J Walking

Yesterday I have an email forwarded to me from someone who says they want to take up my “challenge” about Christians and Ann Coulter. The “someone” is Darrell Bock. For those who might now know him:

Darrell Bock is Research Professor of New Testament Studies and Professor of Spiritual Development and Culture at Dallas Theological Seminary. The author of over 20 books, including a New York Times Best seller, his specialties includes study of the historical Jesus, as he was a Humboldt scholar at the University of Tübingen in Germany and is editor at large for Christianity Today. He has made numerous appearances on national television about issues related to Christianity.

Here are his thoughts on Coulter and Christians:

Godless Author Needs to Think Again–And So Do We
As a theologian I have been watching with interest for some time the tone of some of our political discourse. In sum, it often resembles what one might expect to hear on an elementary school playground. So maybe some straight talk to five year olds is in order. The only problem is that it is not just the two families that are being invoked but the entire community of our body politic. There is a genuine need for a respectful engagement on the real issues of our time, not a polemicizing, self-promoting, mocking handling of opponents. Nothing has made that more apparent than the “work” and approach of Ann Coulter.
She needs to be called out for hiding behind an argument that “they do it, too.” This sounds exactly like something a five year old would say. It actually reflects very poorly on the cause she attempts to defend. More than that, she needs to be rebuked for arguing about how godless others are when the moral level of her own discourse relies on making fun of others using not so veiled personal attacks. Listeners clearly see such remarks as what they are–tasteless–while she attempts to say she really was not addressing the person directly. In my business, that is called a lie. It is a godless thing to do. If conservatives are going to try to argue for the high ground, they need to see that her type of argument cuts the ground from underneath them, as it smells of being hypocritical. Yes, it stinks to high heaven.
The connection some make between conservative causes and the Christian faith is also clouded by such tactics. Although Jesus could and did confront starkly (see his remarks about Pharisees), he also hung out with them (as well as others) and did regularly engage them in substantive issues and respectful dialogue. Interestingly, Jesus was often hardly on those supposedly on the “inside” versus those he actively sought who were often perceived as being on the other side of righteousness. Moreover, his call to love one’s enemies, even to the point of praying for his executioners as he hung on the cross, sets a decidedly different standard for those of faith in how they engage opponents. When Christians embrace godless tactics in the name of God and country (or the other way around), they deny the pedigree they so passionate seek to affirm.
Making fun of the tragic death of a child, teasing about sexual orientation, or joking about wanting to see a terrorist at work against someone is wrong, whether it comes from the left or the right.
Her attacks on John Edwards and her dismissal of his wife Elizabeth’s attempts to politely ask in a very Southern way for her to stop was not an attempt to get her to stop talking as she claimed. Her suggestion that John should have made the call was a ruse to avoid facing up to the issue she has helped to sustain and, even worse, promote. Her claim that the real goal was to keep her from talking at all was the type of exaggeration that showed no sensitivity to the very real point being made to her. Conservatives who care should say enough and not support her in anyway as long as she insists on traveling this road. Yes, disavow such tactics. They do not help anyone on either side of our debates.
Now let me defend Ann at one point. Her claim is that the other side does it too. She is right on this one. Anyone who has watched political satire knows that both sides are guilty here. But how does it advance the moral standard of our debates to say that the standard is if they do it, then we can do it too? If a teacher were on the playground during such a spat, she would simply say to both children, “Stop it.”
The godless author needs to clean up her act, or, as my Mom used to say, take some soup to your mouth, because if you cannot say it well or nicely, it may indicate that in fact your position is shallower than you let on. Humor, at least the type we are seeing her (and others) use, may actually suggest weakness rather than strength. “If I can’t make a case, then I will put my opponent down and belittle them.”
Democracy deserves better, the serious issues of our body politic require more.
Most importantly, for those who wish for a high moral standard to our country’s community life, someone who claims the high moral ground on issues need not and cannot stoop so low and truly advance the causes they advocate. In fact no matter which side of the left-right fence you are on (or even if you are straddling it), no one can or should condone five year old behavior in what should be a very mature discussion. When it comes to the tone of our political discourse, we all may need to grow up. So let’s pick our models carefully.