Ann Coulter’s “Perfected Jew” Dustup
Recently, I had dream. This vision came to me that Ann Coulter is a reincarnated, ancient prophet, who woke up as a girl, grew up, then went to college and law school where she was surrounded by dyspeptic lefties. She was endowed by nature with a very sharp wit – sometimes too cutting by half. So Ms. Coulter become a conservative flame thrower. And, yes, the girl is funny.
On October 8th, she and her wit both fell into the anti-Semitism trap. This event was, as we say, a teaching moment.
First, a recap:
October 8, on CNBC, host Donny Deutsch asked her an open-ended question.
Deutsch – If you had your way … and your dreams, which are genuine, came true … what would this country look like?
Coulter – It would look like New York City during the Republican National Convention. In fact, that’s what I think heaven is going to look like. People were happy. They’re Christian. They’re tolerant. They defend America.
Deutsch – It would be better if we were all Christian?
Deutsch – …We should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians?
Coulter -Yes…. We just want Jews to be perfected, as they say. … That’s what Christianity is. We believe the Old Testament, but ours is more like Federal Express. You have to obey laws.”
After a commercial break the interview resumed.
Deutsch – Ann said she wanted to explain her last comment….So you don’t think that 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 live up to all the laws. What Christians believe — this is just a statement of what the Neew 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.
Coulter – 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.
Ms. Schlussel Speaks for Many of “the Chosen”
The firestorm continues, but Ms. Coulter is not without her Jewish defenders. For example, these representative comments were posted by the Jewish blogger, Debbie Schlussel
“The Internet and Mainstream Media are abuzz in their latest attack on Ann Coulter. This time, they’re claiming she’s an anti-Semite. It all stems from an interview she did with CNBC’s horrid talk show host Donny Deutsch. …
“In describing the connections between Christian and Jewish beliefs, Ann said that Jews believe in the Old Testament, but Christians believe in that AND the New Testament. Jews need to be ;perfected,’ she said. Reading the full script …it’s abundantly clear what she was talking about. To wit: That we, as Jews, don’t accept the full Christian Bible, and therefore, it’s the Christian belief that we need to be fully accepting of it. She said ‘That is what we [Christians] believe we are–perfected Jews.’
“Why should that offend me? I’ve had brunch with Ann, and we’ve had many conversations through e-mail, etc. During all of that, she’s never once told me she’s offended that I believe that I am part of the Chosen People. To you far-left Jews and other uber-liberals who want to rush off and call Ann an anti-Semite, that means that we as Jews believe Christians and Hindus and Bahai Fathers (and definitely, Muslims) are not Chosen. Does that make me a religious bigot? Nope. It just means I actually believe in my religion.
“Just like Ann does. Nothing more. Nothing less.”
Now, for that Teaching Moment:
Many of us – especially those who see ourselves as “Judeo Christians” – are struck by the fact that the essential Judaic origins of the Christian faith are quite visible during nearly every Sunday worship; typically, about half the service is devoted to passages from Jewish scriptures.
Some of the scholars among us take this recognition even further. In the first century, Judaism was far from a monolithic faith, and within its pluralism one could find the seed congregations that would eventually be called “Christian”. Jewish scholars agree that in its beginning “Christianity” was a branch of Judaism. For many contemporary Christians, it remains at least a sister religion.
I think that the theological position that Christians are “perfected Jews” is a silly error. But it is an innocent one that can be traced to one of the teachings of Rabbi Jesus. As captured in the Gospel of Matthew, we can hear the rabbi teaching his followers about fidelity to the Law (bearing in mind, this is a fragment – for the full text of this version of the Beatitudes, go to Mark Chapter Five, verses 1-20):
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.
“Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
The notion that Jesus lived “not to abolish the law (i.e., the Torah) but to fulfill it” is the key passage that gave rise to the mistaken notion that Christians, by following Jesus as Messiah, become “perfected Jews”.
Please show me a “perfect Christian”.
I am reminded of a striking parallel: The great rabbi, Hillel the Elder, who probably was still teaching in Jerusalem when young Jesus was alive, once was confronted by a non-believer who apparently wanted to get the “Cliff Notes” version of the Torah. This fellow promised to convert if the great rabbi could recite the entire Law while standing on one leg.
It is recorded that Rabbi Hillel stood on one leg and said: “Do not that which is hateful to yourself to your neighbor. All else is commentary. No go and study.” Apparently Hillel’s insouciant interlocutor did just that and later converted to Judaism.
An astute modern Jewish philosopher, Professor Jacob Needleman, in his new book, “Why Can’t We Be Good?”, has stated his belief that Hillel undoubtedly would included the Shema (the injunction to love G-d with all ones strength, heart and mind”) in his one-legged essence-of-Torah summary for the non-believer. I certainly agree.
A few short decades later, that popular young rabbi, Jesus (or Jeshua or Joshua) from Nazareth, was approached by a lawyer who asked for a quick summary of the “greatest” commandment. The reply, captured in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 22, was strikingly similar to Hillel’s:
“‘You shall love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the prophets.”
From this passage and related findings we can conclude that the simplistic notion still held by many Christians that Jesus essential moral teachings were a radical break with Judaism is gravely incorrect. Judaism was already on a developmental vector that Hillel presaged, Jesus intensified, and the Jewish people have followed over the ensuing centuries. Christians should note that the injunction of love one’s neighbor is taken right out of Leviticus.
Any moral “perfection” represented by Christianity itself was mirrored by Jewish real-world moral progress along about the same time line. The specifically Christian drama was more about the difficult and tumultuous “out-breaking” by which the Christian church was a vehicle through which the essence of Judaism was carried out of its immediate tribal and regional boundaries.
And it was about the concomitant vision of hope for all peoples. Christianity has made the Torah available (concededly sometimes in just the “Cliff Notes” version) to all the world’s peoples, circumcised, uncircumcised, men or women, rich or poor. Approximately one billion more people study some aspect of Jewish wisdom today than would have likely been the case had a certain First Century rabbi not lived, died, and become accepted as messiah … at least to us gentiles.
No, Ms. Coulter is not a theologian. She is a socially conservative comic with a sharp edge and a quick mind. She is no more “anti-Semitic” than Chris Rock is anti-white or anti-black. Chris and Ann are just anti-boring.
Get used to it.