Lenny Bruce and The Culture of Life

Before my last trip to Ireland, I stopped by our local used bookstore, and picked up some reading material. One of the books was an ancient paperback: The Essential Lenny Bruce. I’ve been picking at it a little bit at a time since then. It’s really hard to read standup, but I read something a couple nights ago that has been sticking in my head. I can’t shake it. So, I’m going to share it with you, so hopefully you won’t be able to shake it either.\
bq. Cause the weird part we get hung up with, “I am pure and I am good, and those people are dirty and those murderers are bad and I am so pure, I’m so good that I have to murder those murderers.” And then you end up getting screwed up.\
How frightening is that? Have you ever heard a more succinct and spot-on description of pious anger? This is the motivation that leads people to kill abortion providers, to threaten the lives of judges, to celebrate life by ruining or ending the lives of others. That’s not a “culture of life”. It’s a culture of acceptable losses, and blatant hypocrisy wrapped in some twisted Christian vocabulary but without any meaning at all.

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


  1. So, just how far do you take this idea of pious anger? Capital Punishment? Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and our entry into WWII? Dropping the bomb? Sept 11 and our invasion of Afghanistan? Invading Iraq? Which are justified and which are arrogance?
    Aside from Christian ethics (Canaan anyone?) where do we as humans draw the line? When is pious anger justified?
    for the record:
    capital punishment: good
    US involement in WWII: good
    The Bomb: good
    Afghanistan: good
    Iraq: bad

  2. Excellent question. I think it comes down to motivation. I don’t think “pious anger” has any place in government or the affairs of state, which is where we run into trouble.
    When we have congressmen intimating that judges will “pay” for what they’ve done, that sends a signal that they’re advocating violence, not out of some sense of justice, but in a Biblical, religious sense.
    The line is grey, but it shouldn’t have anything to do with anger.

  3. I think anger has a place. Maybe if we were more angry about child molestation and the mutilation and murder of children, maybe we would actually effect change so that covicted sex offenders don’t get the right to strike again and again. I don’t know. Just thinking that if someone every hurts my children… well, I get angry just thinking about it because the reality is, it could happen because sex offenders are all over the place, while Martha is STILL in her house wearing that anklet. And in the meantime, another child was raped and murdered and buried alive. The line is not grey when it comes to deviates.

Comments are closed.