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Darrell Bock on Christians and Ann Coulter, Pt. 2

posted by David Kuo

Following up on his piece last week on Ann Coulter, Darrell Bock writes:

It is called truth in advertising. It means that when one reports about events that the remarks be accurate. Few places are more important that this be the case than in discussing politics. For misquotes inflame not only ideas, but feelings—and misquotations get passed on.
There is a process going on here in the latest flap over Ann Coulter. The latest example involve reports about Bill Maher, whose well-known, low standards of communication have fueled the latest flap. Maher started the ball rolling by supposedly saying that “Dick Cheney should be killed by a terrorist.” This became part of Ann Coulter’s “if they do it, we can do it too” defense. The issue has now shown up in an email by Jerry Falwell’s son, Jonathan, who has come to Ann’s defense with a claim of exposing that “liberals can say it, but conservatives can’t” argument (a point that often is true). Even if his point is true, it does not justify Ann’s response. Judgment is something best left to God. As we noted on our initial post, for Christians to do unto others as they do unto you does not apply when the standard is a low one. Jesus exhorted people to a standard that is unlike that of the world.
What is worse is that the initial story is more complicated. It is an exaggeration and misrepresentation, the worst sort of tactic, although it is appears on the left and right in political discourse. Remember that “they do it too” is not a defense; it is a lowering of the standard of engagement to operate with tactics equal to those whose moral ground is being challenged. To try to keep the high ground, argue for it and then descend makes one a hypocrite, and Jesus did not give favorable ratings to that camp.
For the record, here is what took place. Maher initially did not say what is attributed to him. However what clouds the issue is that in subsequent discussion with Joe Scarbrough on Maher’s HBO show, he did defend the right to say such a thing—and with his typical humor. (They were discussing whether the Huffington Post was right to pull such death remarks made by bloggers on its page) What Bill Maher said was that the right to make such a statement should not be censored (oddly enough a position Ann Coulter would apparently defend). Maher also went on to say that had we not gone into Iraq, people would not be needlessly dying. The impression this exchange made was that Maher had said, or at least endorsed, this death to Chaney statement. He actually noted in making his points that he was quoting what others had said as the censorship issue was raised on his show and that he was not saying it himself (One can see the tape at: http://msunderestimated.com/RealTimePt2.wmv) So the ambiguity of the initial exchange is not as clear-cut as Coulter represented in her exchange with Edwards. I note this NOT to defend Maher. He is as reckless and wrong in this area as others. (This post is an equal opportunity critic). I note it because the representation of Maher simplifies a more complicated exchange, for which blame should be more carefully stated, given he did not say the exact statement he is attributed to him. In this case, fact checking matters.
In sum our points are: (1) Fact checking matters in these cases; (2) Everyone does it is not a defense; (3) Shame on both sides from blurring such issues; (4) All of us will do better if we pay careful attention to the facts and not merely take sides because we like the cause of one combatant over another. (5) If we as a community are going to go anywhere in our politics, someone must resist the temptation to take the low road. (6) Should not Christians be first?



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Doug

posted July 2, 2007 at 4:32 pm


I can agree with all six points but I’d add that the “liberals can say it but conservatives can’t” doesn’t carry enough truth to deserve all the repetition. It assumes that there are judges that matter and judges that don’t. Can say according to whom? Can’t say according to whom? Why do those people matter and why would the alleged victims want to empower those people to judge. There is no censorship involved in criticizing speech any more than in the original speech.
All this trope actually contends is that liberals criticize conservatives when they disagree (that is true and so is the converse) but such is not immoral, oppressive or worth all the light and heat signifying nothing that is given to it.
I don’t think I can point offhand to any scripture that says quit whining, but I can sure turn off the radio. I can point out that if someone believes in the scriptures, especially John’s Gospel, it’s a little mystifying why they would expect the world to be more accommodating than it is.



