Arimathea
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Religion
The human animal is the worshipping animal. Toward the divine, we have a need to pray, to sacrifice, to offer up, and to praise. From the spirit dances of primitive animism to the rational contemplation of philosophical paganism, from the ethical code of the rabbis to the theological vision of the scholastics, from the sprinkled blood (the origin of blessing) of temple cults to helping the poor in simple Christian charity, men need to relate the immanent and the transcendent -- they see their particular lives in time and space transfigured and transfused with meaning unbounded by human things. Religion is this aspect of human life where the everyday and worldly intersects with the ultimate and divine. Is this an accident of human evolution, or is it a racial neurosis brought upon us as conscious beings who live in the shadow of our own death? Is it a reflection of the divine order, where creatures naturally orient themselves toward their source? Has God revealed himself to us, as the Christians claim? In this realm, I shall try to delve into such questions as an Orthodox Christian who ever pesters God with "Why?"
Tuesday, May 4, A.D. 2010
Ann and the Jews

I have just come across the two and a half year old story about Ann Coulter’s so called “faux pas” in a Donny Deutsch interview. Given that I do not regularly read outlets for leftist outrage like the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos (I just do not have the stomach for it), I am often unaware of the other side’s faddish annoyances. Yesterday, however, I watched Coulter’s Canadian trip interview by Michael Coren, wherein she talks about a being labelled an anti-Semite due to a previous interview where she said that conversion to Christianity was a perfection of rabbinical Judaism. Coulter refused to mention the interviewer’s name because she felt betrayed by him, thinking that he interviewed her in bad faith (pardon the pun) as a way to gain publicity for himself.

Naturally, the critics of Lady Ann would accuse her of publicity whoredom, too, but I believe that her engagement of the issues has always been sincere. I have been reading her and about her for the past twelve years. Her particular style gets attention, but I am convinced that she plays her part because she sincerely is invested in the theater of public affairs. The world is a stage, and she is not on it merely for fame or money. Time magazine’s “Ms. Right” is an interesting read for those skeptically interested in Lady Ann.

Moreover, it is a testament to the Left’s success over the last century that Coulter’s views can elicit the response by leftists that she must say what she says to be controversial for controversy’s sake. To paraphrase the United Methodist Church’s bizarre advertisement campaign, these leftists just cannot believe that there is a person who believes these things. Generally speaking, Coulter is a rather moderate conservative. She seemingly professes contemporary Protestantism, remains unwilling, publically, at least, to consider race realism (though she has defended Charles Murray and she occasionally links to Steve Sailer on her web site), professes a certain type of feminism, accepts popular, trashy, mass culture, and holds political positions well within the current mainstream of American conservatives. Nonetheless, she is one of the few public figures on the American Right who do not cower to leftists and who do not accept to work within the leftist framework that has come to monopolize the public sphere. For this, she is called an extremist, even by people whom I otherwise find thoughtful. When you let the enemy dictate how battles will be fought, you know that your side will always be marginalized. The honest common sense of our grandparents’ generation is now seen as extremist? Ponder that a second. Be mindful of the relentless leftward push that has occurred during the last century. Does fashion dictate the mean by which we label folks extreme? Evidently, it is so.

I was curious about the “anti-Semitic” interview, and I found that it was the following segment of The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch:

Evidently, Coulter’s comments “shocked” and “outraged” the public. You may read the dialogue on a fascinatingly titled Fox News article, “Columnist Ann Coulter Shocks Cable TV Show, Declaring ‘Jews Need to Be Perfected by Becoming Christians.’” After reading the melodramatic article, I indulged in my perverse Socratic interest in the opinion of the masses by reading other articles and comments sections on various online media sites and blogs. Surprisingly (or, perhaps, not—in this day and age), the vast majority of commentary was extremely hostile to Coulter, stating that, at best, she was insensitive to Jews and that, at worst, she was a combination of Satan and Hitler in Siamese sister drag.

The only somewhat sensible commentary that I found online was that of the late Michael Bell (Internet Monk): “Ten Big Ideas for Donny Deutsch,” wherein Bell notes that Coulter’s general opinion is simply a statement of the fundamental Christian belief—that Jesus Christ is the savior of all mankind. As the Lord says in the gospel of Saint Matthew, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Christianity perfects Jews as it perfects pagans. An aspect of Christians that makes them Christians, as opposed to Hindus or animists, is that they believe Christ in his statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” Coulter simply echoed this basic Christian doctrine, and in this, she was condemned by her pal Deutsch and then by the world.

What does this tell us? It suggests that the world, including many who claim Christianity as their faith, no longer know the central tenets of Christianity. As Bell notes, it also tells us that logical thinking and the ability to process truth claims are not widespread.

Now, clearly, Coulter is not a theologian. She is a Protestant, and in this particular segment she offers Falwell as a religious authority. She also provides a strange soteriological opinion. So, I do not expect her to make much sense in matters of religion. However, in this instance, Coulter merely mentions something so basic—so common to all of Christendom—that what she says is fundamental Christian doctrine. She did not misspeak. She did not obscure. She simply stated that Christianity perfects Jews and that she would like all Jews to convert to Christianity. Any Christian who believes in Christianity would say the same. To say otherwise is to say that one does not wish the fulfillment of the human heart to be available to non-Christian Jews. It is to wish rabbinical Jews to remain forever in anticipation of what the ancient prophets foretold. It is to disobey Christ’s explicit command, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”

For voicing a basic Christian belief in good faith to someone with whom she had had cordial relations in the past (according to Coulter’s description of her relationship with Deutsch) as a side note in answering a socio-political question about the common good, Coulter was condemned as an anti-Semite. Even the conservatives and Christians who defended her somewhat apologized for having done so. They are so unwilling to be tainted by the “religious Right” stigma that they defend Coulter like the A.C.L.U. defends the Ku Klux Klan. As I stated above, Coulter is no theologian. She is not a scientist. She is not a philosopher. Rather, she is a lawyer and a polemicist concerning politics and public policy. Yet, she spoke earnestly about the core belief of Christianity and was branded a hate monger for doing so.

