A couple of years ago, the girls’ volleyball team of Seattle Hebrew Academy’s junior high (where Michael Medved’s children attend) went undefeated, dominating the parochial school league in that area. One team from a Catholic school came to play them for the first time and Principal Rivy Poupko Klitenik greeted their bus on arrival. “And what is the team name?” she asked.
“We are the Crusaders.”
She gulped. “Well, I hope this time turns out better than the last.”
Which brings us to the curious case of Donnie Deutsch, his nasty ambush of Ann Coulter, his real or pretended thick-headedness about the relationship between Jews and Christians, and the subsequent piling-on of Ann for utterly inoffensive remarks. I watched the video clip of the entire exchange carefully and those are my considered conclusions.
Here is what happened. Ann is promoting a book and in those circumstances she accepts all invitations, even into hostile territory. She came on Deutsch’s CNBC show,The Big Idea, the interview appearing over a chiron reading: “Being Extreme Makes Millions.” The host is a blow-dried pretty boy who wears half-glasses down on his nose to create a kind of Michael-Landon-meets-Erkel effect. He asked Ann what her ideal America would look like and she answered: “All the Democrats would be like Joe Lieberman and all the Republicans like Duncan Hunter.”
He countered that he meant what kind of place America would be generally, not politically. A joyful place, she responds, safe and prosperous. More tolerant? Yes, definitely, like the mega-churches she lectures in where they are thoroughly diverse and integrated in an unself-conscious way. “What, a Christian America? No Jews, no Buddhists?”
In the course of the next few sentences of repartee, Ann makes a number of points. 1) That a Christian views himself as a perfected Jew. 2) That a Jew has to obey the Law to be in Heaven, but Christians believe they have a “fast track.” 3) That this is basic to anyone familiar with the New Testament. 4) That there is nothing offensive in this to Jews. Deutsch, for his part, claims to be a practicing Jew, but says he finds this personally offensive, more appropriate for a Prime Minister of Iran than for an educated woman like Ann.
In fact, the only one exposing blind spots in his education was the host. If he does not know that Christians believe Jews are lacking something by not accepting Jesus as a savior, if he does not know that Jews believe Christians are to one degree or another in error by believing Jesus can save them, he is ignorant of the most basic facts of religious life. By the same token, at this stage in history both sides have concluded that they will not settle the theological differences short of a prophetic or Messianic intervention.
The serious people on both sides also know that they share a broad set of overlapping moral values along with an interest in a wholesome, family-oriented society and culture. If they stand on ceremony and refuse to work together because the other is not catechumenically correct, the result will be that the forces of depravity will divide them and conquer the street. In the meantime, each side chuckles to themselves that they have the spiritual edge. (Ann’s view is more amicable than most; many Christians believe the Jews lost their Covenant entirely.)
I once saw a transcript of one of the forced debates that were common in the 13th century, where the king would compel a Jewish scholar to debate a Christian scholar. This particular manuscript did not identify the rabbi involved, but he was pretty fearless, pointing out the excesses of the Crusaders. At one point the priest says to him: “What if you are wrong and on Judgment Day God is angry at you for not accepting Jesus?” He answers: “What if you are wrong and on Judgment Day God is angry at you for accepting Jesus? The answer is that as long as you make your best judgment in a sincere way, it is unlikely that a perfectly intelligent and just God will be angry.”
To imply that Ann Coulter violated an intellectual norm, a religious norm, a social norm, by explaining the things she did in the manner she did, is simply misinformed — if not crude religion baiting. It just ain’t so. Indeed the contrast between Ann’s Christianity and Ahmadinejad’s Islam is particularly “striking,” to use her adjective of preference. Remember who she used as an example in the sentence before to describe the ideal Democrat? None other than Joseph Lieberman, the most traditionally practicing Jew in the history of the United States government.