Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pundits, Bellicosity, Publicity, and Christianity

Popular culture revels in the outrageous, the spectacular, and the bizarre. Its pundits are usually hypertrophied, stentorian, egotistical, and generally shameless. This applies to both the left and the right. The volume is high; the epithets are plentiful; the self-confidence (or bluster) is maximal; and careful, respectful discourse is unheard of. (See the AP story that prompted this post.)

Take Ann Coulter's new book, Godless, which attacks liberalism as a false religion. I have not read the book and probably will not--there are far too many other books clamoring for my attention. Coulter is getting much mileage out of her insults against several 9/11 widows who, Coulter claims, are exploiting their husband's deaths for left-wing political purposes. She spares no insult in describing them as "harpies," etc. You have probably already read the details, and I won't give her more press. Her book is #1 at bit higher than Truth Decay.

As a political conservative (but not ideologically so), I agree with some of Coulter's positions. But that is irrelevant. The ends do not justify the means. A nasty comment for a good cause is still nasty and repugnant--as are Coulter's comments about these widows. The widows should not be made immune to criticism simply because they lost their husbands, nor should they be pilloried mercilessly by Coulter or anyone else. Yes, Coulter has a sharp sense of humor, but that, in itself, is no virtue, ethically speaking, however necessary it might be for mass-pundits.

Coulter, who is the closest thing to a "hot babe" the conservatives have in popular culture, shamelessly poses on the cover of her book in a tight, small, black dress, wearing a cross around her neck. She, of course, is not "godless"--she believes in God and wears a cross. Well, Christianity doesn't need that kind of publicity.

In fact, Christianity does not need any publicity at all, as it is commonly understood. The teachings of Jesus (and the rest of the Scripture) should, of course, be taken into the public square. Errors should be refuted and the truth should be commended, but only in ways that honor the heart of the message itself. The Apostle Peter tells us to be ready to give an answer for the hope within us to whoever asks us; but this must be done "with gentleness and respect" (1 Peter 3:15). We find the Apostle Paul throughout the Book of Acts declaring, explaining, and defending the Gospel with intelligence, love, and tenacity. Even Jesus' prophetic denunciation of the Scribes and Pharisees as "hypocrites" in Matthew 23 is followed by his pained lamentation over the sins of his people, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem..." Character must never be sacrificed for publicity, Christianly understood.

Ann Coulter may turn millions of heads, sell millions of books, and be a hot search topic on Google for years to come. She may even be correct in some of her views. Nevertheless, a true follower of Christ will eschew her ethos and take the high road of principled persuasion.


Dr Mike said...


No argument from me about this: I, too, think she is right about what she says at times but the messenger obscures the message.

Which leads to my point in this comment: those of us in the cyberfellowship online are no better than Coulter at times (I am not pointing a finger at you, only stating my belief in corporate responsibility). We condemn people - especially dead popes to hell - in the most vitriolic terms, make fun of other people (Christian or not) who are image bearers - and then wonder why no one wants to listen to our message.

"Well, it's a sign that we're living in the end times, you know!"

Or a sign that, like Coulter, we haven't learned how to treat one another with respect and dignity even when - and especially when - we strongly disagree with them.

Susan said...

"...the high road of principled persuasion."

Quickly becoming a lost art, and I among the guilty toward its demise no doubt.


Frank Walton said...

I agree with you that there is no justification for those comments. And I wish Coulter wouldn't have said that because it's bound to hurt her cause than help it. However, you should read the book, Doug. She has some chapters and discussions on Darwinism that's worth the price of the book. Not too many people bring that up I'm afraid.

Tom Wanchick said...

I'll defend Coulter if no one else will.

Just two brief comments.

First, Coulter was not trying to "publicize" Christianity in this book. Here Dr. Groothuis failure to read the actual text may have obscured his judgement. Rather, she was merely trying to expose the often wicked beliefs of modern liberalism.

Secondly, the photo on the cover was not at all provocative or "unChristian". To be sure, Coulter tries to look attractive. But so what? Where does Scripture prohibit feminine beauty?

It is Islam that is oppressive in this regard, not Christianity.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Good night! A call for modesty is not a reversion to Islam. That is merely the inflated rhetoric of villification. There is a huge gap between "looking attractive" and the "come hither" look so natural for Coulter. The Bible calls us to be modest people, not exhibitionists; it summons is to be humble, not self-promoters. And so on. Islam is in another universe on this one. See Ali's new book, "The Caged Virgin."

Coulter is posing as a Christian, no doubt. Liberalism is a godless religion and she supports Chrisianity in some sense, I take it. So my comments are on target.

Yes, I read that she attacks Darwinism as a false religion lacking evidence. So it is, but let's stick to the principled persuasion of Behe, Dembski, Meyer, and company on that one--none of whom pose in tight clothes, to my knowledge.