The entire episode reminds me of the tensions between Christians and rabbinical Jews in America, about which I have written before (for instance, in “Those Jews.”) Is it any wonder that the Old Right—with those curmudgeonly paleoconservatives like Buchanan—has such wariness and distrust of rabbinical Jews? I make no excuses for anti-Semitism, but from an anthropological perspective, I can see the causes for such lack of love, and the same goes for Hebrew paranoia. Men are such fools.

After having written the above, I wondered what Auster had to say about this affair: “Coulter con and pro, and the question of religious tolerance” and “The anti-Coulter campaign, and the place of Jews in America.” Even Auster finds it difficult to defend her, repulsed as he is by “her egotistical trashy persona.” I was pleased, however, to see that he also thought about the same words of Christ. It is obvious that Deutsch—and evidently the public voices of the Jewish establishment in the United States of America—find Christianity per se anti-Semitical. They rarely state this openly, but it underlies their objections not only to Coulter but, in recent years, to public celebrations of Christian holidays, to traditional American practices with Christian religious and cultural connections, and to Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. Do these rabbinical Jews hate Christianity because they are leftists or because they are rabbinical Jews? That is the question, and I do not know the answer.

Concerning matters more universally, it troubles me immensely how difficult people find it to make basic distinctions. My friend Andrew always excuses the masses by stating that they have not benefited from the same philosophical training as some of us have and thus are disadvantaged in drawing the lines to make sense of reality. I do not accept such. Every person of average or higher intelligence, with some basic education, should be able to distinguish between universal truth claims and calls for genocide. A normal, modern American adult ought to be able to understand that Christians’ desire for the whole world to be Christian does not imply forced conversions or massacres of pagans and infidels, especially when Christians themselves endlessly trumpet their religion’s commitment to free choice and to the virtue of a willfully accepting God’s grace. (It is curious that Mohammedanism in its holy texts does command such forced conversion, worldwide conquest, and merciless massacres—repeatedly, in not ambiguous terms, though the Left continues to call it a tolerant religion of peace.) Instead, we endlessly hear muddled confusion about history (e.g. “the crusades!”). It is as if, by repetition, falsehoods and misunderstandings become the truth accepted by the tribe. Yet, again, the problem is the same inability to make distinctions, as with political versus religious or selfish versus religious motivations in history. Sigh . . .

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 4, Anno Domini 2010
EcumenismProtestantismRabbinical JudaismCommentsPermalink
Monday, May 3, A.D. 2010
Income by Religion

I found a fascinating graph that maps the average income of various religions’ adherents in America. See “The Almighty Dollar” from Good.

Predictably, a larger percentage of Jews (46%) make six digit incomes than other groups, though our Hindus (43%) are doing well, too. If only all our immigrants were upper caste types! Arizonans would not fret about Mexico’s exporting its best and brightest to us. On the poorer side, black Protestant sects and Jehovah’s Witnesses have the largest percentages of people who make under $30,000 a year (47% and 42%, respectively). The Mohammedans surprisingly show as the third poorest. I would like to see a distinction between immigrants and the Nation of Islam types. I imagine that the latter drag the former’s statistics down.

Interestingly, the Orthodox come in third behind the Jews and the Hindus in the six digit category. Greek businessmen and Russian scientists have done well in this land of mammon. Moreover, there is not really a lower class drag for the Orthodox. The laboring classes among Orthodox immigrant populations from the industrial age have, like Italians, moved firmly into the middle and upper classes. Among the recent immigrant waves, we find new Russians, Arabs, Indians, and Ethiopians doing very well materially. In D.C., the Ethiopian community has become the “new Greeks.” They are the omnipresent merchant class, who reportedly are buying many of the city’s groceries, restaurants, and night clubs.

Roman Catholics expectedly follow the national average. Their size and class diversity render them statistically normal. I would assume that the same would be true of the Orthodox if they were far more numerous. For these groups are largely the religions of entire peoples, while most Protestant sects in America have come to be associated with a certain class. While there are rich Pentecostals and poor Episcopalians (well, I suppose that there are poor Episcopalians, though I have never met one), Protestant identification tends to differentiate based on class. How many of you grew up with a Baptist who went to college, moved up the social ladder, and then started attending a “higher class” church?

The mainline churches have mostly all become upper class, leftwing S.W.P.L. social and political clubs that preach inclusion but do not offer much for the poorer, dumber, and less educated except a form of patronizing charity, bundled together with celebrating diversity rhetoric. However, the figures shown on Good’s graph do not show a large difference between the mainline churches and the national average. Perhaps, their staying power in poorer, rural, white communities along with their charitable urban missions account for this normalcy. Moreover, the ethnic Lutheran communities and the rural W.A.S.P. country folk in the Midwest likely approach the traditional Christian “whole people of God” inclusion of all the classes. Yet, the mainliest of the mainlines appear class based in most of the country.

I wonder if the current “evangelical movement” will curtail the tendency toward class differentiation among American Protestants. The evangelicals have a lower class background along with a few generations of vibrant intellectual life (those “Wheaton evangelicals”). I think that it is possible for American evangelicals to create a class diverse population. I expect their wealthier numbers to increase as they grow in numbers overall due to the hemorrhaging of mainline Protestants and white Roman Catholics. Soon, they may match up with the national average, too.

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