The aggressive exegesis of Ann Coulter

Ann Coulter is not one to shy away from bold, controversial statements. In her latest, Coulter rails against the “evangelical establishment” for its timidity and failure to support the antics of would-be president Donald Trump. According to Coulter, Trump represents “real Christian courage” when he “defend[s] America from destruction by immigration.”

According to Coulter, “The idea that Christians are supposed to be milquetoasts is liberal propaganda. Ask the money changers how meek Jesus was. …God commanded the Israelites to go to certain cities and kill ‘every living thing.’ As I recall, the Crusaders were a little rough around the edges.”

But wait, there’s more. For Coulter, “This is an election about saving the concept of America, the last hope for Christianity on the planet.” Currently, she claims, America “is not a country where Christians are winning,” and “unless Americans stop being outvoted by foreigners, Christians … have no hope of winning anything, anywhere, anytime. The last Christian country on Earth will be no more.”

Coulter’s major disdain is for Christian leaders who do not agree with Trump’s no-compromise immigration policy. Her “Biblical” support for this is apparently that Jesus was a tough guy and that the Crusades are something Christians should emulate. She does not seem to realize how far afield her understanding of New Testament Christianity actually is.

First, Jesus never endorses violent retaliation from His followers. Quite the opposite; He chastises His disciples when they take up the sword. In fact, in the New Testament we find a major emphasis on non-violence and non-retaliation. Indeed, one of the most powerful expressions of what following Jesus’ looks like is the call to embrace His model of suffering for the sake of others.

Second, there is a major strand in the Old Testament where care for “sojourners” and “foreigners” is expected of the Israelites. The reason for this? “You yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”

Third, and perhaps most compelling, is the fact that Jesus’ ministry is widely recognized as embracing, if not being primarily directed at, those on the margins of society. Jesus declared that He came to proclaim good news to the poor, release the captives, heal the blind and free the oppressed. Throughout the New Testament, He ministers to and praises widows, chastises the Pharisees for not caring for the poor and sick, heals lepers and the demon-possessed, eats with tax collectors and sinners and ministers to non-Jews who were viewed as sacrilegious outsiders by the religious elite. Jesus Himself was marginalized, likely, at least in part, because of His concern for the marginalized.

When Jesus tells Pilate (i.e., the political powers) that His kingdom is not of this world and that His followers do not go to war for His kingdom, He is directly subverting the political game which Pilate invites Him to play. Last time I checked, Christianity does not need a new political icon to save it. I think Jesus quite already has taken care of Christian salvation.

The interests of earthly kingdoms can never fully align with those of the kingdom of God. Nor should we expect them to do so. New Testament Christians proclaim that God’s kingdom has arrived in the person and work of Jesus, not in our political ideologies. Perhaps if we paid a bit more attention to what Jesus actually taught, Christians wouldn’t think we need America to save us again.

Comments (13)

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Apart from exegesis, Coulter’s take on the US as the ‘last Christian country’ is shocking. Has she never heard of the brave church planters in China? The conservative and strong church in the countries of Africa? The incredible growth of Christ in South America? Why can’t she see these people? Why does she assume that God can’t work through many nations, or see that that’s the way He’s always worked? I think much of it is her hatred and fear of people unlike her—it’s hard to see people if you’re afraid of them. I’m glad Coulter cares about God’s work in the world but I wish she could see beyond our own nation and trust God with knowing what he’s doing.

1.) Romans 13 gives a very good reason to obey the authorities, meaning in the case of the USA, the government does not carry the sword in vain.  In other words as citizens we have a duty to protect ourselves from all enemies, foreign and domestic.  We have to fight those who attack us here in this country and abroad (embassies, military outposts).  It’s because of our military’s selfless acts of service that you and I can discuss the merits of military (and police)action.
2.) St. Augustine also argues the right to self-defense (carrying “the sword/M-16 rifle etc.)
3.) John Calvin makes the same point regarding Rom. 13 “... the magistrate doesn’t carry the sword in vain….”
When we see Scripture in that light we can still see “the shining city on a hill”, and not by bending to the will of violent aggressors who are at the gate.  We need to support legislation to build our own military, because the US Navy is the smallest since 1915, while China and Russia are aggressively building their military machines with access to the Mediterranean and Asian ports.  It’s time for strong action by our leaders to make sure we have don’t another cowardly, surprise attack, like Pearl Harbor, or 9/11….

