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Tribe and Truth

Ann Coulter, Theologian

Here we go again, another Ann Coulter media blowup. This time, however, there is a serious point worth drawing from the episode. Coulter’s latest contested comments were delivered on CNBC to Donny Deutsch on his show The Big Idea. She offered the opinion that Jews need to be “perfected” by becoming Christians.

Deutsch, who is Jewish, spluttered about “how hateful, how anti-Semitic” this idea is. Yet from a certain perspective — which is not my own, but as an Orthodox Jew I find reasonable coming from her — she’s right.

I first became aware of the Deutsch exchange by listening to the curiously popular radio program hosted by Michael Savage (a/k/a Michael Weiner), a New York Jew who plays to the Christian audience while studiously avoiding mention of his own ancestry. Savage, to my surprise, was predicting pogroms.

A brilliant saleswoman for her own books, Coulter played the agitated and offended Donny Deutsch like a violin. But her efforts at self-publicizing were incomplete until the Anti-Defamation League got involved. (The group should demand a share of the first royalty check for her current title.)

“Coulter’s remarks are outrageous, offensive and a throwback to the centuries-old teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism,” the ADL reliably howled, following its scripted role. Among their many success stories involving this type of outcry, is that of Mel Gibson’s The Passion: They helped out Mel Gibson by denouncing The Passion and turning the film into a box-office smash. Wouldn’t it be unfair to deny Ann Coulter the same helping hand?

On one level, the whole affair is just so silly. Which religion, whose adherents accept the tenets of that religion as the truth about God, does not regard adherents of other faiths as holding imperfect theological notions? If religious belief is important, then to accept more perfect beliefs is to be more perfect.

For my part, I’d try to avoid suggesting that Ann Coulter should be perfected by amending her faith. But I would avoid it only because I see no advantage in patronizing other people. Obviously, Ann Coulter sees an advantage.

But there’s more to say. In the Jewish community, there are two dominant ways of appreciating what it means to be a Jew. One way professes pride at being Jewish even as it follows the lead of secular materialist dogma. It turns Jewish identity into a sorry and pathetic thing — a mere tribal affiliation, a function of DNA.

The other way sees the Torah, the Constitution of the Jewish people, as a grand statement of eternal cosmic truth, whose value casts race, tribe, and blood as purely secondary matters, at best.

The choice is between tribe and truth. In the tribal version of Jewishness, what Ann Coutler proposed — converting to Christianity — amounts to a gentle genocide, the end of the tribe. In the truth version, her view is inoffensive because we regard her in much the same way she regards us. In other words, we think that her perfection lies in recognizing the truth of our religion, in the same way that she sees our perfection in accepting the truth of her religion.

Coincidentally, just the day before yesterday I received in the mail a book that’s coming out this month by a journalist at the American Enterprise Institute. He is Jon Entine and he has written a book aimed cleverly at the Jewishness-Is-DNA constituency. The book is Abraham’s Children: Race, Identity, and the DNA of the Chosen People.

Entine does a fine job of retelling the history of the Jews from a racial perspective. The book will be a bestseller in the Jewish world, as evidenced by the impressive author tour he’s embarking on, crisscrossing the nation’s Jewish Community Centers.

A chapter in Abraham’s Children offers to flatter us with the case for superior Jewish intelligence. Another plays to the morbid fascination with physical sickness, focusing on diseases associated with Jewish ancestry. An appendix lists 54 such inherited Jewish ills. This stuff will be eaten up by middle aged and elderly Jews at those JCCs. For many of them, Judaism is a matter of the body, period.

Which, to borrow the ADL’s formulation, is a teaching of contempt for Judaism if ever there was one. But that’s precisely what constitutes secularism: acceptance that reality is only material, physical stuff. Judaism, like Christianity, says the exact opposite. Reality is spirit.

From the perspective of that basic truth, and setting aside particular religious doctrines that elaborate on it, a human being sealed up against the truth is at a severe disadvantage. He could stand to be “perfected.”

Ann Coulter understands that better than many Jews, including her fiercest critics.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.