The Huffington Post revealed its ignorance this week when it attempted to portray President Trump's nominee for Army Secretary as some sort of Christian fundamentalist weirdo.
"Trump's Army Pick: Looking At Victoria's Secret Catalogs Can Turn Men Into Saddam Hussein," read a headline published Wednesday.
There's a slim possibility the title regarding Tennessee State Sen. Mark Green, a Republican, was meant to be a joke, but the story mostly dispels that notion.
"In 2015, Green spoke at a church in Tennessee and gave some advice to attendees about how to avoid the 'downward spiral' away from God that Hussein fell victim to: stop looking at Victoria's Secret catalogues," the article reads.
Green is indeed a Christian. Like all self-professed followers of Jesus Christ, the state senator believes harmful actions lead one away from God's grace, and that the more one strays, the further they'll fall into darkness. This is a core belief of not just Christianity, but of nearly every major world religion.
He does not believe, as the Huffington Post suggested this week, that simply looking at a Victoria's Secret magazine will turn a person into Saddam Hussein.
Let's unpack this.
Green was part of the special operations team that found and captured Saddam Hussein in 2003. He was also involved in interrogating the dethroned Iraqi dictator.
In 2015, during an address delivered at the Brentwood United Methodist Church in Tennessee, Green referenced Hussein – whose capture made him famous – while discussing the Christian principle that falling from God's light leads to darkness.
"In 1st Timothy, Paul tells Timothy, 'Guard your conscience, because if you don't, it will result in the destruction of your faith,'" Green said. "It will take you down that spiral of Romans 1. It will take you down the spiral that Saddam Hussein wound up thinking he was God."
The state senator, who is also hard-right when it comes to LGBT-related issues, added, "That's the process of how you get to Saddam Hussein, is you take one little step away from the Truth. You break your conscience just a little bit. You walk away and you look at that Victoria's Secrets catalogue when you know you probably shouldn't. And it's one step away from God, and it's one step closer to Saddam Hussein."
It's important to note here that Green was addressing Point Men, the Brentwood United Methodist's men's ministry. In other words, he was encouraging his all-male audience to be vigilant against lust and other forms of objectification.
Green obviously wasn't saying Victoria's Secret is the path to gassing the Kurds. Only the most insane and uncharitable of readings would suggest that.
One doesn't even need to be a Christian to understand that he was saying the jump to true evil doesn't happen all at once. It's incremental, and begins with seemingly innocuous actions. Something as small as ogling underwear models can eventually turn into a really ugly sort of objectification of women, and that can lead to even darker places and so on.
Christians believe one step back from the light, no matter how small, is still one step closer to darkness, and that's why they are reminded constantly to guard their hearts and minds; to be vigilant against all attacks on the conscience.
This was clearly Green's meaning. To suggest he actually believes Victoria's Secret is responsible somehow for Saddam Hussein, who was mentioned only because that's the senator's claim to fame, is either intentionally ignorant or fiercely stupid.
In either case, it's a bad look for a professional newsroom.