Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Personal Aside: Ann Coulter—the Conservatives’ Own Andy Greeley



Liberal priest-columnist Andrew Greeley’s success in self-publicization is to say the outrageous and hope that it gets his name out there…calling God “she,” blasting bishops generically, making fun of ritualistic ostentation and generally misstating theology so as to appeal to the Know Nothing anti-Catholics. The most egregious example of this he wrote in his “Sun-Times” column in the time leading up to the election of Benedict XVI.

While news reporters seemed to be faithfully describing Catholic belief that the Holy Spirit…the Third Person of the Trinity…guided papal selection, Andy captured some attention by saying that the Holy Spirit could goof as well. Look at some of the bad popes it picked, he said, including some of those in the Middle Ages who had mistresses and were otherwise immoral!

This got the Know Nothings chortling but, of course, Andy knew better: he would have to unless he had been dozing in the seminary. The character of men occupying the office is not the province of the Holy Spirit but what is has been meticulously guarded—the gift of inerrancy of all popes, even unworthy ones, in communicating “ex cathedra” on faith and morals. But Greeley’s column got him Superbowl-style news coverage, inciting anger from Catholics who knew better and huzzas from secular liberals which constitute his political base.

Andy has a compatriot, a mirror-image on the conservative side of communications. She is closer to Andy Greeley than most like to admit, the conservative columnist and consummate TV guest Ann Coulter who seemingly writes a new book every four months which gets on the “New York Times” best-seller lists. She then gets on TV talk shows, makes outrageous statements which gain headlines and anger; then she tosses invitations for speeches to her booking agent. She goes for $50,000 a pop…to right-wing audiences. Like Andy she is an entertainer.

Ann, a provocative woman, lanky who curls her long legs underneath her as she purrs snide insults to liberals on TV, tossing her knee-length blonde hair and posing archly in mildly seductive cocktail-style clothing, hugely enjoys making headlines with her words—in the obverse way Greeley does. As both of them have a waspish quality to infuriate and to cash in at the bank, they deserve non-recognition. Certainly it would be best for the nation’s polity not to mention blood-pressure if they would cease and desist. Coulter is, like Greeley, a reckless speaker and uses words out of their proper context. Both have the gift of saying stupendously radical things in soft asides as if everybody knows the truth of what they say.

Coulter, a lawyer and far from a dumb blonde—but an almost diabolically clever one—is a phrase-maker who drives liberals up the wall and cracks up conservative audiences-- but she and Greeley make a lot of work for those of us who feel the need to clean up after them.

Evangelical Christian Coulter was interviewed on theology the other night on CNBC’s “The Big Idea” by Donny Deutsch whom it is to be supposed is a Jew—how observant or non-observant is not known. In the interview Coulter got off these statements which sound, in the context of today’s secularism, as extreme and hateful-- but which are often unguided missiles which she scatters to cause mischief. Like Greeley Coulter knows full well what she is doing…parlaying views of Christian religion with words that sound outrageous to the untrained ear…some of which are authentic but some of which are not. The fact they are misinterpreted is often the fault of the untrained non-theological ear and their purposeful knack of making statements without the faintest attenuation for nuance.

Here is a précis of what Coulter said on “The Big Idea”. Deutsch is a middling-level interviewer with a secularist’s penchant for screaming “hateful” when someone makes the (to him) outrageous statement that one religion is better than another.

17. “If you had your way…what would the country look like?”

1. “It would look like New York City during the [2004] Republican convention. In fact, that’s what I think heaven is going to look like.”

NOTE: An incendiary answer but which…when the assumption is made that social issues in the GOP platform square with Christian proclaimed verities and a foreign-defense policy that is assertive in the face of terrorism…is not sufficient to cause the building blocks to tumble down about her head. The racial component of the GOP electorate…not the convention delegates…is about the same as that of the nation—14%.

17. He asked her to describe the convention.

1. “People were happy. They’re Christian. They’re tolerant. They defend America.”

NOTE: Her use of “Christian” is provocative only in the contemporary sense. But she uses it in the original sense. If she were to explain more fully she would add that there are many elements of sanctification and truth found outside the Christian structure—elements which as gifts are forces impelling toward unity.

Other statements that caused her trouble to her merriment:

“I give all these speeches at mega-churches across America and the one thing that is really striking about it is how utterly, completely diverse they are and completely un-self consciously. You walk past a mixed-race couple in New York and it’s like they have a chip on their shoulder. They’re just waiting for somebody to say something, as if anybody would.”

She went on to compare a Seinfeld episode—“about Elaine and her boyfriend dating because they wanted to be a mixed-race couple” and “I think that’s reflective of what’s going on in the culture.”