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Thinker

posted July 2, 2007 at 4:34 pm


The very concept that “if the other side does it, we can too” should be alien to the Christian imagination. Resentments that grow because – “well, they did it” are just that – resentments and that has nothing to do with Jesus. It is our human delusion about justice. God’s justice is not about payback. It is not about power over others. It is about affirming the very humanity of of God’s creation. Jesus let us know what we can be – he showed us. It was never resentful, never vengeful and he hung around with all the people that others rejected.
It becomes difficult when an Ann Coulter responds to everything with a vicious sarcasm, a demeaning word and and utter lack of compassion toward anyone. Then she claims to be a Christian as I do. The anger I feel toward her is my own spiritual issue. However, when her words are harmful – do I stand by and simply say nothing? No, but I must be willing to be attacked and stand in love in the midst of that. That’s the hard part of claiming Christ. My anger is not God’s anger. There are posters here who follow Jesus, yet constantly try to destroy what they consider the “other”. They might really see someone who differs from them as evil. The manner in which we approach our fellow human beings says much about how much we understand what it is to follow Christ. There is a common religious experience – in which you suddenly see the world with eyes of love – utterly unlike your own vision. I pray that all might experience this because it is impossible to be the same after such an experience.



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jeffrey monday

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:08 pm


I am hard pressed to find anything Christian about Ann Coulter. She claims to be one and delights in scolding anyone she deems immoral. Yet she attacks with slanderous rumor mongering sleazy personal attacks and compassionless mockery, hardly christian behavior. She is irrelevant and profits by appealing to the worst of human nature. She is best ignored.



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l'etranger

posted July 2, 2007 at 6:15 pm


Professor Bock
Many thanks for pointing out the truth of what Maher actually said. I actually saw the Real Time show at the time, purely because I had Joe Scarborough specifically denying the Maher had said it, could not remember the Coultarian (Coulteresque?) representation of it.
I think your point 6 is the critical one here – Christians should have the highest standards, not the lowest. I have just read some of John Dean’s work on authoritarian/social dominant personality types and the intersect with evangelical Christianity with some despair but it gave me insight into this. If we abuse the doctrine of grace to imagine that dishonesty (amongst other things) doesn’t matter because our sins are forgiven (and thus no longer matter) we can lie without conscience. I fear that this what is going on here.



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Jim

posted July 2, 2007 at 9:55 pm


If you are going to criticize Maher or Coulter, it might be a good idea to state EXACTLY whatt was said by both parties. As far as Coulter is concerned, I sense more hatred from her detractors thatn I do in the two books I have read.



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Jim

posted July 2, 2007 at 9:56 pm


That is, the two books I have read written by her. Sorry.



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Darrell Bock

posted July 3, 2007 at 12:04 am


Jim:
I am limited in the words I have on a post. Still you have asked for exactly what was said. I gave the web site so anyone could see what Bill Maher said. Now here are the relevant sites for Ann Coulter. Then anyone can see for themselves why people are discussing this.
The original remark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ws_bXU6Rjk
The latest remark: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ws_bXU6Rjk
The exchange between Elizabeth Edwards and Ann Coulter: http://thinkprogress.org/2007/03/02/coulter-edwards/
You can make the call now on the basis of exactly what was said and whether it has been summarized well. I am all for fact checking. And remember comparison of which approach is worse is not the point.



