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Despite the dreams of the multiculturalists, religions tend to be exclusive; in other words, by following certain unique rules and rituals, believers identify with their religion which excludes those who fail to observe its laws.  Those who imagine that all religions have a piece of the truth generally do not believe anything themselves.  They do not follow an authoritative document like the Bible, and it is equally unlikely they give credence to the Torah, Qur’an, or Bhagavad-Gita.  Postmodernists take a slightly different approach, saying that truth is a matter of choice.  For them, none are really true, but they may become true for the individual, whatever that means.

In this rare case, I agree with Susan Estrich, that the issue is the message and not the person.  In case you missed it, Ann Coulter raised a firestorm by saying her ideal world would be Christian.

In response to a question from (CNBC’s Donny) Deutsch asking Coulter if “it would be better if we were all Christian,” the controversial columnist responded: “Yes.”

“We should all be Christian?” Deutsch repeated.

“Yes,” Coulter responded, asking Deutsch, who is Jewish, if he would like to “come to church with
me.”

Deutsch, pressing Coulter further, asked, “We should just throw Judaism away and we should all be
Christians?” She responded: “Yeah.”

Coulter deflected Deutsch’s assertion that her comments were anti-Semitic, matter-of-factly telling the
show’s obviously upset host, “That is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews.”

Theologically, she is right, of course.  Christians believe the Jews rejected their Messiah in the person of Jesus.  That is the case that Paul makes in Romans 9-11.  In Romans 9:30-31, he writes, “What then shall we say?  That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by
faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal
.”  That’s definitely not multicultural, but it is what the New Testament, the authority for Christian doctrine, says.

He continues in the next chapter, “Brothers and sisters, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved.”  In other words, Paul wants Jews to become Christians.  Now Ann was a bit off in saying Christians are perfected Jews; only Jews in accept their Messiah are perfected.  In Romans 11, Paul explains this by describing branches grafted into a root, which is Jesus, the Messiah.  Jewish or Gentile believers receive nourishment only by being properly connected to the root.  He also states clearly, to non-Jewish believers, “Do not consider yourself to be superior to those other branches” (11:18a).

Of course, conversion doesn’t appeal to Jews.  “Jews…find the subject of conversion extremely painful. For them it is…tantamount to annihilation,” according to an “Interview with a Pharisee—and a Christian
in the latest issue of Christianity Today.  Furthermore, since the Holocaust, Jewish people see anti-Semitism in many places it does not exist, just as others find racism in even the most constructive of criticisms.

So, it is not surprising that something is missing from all the fall-out; that is the undeniable reality that most committed Christians love Jews and are ardent supporters of Israel.  Is Coulter “hateful and anti-Semitic” as Deutsch said?  Only in a politically-correct, multicultural context can anyone interpret her words, that way.  Estrich compared her remarks to recent incidents involving a noose and a swastika at Columbia University in New York.

Frankly, the rhetoric by Deutsch and Estrich troubles me more than Coulter’s.   Once people define something as hate speech, then they want the government’s police power to stop it, despite our right to free speech.
Yes, I believe even so-called “hate speech” is free.  As in this case, one person’s free speech is another’s hate speech, and it has always been that way.  Only oppressive societies regulate speech, and we are working our way toward that, toward limited free speech, and toward an oppressive society.  College campuses are there, already; perhaps that is the provocation for the noose and swastika, or maybe they just have a few idiots there.

Still, I don’t excuse Coulter completely.  Some say she is just stirring things up to sell her new book, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d Be Republicans; her words certainly fit, but that’s between her and God.
However, she surely knew that saying what she did on a show hosted by a Jew would be provocative.  In that light, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

Are people like Coulter turning the next generation away from Christianity?  The Barna study says, “(C)hurch attitudes about people in general and gays in particular are driving a negative image of the Christian faith among people ages 16-29.”  Estrich refers to “a crowd of mid-western right-to-lifers, who began screaming at me, at the top of their lungs, that I was the baby-killer.”  Neither of these accounts good news for those who preach the Good News.

Can we do anything about these negative perceptions?  I believe we can. One of my over-riding concerns is peacemaking, not in the global, let’s-just-all-get-along sense, but in the personal, resolve-the-issue, reconcile-the-relationship sense.  Believers must present the uniqueness of Christianity’s truth claims in a peaceable manner, just as James described in James 3:17-18:  “(T)he wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.”

