Until, that is, I mention that a colleague has called him a “literary prostitute.”
Coren emits a short, hollow laugh and leans forward on the couch. His drooping eyes open wide as he suddenly sits up and then leans over his clenched hands. He begins to look like one of the hanging gargoyles. “Who was that?”
I stand tough. “I can’t say, but he said you’ll write anything for anybody.” As a sneer creeps across his bulbous face, I ready myself for vintage Coren toxicity…
As I wait for Coren’s response to being called a literary prostitute, I wonder if he can take as good as he gives. The answer is no. He’s quite thin-skinned, although he’ll often try to veil his anger with a witty response.
“Literary prostitute,” he says. “Prostitutes will sell their services without a thought to who the person is, simply for money. They open their legs to anyone, if that person has cash. I would never do that–I’ve turned down work on numerous occasions. I only write what I think is quality.
“I really would stress this point. The Canadian Catholic Review pays me virtually nothing! I do it because–That is a very annoying comment. I would like to know who said that,” he says, whispering under his breath, grimacing, “because I’d like to bash their teeth in.”
Those who have wondered what his wife must think of Coren’s constant attacks on the Catholic Church she still faithfully attends are also forgetting that she’s been in this precise situation before. When Ovsenny wrote this profile, Coren had just left the Catholic Church for the first time over criticism of a column he’d written on a prominent clergyman:
…his wife, Bernadette, a philosophy teacher at Humber College, acknowledges he often crosses the line. “Oh yeah. He goes way over the top,” she says, “but that’s the shock element, the sharpened needle. He has to keep sharpening it, otherwise he gets dull.” She believes her husband’s writings force people to think, to “turn up their mental soil every once in a while.” But Coren dug a deep hole with her when, in one diary entry, he depicted Mother Teresa getting looped in a bar. Bernadette, a practising Roman Catholic, took offence. “Sometimes he’s so lurid I’m surprised–I say to myself, ‘Who is this man I’m sleeping with?’”
So there you have it, then. Those who are wondering what happened to Michael Coren have their answer: Nothing. He’s precisely the guy he always was, which is why the accusation of “literary prostitute” struck so close to home all those years ago. The truth hurts, it seems. And it is as true now as it was back then.
For anyone interested, my book on The Culture War, which analyzes the journey our culture has taken from the way it was to the way it is and examines the Sexual Revolution, hook-up culture, the rise of the porn plague, abortion, commodity culture, euthanasia, and the gay rights movement, is available for sale here.