Saturday, October 13, 2007

Who is Afraid of Ann Coulter

The news world in general and the Jewish community specifically have been abuzz over the fact that Ann Coulter, a right-wing Christian political commentator, said, on CNBC, to Donny Deutsch that Jews should convert to Christianity. (See here.)
For some strange reason, I fail to see why anyone is concerned. As someone, who studies medieval and early modern Christianity, I will tell you that what Coulter said was positively Philo-Semitic. If any of you are bothered by what Coulter said I would suggest that you read some John Chrysostom, Martin Luther or simply open up the Gospel of John. Coulter did not accuse us of murdering her Savior, little innocent Christian children or of worshiping Satan. She did not even accuse us of being big nosed greedy bankers out to control the world. Coulter was nice enough to invite Deutsche to come to church with her without even the barest hint of threatening violence. She repeatedly described Christianity as the fast track to heaven. Notice that she did not say that Christianity was the only way to get into heaven. So if we are to take her at her word it would seem that she believes us Jews can still, in theory, get into heaven despite the fact that we have not accepted Jesus as our personal savior. Another thing that seems to have gone unnoticed is that Coulter said that “you can be a practicing Jew.” When Deutsch replied that he was, she said: “no you are not.” Again, to take her at her word, it would seem that she believes that Orthodox Jews are completely in the clear. This is positively, dare I say it, liberal of her. I practically agree with her on this. I greatly prefer religious Christians to secular Jews. Religious Christians, for the most part, believe that the State of Israel is allowed to defend itself.
Ann Coulter is a practicing Christian so it should be taken as a given that she thinks that Christianity is better than Judaism. One assumes that the reason why someone practices a religion is because they believe it is better than the alternatives out there. If you are a Christian who does not think that Christianity is better than Judaism then why are you not converting? As an Orthodox Jew, I certainly believe that Judaism is better than Christianity and that the world would be at least a slightly better place if all Christians would convert to Judaism or at least simply be Noachides.
While I am not in the least bit concerned with Ann Coulter, I am very concerned about the popular reaction to this whole affair. It would seem that the new line for bigotry is anyone who thinks that their way of living is better than other people’s. This is as much a threat to Orthodox Judaism as it is to Christianity. If Christians are being bigoted for believing that their religion is better than other people’s then certainly Orthodox Jews are bigoted for believing that their religion is better. So you have to wonder, who is being Anti-Semitic here.
I would even argue that this is a bigger threat to Orthodox Judaism because we do not have the excuse of saying that we are simply practicing traditional American values. The fact that we, as Orthodox Jews, live in America and do not practice good traditional American Protestant Christianity is a snub against general society as we are actively choosing not to practice like everyone else. When a Christian puts up a Christmas tree he is not actively making a decision to not put up a menorah. When a Jew puts up his menorah and does not put up a Christmas tree he is actively choosing to not put up that tree. To be a Jew in America, and particularly to be an Orthodox Jew, means that you have actively made a choice to turn your back on many of the practices of the culture around you because you believe that what you do is better.
Ann Coulter may be a far right-wing nut, who has said her share of inappropriate things. This here is one of her saner moments. She should be congratulated here for helping edify the public discourse, for once. We need to distinguish between the crazy people who want to use nuclear weapons against us and the crazy people who simply want to take us to church. Maybe Columbia University could invite Ann Coulter to speak. At least she believes that there are homosexuals in this country.

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