Those who are genuine in their desire to see Jews “perfected” or people of any other background saved need to
remember five words:  truth, tolerance, tact, tenderness, and toughness (Yeah, I’m a Baptist preacher, and I can’t resist alliteration!).  We need to assert ourselves wisely into the dialogs, while we still may do so, and make our case in a way that calls, challenges, convinces, and compels, without callous confrontation or crass coercion.  Once again, I refer to Deadly Detours and urge Christians to avoid them.  Focusing on truth, tolerance, tact, tenderness, and toughness is a good way to start.

Truth is not up for grabs.  Reality is not in the mind of the beholder but was conceived in the mind of God.  Absolutes exist.  No sane person denies gravity, at least not for long.  We don’t take anyone seriously, who suggests the sun won’t come up tomorrow (except global warming enthusiasts).  It is foolish to say that
AIDS is not a risk for those who engage indiscriminately in sex.  A baby doesn’t disappear just because it is
inconvenient; that takes an abortion.  Truth is not a matter of choice but of rational discussion, testimony,
and evidence.  Christians believe in objective truth, not our truth, but true truth.  Truth drives us to say things that may disturb others.

Tolerance for a Christian is different than tolerance for the politically correct.  We “tolerate” those who disagree out of love, but we still disagree.  The politically correct would like to make all disagreements disappear and punish anyone who dares express any ideas that they haven’t authorized.  Christians saying that other religions are wrong, that homosexuality acts are sinful, or that abortion is murder, to them, is “hate speech.”  For us, it is “love speech” because we want those we love to be with us in heaven, we want people to enjoy the blessings of a moral life, and we want every life God creates to have a chance to live.  I tolerate the behaviors and beliefs of lots of non-Christians, who probably never even realize that I am doing so.

Tact is truth tempered by love.  Elsewhere I have written extensively about the need for truth, honesty, and transparency.  The alternative is prevalent in our culture—lies, dishonesty, and hypocrisy.  Living a life of truth,
especially in that context, isn’t easy; living it without love is harsh and offensive.  Evangelistic Christians have
often called themselves “soul-winners,” but even then they may miss the point.  Sharing the truth of the
Christian gospel or “Good News” requires a “winning” approach based on kindness, tact, sensitivity, and compassion.  If we neglect tact or fail to have a winsome attitude, then we invite the accusations like those directed at Coulter; we will lose our next generation of young people to a harshness they cannot accept.

Tenderness is nothing more than brotherly kindness or love, in the Biblical sense.  In this list, I include it separately as a motivation for and attitude in outreach.  Only if we care will we try to introduce others to Jesus Christ.  Only true compassion will motivate us to explain grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  Only a kindness of the kind we have toward family will bridge the barriers of race, religion, immorality, and political opposition.  Too often, evangelism sounds like an attack ad. God used Jonah’s rhetoric of condemnation to stir the Ninevites to repentance, and Jonah got angry about it—He wanted them destroyed, not saved.  Sometimes, Christians act like they feel the same about their adversaries, to which Jesus warns, “The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here” (Luke 11:32).

Frankly, I fear Christians do indeed hate gays, pro-abortion advocates, Muslims, and left-leaning politicians.  Not only does Jesus repeat the Torah’s command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18), but he also adds
this challenge: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-44).

Toughness involves the strength and boldness to speak, even when others go to extremes to silence us.  I give Coulter credit for toughness.  I fear, as Doug Giles has suggested, that many Christians, including Christian leaders, have become wimps.  Our nation and our world stand at the threshold of disaster that only genuine faith can prevent, a vital faith in the true and the living God that breeds courage.  Tacking nooses to leftist professor’s doors or leaving swastikas on bathroom walls isn’t courage.  There’s nothing especially brave (or tactful) about so-called Christians screaming at people whose ideas they oppose, even offensive ideas like abortion or gay marriage.

In the end, I think we need outspoken Christians like Coulter and Giles, but we dare not allow their prophetic confrontations to be the sole public expression of Christianity.  Prophets have always been the exception, and they have never been popular—“God in his wisdom said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some
of whom they will kill and others they will persecute’
” (Luke 11:49).  Our neighbors, co-workers, young
people, and culture need to hear our loving conviction of faith that makes our persuasive efforts credible:  “Who
is going to harm you if you are eager to do good?  But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.  It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.  For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God
” (I Peter 13-18).

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