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Donny

posted July 3, 2007 at 1:28 am


Watch, I’m going to be nice.
Liberals say and do things – like Bill Maher – that have no support anywhere in the New Testament. Except of course that anyone can refuse to follow Christ Jesus and the Gospel. That’s it.
Everything else a Liberal represents has nothing in common with “The faith delivered only once to the saints.”
Yet it (Liberalism) has everything in common with first century Roman paganism and hedonism. Which, had nothing in common “literally” with Christians.
Why would a person that wants to change the United States into a Marxist or Secular European society – the likes of which look eerily similar to ancient Rome – even want to call themself a Christian. Since what makes a Christian a Christian as explained in detail in the written guidelines of the Gospel and letters of the New Testament, do not align with what a Liberal clearly desires to implement on everyone whether or not they are Liberals or want to be a Liberal or oppose Liberal ideology.
So, it is not surprising that some Christians desiring to protect their brothers and sisters in Christ, may get overly zealous and make mistakes by doing things in the ways of Liberals and mimick the hatred and vitriol spewed forth when confronted and opposed.
Shouldn’t we Christians do what is expected of us from the authors of our faith, who encourage us what to do? That would be to confront and forgive and reconcile Ann Coulter with the Church body, and have nothing to do with those that bring a false Gospel and worldly vices into our midst?
When comparing Liberal actions and words to those of Christ Jesus and His Apostles, we can rest assured that that Liberals have nothing in the way of religion or politics to yoke themselves to the believers. And we should follow the advice of Christ Jesus and that of His Apostles and recognize false teaching and anti-Christian behaviors for what and who they are. Liberalism is indeed, compared to the “Christian” witness of the Gospel and New Testament clearly “now” in the categories of false teaching and anti-Christian actions.



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Donny

posted July 3, 2007 at 1:35 am


And another thing,
If NOT responding to personal attacks over and over and over and over and over again, “in kind” towards those that oppose you is a good place to find decent Christian behavior . . . ,
. . . then President Bush is one heck of good Christian.
Tune in to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or read any newspaper or popular magazine in any major US, European, or Islamic city and test it for yourself.



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Doug

posted July 3, 2007 at 2:05 am


Donny, that last point is certainly a fair one. I’m not enamored of his presidency but the President takes abuse well and I credit more character to that than I do ability.



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Marlene

posted July 3, 2007 at 3:29 am


I tune in regularly to ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, newspapers, etc., and I don’t find any personal vilification of the president. I don’t hear them describing his physical characteristics in “coulter-esque” sarcasm. What I do see and read are major critiques of his failed and disastrous policies which have cost untold thousands their lives — and maybe a light-hearted look at his interesting way with words.
Please note that I am not including the “blogs” which are a wild-west free for all for both liberals and conservatives.
As for his “forbearance” — we have heard the president off-microphone (at least when he thought it was off) give some fairly salty (bleeped) retorts to his critics. In regard to European or Islamic media outlets — there’s nothing we can do about them. They will say or do whatever they please.



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Caren

posted July 4, 2007 at 12:26 pm


Ok … with your statement below from 7/2 kept in mind, care to comment on Olberman’s reaction to Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence? Inquiring minds want to know from Kuo. :)
In sum our points are: (1) Fact checking matters in these cases; (2) Everyone does it is not a defense; (3) Shame on both sides from blurring such issues; (4) All of us will do better if we pay careful attention to the facts and not merely take sides because we like the cause of one combatant over another. (5) If we as a community are going to go anywhere in our politics, someone must resist the temptation to take the low road. (6) Should not Christians be first?



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l'etranger

posted July 4, 2007 at 10:31 pm


“care to comment on Olberman’s (sp) reaction to Bush’s commutation of Libby’s sentence?”
Er well the transcript suggests he accused him of being a rotten president who had done bad things and called on him to resign. A reasonable assessment that at least 60% of Americans agree with, and an unremarkable request that a I would imagine a sizeable minority would agree with.
How exactly is like wishing for him to be killed by a terrorist?



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l'etranger

posted July 4, 2007 at 10:33 pm


and as far as I am aware Olbermann makes no claim to be a Christian



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Ed Darrell

posted July 31, 2007 at 9:18 am


Darrell Bock’s comments are good. He’s right especially that Christians should be first.
But — ouch! — what happens if you apply those criteria to creationist claims, to the anti-Al Gore-and-anti-environmental claims, the campaign against DDT, the campaign for abstinence-only sex education or the material given to kids in those programs, the case for invading Iraq?
Bock proposes high standards. Somebody has to start, but it’s a big, slimey mountain we’re talking about moving.



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