St. Paul tells us that it was Jesus who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, pastors and teachers. So far as I can tell, however, there is no office in the Church of “Professional Bomb Thrower”. That’s just one of the reasons I don’t turn to Ann Coulter as a source of Christian theology.
Some people do, though. And when that happens the results can be most unfortunate. Recently, Donny Deutsch invited Coulter on his CNBC show “The Big Idea” for a segment called “Being Extreme Makes Millions”. To no one’s astonishment but Deutsch’s, Coulter said some extreme things, which shows once again that many in the media seem to have the naivete of children who poke sleeping dogs with sticks and are stunned to find they bite. What, after all, did he expect?
Coulter gave her vision of a Happy America. It would “look like New York City during the Republican National Convention” in 2004. “People were happy. They’re Christian. They’re tolerant. They defend America.”
Here, Deutsch, who is Jewish, asked if she thought “we should all be Christian”. Coulter said yes.
It is here that the extreme impoverishment of the media on such matters immediately began to be manifest on both sides of the conversation, but especially Coulter’s. Deutsch is astonished, apparently unaware that it was Jesus, not Ann Coulter, who said to make disciples of all nations and baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Had Coulter simply pointed that out and moved on, what happens next could have been avoided. But Ann being Ann, she couldn’t do that. So instead the train wreck begins:
Coulter: Well, it’s a lot easier. It’s kind of a fast track.
Coulter: Yeah. You have to obey.
Deutsch: You can’t possibly believe that.
Here, the theologically educated Christian begins to feel his teeth hurt. Part of the problem, it seems to me, is that Coulter can’t quite remember who she’s talking to. Her schtick is bashing all those godless relativist liberals who just make up morality as they go along. Here, she seems to be reverting to that rhetoric and forgetting that she is talking to a Jewish person. That, at any rate, is all I can make of her mysterious observation, “You have to obey.” She seems to be berating “the hell with rules” liberalism while forgetting that Judaism is, after all, rather notable for endorsing obedience to God and doesn’t need Ann Coulter to point that out.
But she was just getting started. During the break, she seems to have sensed things hadn’t gone according to plan, so she asked for a chance to explain her comments to Deutsch, who asked if she didn’t think her comment was offensive:
Coulter: No. I’m sorry. It is not intended to be. I don’t think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe — this is just a statement of what the New Testament is — is that that’s why Christ came and died for our sins. Christians believe the Old Testament. You don’t believe our testament.
Ann, Ann, Ann. Stick to politics. Christians are not “perfected Jews”. It is true that Christian teaching (I speak as a Catholic) says that the New Covenant in Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant vouchsafed to Israel and that Jesus is the Messiah promised to the Jewish people. It is even true that Christians are, therefore, in the words of Pope Pius XI, “spiritual Semites”. But the notion that Christians are “perfected” is cringeworthy. Christians are sinners, just as Jews, Englishmen, Hottentots and Eskimos are. Only the saints in Heaven are “perfected”.
The train wreck continues as Deutsch reacts:
Deutsch: You said — your exact words were, “Jews need to be perfected.” Those are the words out of your mouth.
The blunder here is twofold. First, as the record shows, Coulter’s exact words were not, “Jews need to be perfected.” Her exact words were stupider than that because they claimed that Christians are perfected (past tense). That’s just about the most idiotic thing a Christian who is still in the flesh can say. But the complicating blunder Deutsch adds to the conversation is this: he is driven by Coulter’s folly to implicitly claim that Jews do not need to be perfected. I recognize, of course, what he’s trying to say: He’s proud of his Jewish heritage. Don’t diss my people. Etc. But he winds up suggesting something almost as stupid as Coulter: Jews are perfect too!
After this, the train wreck moves into its final stages as charges of anti-semitism and “hate” (and the expected denials) fly back and forth. In the end, Coulter tries desperately to do damage control by saying that Christians see the Old Testament as inspired and that Jews can go to heaven too. Being a Hannitized FOXNews pundit, she appeals to the nearest thing she has to a Magisterium: Jerry Falwell. But being a Hannitized FOXNews pundit, she also has only the most tenuous grasp of what the New Testament actually says. So she puts it this way:
I mean, [Rev. Jerry] Falwell himself said that, but you have to follow laws. Ours is “Christ died for our sins.” We consider ourselves perfected Christians. For me to say that for you to become a Christian is to become a perfected Christian is not offensive at all.
Here’s the deal, Ann. The New Testament does not actually say “Follow laws and you will be saved.” It also does not say “‘Christ died for our sins’ is a law.” Indeed, the whole point of the epistle to the Romans is that law ‘n order–though an important aspect of the Republican platform and a very good thing–cannot save us. It can only point to our need to be saved. For this reason, Paul never encourages the believer to consider himself a perfected Christian or a perfected Jew (which is probably what the now-flustered pundit meant to say). The whole question “Who’s more perfect?” would have sent Paul into gales of laughter and storms of fury. For Paul, the thought of we fallen human beings fighting over who is more perfect is like the patients of a cancer ward squabbling about who is the least terminal. That is why he quotes the Jewish Bible to remind his readers that “none is righteous, no, not one”.
Please Ann: do us a favor and stick to throwing political bombs. The last thing either Christians or Jews need is a Hannitized bowdlerization of the epistle to Romans, the epistle to the Hebrews, or Nostra Aetate.