NOTE: The Elaine and her boyfriend episode was probably the most cutting takeoff on much of contemporary liberalism—far more than Ann Coulter’s comments. Here were two people of different race striving to get attention by dating and hoping that they could thumb their nose at supposed “racist” conventions. Probably this attitude was more prevalent when Seinfeld was filmed over a decade ago than today.

Now the big one that elicited the rage of people from the “Sun-Times” Lynn Sweet to other liberals.

Deutsch says to her: “It would be better if we were all Christian?” Coulter says “yes.” Later he says, “[Y]ou said we should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians” and Coulter again says “yes.”

NOTE: That was a Greeley-type response that was delivered for attention value. Coulter knows this and she was being deliberately provocative—for which I fault her. In fact what she should have said as an Evangelical is what Evangelicals believe—that the books of what is called the “Old Testament” and by others the Jewish bible are in accordance with the state of mankind before the time of salvation established by Christ. The books reveal to all the knowledge of God and man and the ways by which God, merciful and just, deals with men. The books show a divine pedagogy. They give expression to a lively sense of God , sound wisdom about human life and a marvelous treasury of prayers and in them the mystery of our salvation presented in a hidden way. For which Christians should receive them with reverence. To a Christian the two…the Jewish or Old Testament…and the New Testament…are of one piece…the story of the Messiah foretold by the prophets. There is no countenance to “throw Judaism away” but indeed the mission of Christ is to make all one in Him. Among the Jews as well there had been epiphanies or appearances as with Abraham, Jacob, Moses and the prophets.

Christians believe Yahweh became human. It is a transcendence that should be traced to the prophecy of Daniel which Christ appropriated to Himself when His fate was being decided by the Jewish Sanhedrin. Caiphas the high priest was vexed and puzzled by His silence. He asked: “I put you on oath by the living God to tell us if you are Christ, the Son of God.” “The words are your own,” answered Jesus. “Moreover I tell you that from this time onward you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Well when you accept this, it is quite reasonable…and not hateful…for Christians to evangelize, is it not? “Throwing Judaism away” is a pejorative term which she provocatively accepts. I know a Lutheran minister in Minnesota who prays for my conversion to Lutheranism every day. Not only doesn’t it bother me, I am rather edified that he thinks well enough of me to pray for what he sincerely believes is my conversion. The fact that Christians should not pay for Jews, in all particulars and also for their conversion, is poppycock. Cardinal Francis George alluded to that somewhat imperfectly the other day in an interview with the journalist John Allen. He pointed out that Jewish scholars have called Jesus Christ…a bastard, born illegitimately and suggested that perhaps a compromise might be that Christians stop trying to convert them and they stop calling the One we insist is the Messiah by an outrageous and inaccurate name. I would suggest that by no means should there be an interrup
tion in prayers for conversion of Jews as part of a deal or not.

Deutsch then says: “So you don’t think that was offensive?” She responds: “No, I’m sorry. It is not intended to be. I don’t think you should t 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 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. 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.”

NOTE: A “perfected Christian” is not the right term. If you wished to follow the rubric outlined above you would say a “perfected Believer.” But even that is outlandish because it smacks of smugness and arrogance…implying Christians are perfected believers when they have moved to acceptance of the Messiah as foretold by the Jewish prophets…although I have listened to many Evangelical Protestants who seem to imply this. Not to me or to Catholicism, if I may say so. To be perfected is not just to accept the Messiah but to recognize that He stands between God and all of us sinful humans, offers to the Father prayers and satisfaction for our misdeeds—the enduring priesthood of the Savior that comes…may I say as a Catholic…in the Catholic faith in the Mass and to Evangelical Protestants like Ann by other means.

Every time Ann opens her mouth on Christianity she is reckless and harms ecumenism. She has the same wish as Andy has: to be read…to be publicized first of all—even if misunderstood.

In this world we do not need people who seek attention by merely being provocative. But that is the way you sell books and newspaper columns. Both know better—far better. But it is their way of getting noticed.


  1. Tom-
    Agree completely- I used to be amused by her witty zingers against liberals, but once or twice during the last year she came out with some vicious anti-Catholic blasts, for no apparent reason.
    I buy your take on her and the Anti-Priest.

  2. Mr T,

    Despite his batty Leftism, Greeley has been as great of a supporter of POD (Pious and Overtly-Devotional) Liturgy that we have in Chicago today (outside of Fr. Phillips). He really has made some headway at University of Chicago in asking (begging? bribing?) the philosophy department to at least consider western culture and logic in their "studies".

    Aside from that he has the journalistic persona of a bad-guy professional wrestling manager, and is perhaps the single most suitable nemesis for Tom Roeser that I have ever met.


  3. The truly sad thing about Coulter's comments is that she makes it much harder for those of us who try to explain Christianity to others.