Wednesday, October 17, 2007

One Person's Heaven

Ann Coulter has once again stirred controversy with her comments. This time it was a comment that her dream of a perfect America is a place where we are all Christians happily defending America. The comments were made on CNBC's The Big Idea. When pressed by host Donny Deutsch, Coulter said that yes, she would throw out Judaism. She explained her belief that Christians are “perfected Jews” who desire that Jews be perfected because, although they will get to heaven through obedience to the law, they could be on the “fast track” if they became Christians. Deutsch, a practicing Jew, made it clear to Coulter that her glib comments had offended him personally. She seemed almost incredulous that he didn't see her point as generous not onerous.

With all due respect to Deutsch, who rightly suggests the best solution is to ignore her, there is value in examining both Coulter's behavior and thoughts. She presented an interesting theological position. Though she didn't explain it, the way she used the word perfected theologically. In the minds of the writers of the New Testament, to be made perfect meant to be completed. Indeed, traditionally Christianity views Jesus as the completion of the covenant God made with the Hebrews. In this sense, Christians can be called perfected Jews. Also, since Christians are instructed to share this good news with others, it would make sense that Coulter thought she was offering a gift not an offense. Granted, Deutsch did not receive this as good news. Coulter's insensitivity to his position and lack of regard for how her comments might be received by the general public both expose her need to behave more politely and leads to reasonable accusations of antisemitism. We may ignore Coulter's inflammatory statements, but the view she espoused and the nerve she hit cannot be ignored. Many Christians believe that their brand of Christianity is the only true path to salvation and thus would only fault Coulter, if at all, on her style but not her substance. While other Christians have come to accept that the same God whom they worship could never break the original covenant with the Jews and so respect them by not attempting to convert them.

Political correctness has arisen as a way of peacefully coexisting in a pluralistic society. Unfortunately, this type of oversensitive vigilance can also fuel bigotry by forcing it underground. Simply biting one's tongue is insufficient when the heart remains unchanged. True sensitivity to the other begins with self-examination. When religion claims an exclusive path or a corner on the truth then anything that passes for tolerance of other truth claims is little more than lip service, or at least something less than true acceptance. What if we approached truth as something we only ever partially possess, but always seek? Perhaps then we could believe as Mohandas Gandhi believed that there are many paths up the mountain of truth, so it doesn't matter that someone is on the other side of the mountain. Unfortunately, Ann Coulter's heaven would be Gandhi's hell.

1 comment:

David J said...

What's kind of interesting in all this is how neither side in this case, understands the other's theology very well. Coulter couldn't possibly be so ingnorant not to know that Jews don't accept Jesus as their Messiah. And the other gentleman cannot be so uninformed to not know the Christian position on salvation through Christ alone. I don't mean to minimize Coulter's pot-stirring, but it strikes me as a tragedy that our country has become so secular and so uninformed to faith(s) that it can't understand each other.

I would say that the Christian Way is essentially the Jewish Way with a Tour Guide. And if we can't find common ground between these two theological cousins (or brothers) then we still have a lot of work to do.

When we solely focus on our Way to Truth, whether that be the Bible alone, or Tradition, or the Old Law, we unintentionally put blinders on to other possibilities, and I would add that we are likely less for it. By understanding other Traditions we can gain a better understanding of our own.