Tom Wanchick said...

If you look at the cover, Coulter has no "come hither" look at all. She's merely smiling. To say this is "exhibionist" in nature is a bit of inflated rhetoric of its own. A woman could wear that same dress and smile in church and not be at all inappropriate. To say otherwise, is simply to make something out of nothing.

As for being "self-promoting," I don't see that with Coulter either. She merely put herself on her own book cover -- something done by Christian and non-Christian authors alike (see Vernon Grounds own book).

Also, just because Coulter is a Christian doesn't necessarily imply that her book is meant to publicize Christianity. Can't a Christian author refute or discuss competing faiths without publicizing Christianity? See the book, "Naturalism: A Critical Analysis" by Moreland and Craig for a fine example.

Lastly, it's not at all clear that Christians should distance themselves from Coulter's ethos. What, after all, is unethical about pointing out an enemy's wickedness with wit or humor?

It seems to me Jesus did something similar. He, e.g., called Herod a "fox," overturned the Temple marketplace in outrage, and often responded to the Pharisees with sarcasm ("Have you not read...") and wit.

Christians need to reject the idea that Jesus was some timid, hippy-like man who talked softly to His critics. The Gospels don't portray this in the least. His followers shouldn't either.

Douglas Groothuis said...

"Christians need to reject the idea that Jesus was some timid, hippy-like man who talked softly to His critics."

How in the world could anyone assume I am claining that? Of course not. Jesus had strong words for evil and evil-doers, but he is a million miles from Ann Coulter!

Anyone with a mind can tell that Coulter trades on her looks for self-promotion and does so shamelessly. She is no model for Christians.

Tom Wanchick said...

Why are Ann Coulter's strong words for liberals so different than Jesus's own denunciations of evildoers?

In reading Coulter, I find that she merely speaks the truth and exposes liberalism and liberals for their evil and wickedness. I'll grant that she often does so with a flare, but there is nothing unethical about that in itself. Indeed, Jesus did similar things.

To show that Coulter has an unChristian ethos, you'd have to cite specific examples showing so. But I haven't found any.

The issue with the 9/11 wives surely isn't one. Coulter merely calls them precisely what they are: evil opportunists tragically using their husband's death to insult and slur the president and ultimately accrue political gains.

That's the truth, no matter how sad.

Tom Wanchick said...

By the way,

Coulter's merely putting herself to promote her book does not seem at all sinful. People put themselves on products all the time to sell them. Isn't that just good economics?

Of course, if the pictures of Coulter were provocative or seductive, they'd be a problem. But almost no one thinks they are.

Again, a woman showing her bare arms would seemingly only be an affront to someone like a devout Muslim.

Ed Darrell said...

Hear, hear. Finally we agree on something -- that Coulter goes over the line, regardless her point.

Douglas Groothuis said...

To Ed: Miracles do happen. We agree on something.

To Tom: Bare arms are not the issue, buddy.

There will be no more comments from me on Coulter's visage. Life is too short. And I'm not going to read her book. I have to finish writing my apologetics book, and it will not quote Coulter.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Two comments were deleted by me because they were ad hominem attacks on me, saying that my complaint about Coulter's appearance was due to my own lusts. This is objectionable, in bad taste, and false.

Firealbe said...

How come when you suggest she is using sex to sell it's ok but when someone suggest that she's not and that something else may be going on it's an "attack" on you, “objectionable, in bad taste, and false." Please tell me what was different from what you did. I wasn't suggesting you were lusting after her but that maybe you were revealing what you found attractive and maybe even tempting, which other people clearly didn't. I didn't accuse you of lusting after her. At least I voiced my concern with you as a Christian. You say Coulter calls herself a Christian, then why didn't you send your concern to her instead of taking pot shots at her from your blog that'll never get read by her.
At least be consistent Doug. Go ahead and delete this if you want, at least you still have to read it before you do. Maybe you should remove your post as well or take out your attacks.

Douglas Groothuis said...

Proverbs 30:30: Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised

To decide wether or not to commit suicide. said...

Lighten up.

"Godless" is not an apologetic work.

Ann was not trying to reach those women. Thus,there was no need for persuasion. She was simply expressing her opinion. Albeit in a way that has rubbed some the wrong way. I for one think she is pretty witty. (emphasis on the pretty. lol)

As for selling Sex? Give me a break. Ann is an attractive woman and is trying to market her books. The cover of "Godless" is not bad at all.

Geeze, you would think it was Maxim magazine or something.

I agree with you to a point. But I think you did yourself(and others) a real dis-service by not reading the book and then blogging about it.

Her discussion of Darwinism and other topics is worth the price of the book.

Read it.