I really appreciate your article. As a Christian I have come to the conclusion that no one I would want to serve as president would ever run for the office. That’s why I really identified with your statement that “the interests of earthly kingdoms can never fully align with the kingdom of God.” That means t that I don’t look for a pastor among the candidates. I look for other qualities and practical skills. I look for someone whose ideas seem most closely aligned with Jesus’ command to love our neighbor. I consider whether or not the candidate has the skills to enact the policies s/he espouses. Then I vote. Regardless of the political outcome, God is always God. Jesus is always my King and the Lord of my life. I didn’t vote for Jesus. Jesus voted for me. That’s how it is. Thank you God!

In Reply to Ted Mejan (comment #27575)
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Ted,

Just curious how you see Romans 13 meaning the Church should be supportive of military response? I don’t see that as explicit in the passage. The passage means we (Christians) should not rebel against the government. The Church and America must not be seen as one in the same.

In Reply to Heather Caliri (comment #27573)
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Thank you for the response Heather!

In Reply to Teresa Mack (comment #27577)
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Good word Teresa.

While I don’t want Donald Trump to be president, and while I do believe Ann Coulter loves to say things in the most outrageous way possible (as does Trump), both Trump and Coulter make valid points about immigration.

More importantly, this article quite misses the point by referencing biblical admonitions that are pointed at Christians but not at government, and by declining to even offer a theory about how/why the US government should respond to unlawful immigration. To be specific, Jesus chastising his disciples when they take up the sword, for example, has literally nothing to do with an appropriate government policy concerning immigration.  Nor does the OT admonition that Israelites be nice to sojourners or strangers.

Government is a God-ordained institution (one of Kuyper’s spheres of authority) that is separate from individual citizens, churches, and other social institutions.  There are bad things government should allow (e.g., taking God’s name in vain, coveting, even adultery), and there are good things government should not do (e.g., educate all children in the Christian faith). This author’s logic, consistently applied, would have government do nothing about those who murder and steal.  After all, Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not?

Both Trump and Coulter are arguing for—even if somewhat unclearly—how government should respond to unlawful immigration.  They are not arguing about whether you or I should be mean to our next door neighbor who happens to be in the US illegally.  It is quite consistent, even if it seems counter-intuitive to some, to personally “welcome the sojourner”, even the illegal sojourner (including my next door neighbor), and yet advocate for a government policy that would prohibit that same neighbor from staying here.  Just as it is consistent to visit the prisoner, to show love and provide support, even while insisting that his incarceration for the crime he committed be continued.

The essential task of government is to do justice (not to be confused with so-called “social justice”), NOT mercy, even if Micah 6:8 requires each of us, who happen to be citizens of the United States, to do justice AND love mercy.

In Reply to Doug Vande Griend (comment #27582)
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Doug,

Thanks for your comments. My criticism is with Coulter misinterpreting the New Testament and Jesus’ character to support her position, which runs counter to the New Testament. My argument is not that government should do nothing or has no right to protect its interests, but that to be “Christian” concerning immigrants, legal or illegal, is to treat them with respect as persons and to seek their good. The kingdom of God is not an earthly political sphere, and our concerns should transcend the political bifurcations inherent in the American system. My point was thus a theological and missional one, not a political one, dealing with her misuse of Scripture. The US government certainly has its own interests as a nation, but those are not, and cannot be, one and the same as the interest of the Church and God’s kingdom. Coulter’s suggestion that Trump is Christ-like in his xenophobic and borderline racist comments and positions is absurd as is her politicization of what it means to be Christian.

Chad: Your intended criticism may be as you say, but if so, you say far more than you intend.  Ann Coulter is making a political point, and really only that.  She is talking about whose voice will win the day when it comes to how the United States is governed.  She is talking about what government should be and should do.  She quite accurately points out, even if by implication, that the concept of government created for the United States back in the late 1700’s was quite based in Christian assumptions about what government should be and do (to be precise, the US Constitution largely emanated from Calvinist thinking).  When you write in opposition to what Coulter says, you will and should be assumed to be matching her context.  Otherwise, your criticism targets something other than what she is talking about.

When Coulter says, as you quote her, that “God commanded the Israelites to go to certain cities and kill ‘every living thing,’” she is quite right, and your articles doesn’t confront that point at all, nor her point about Jesus overturning the table of the money changers.  I would note as well that NT authors also gave support to the Roman government despite the fact that Roman government regularly did that which is more akin to what the Israelites did to their neighbors as opposed to what Jesus did with his disciples.

And Trump makes valid points too about immigration, but if you don’t acknowledge all of Trump’s statements, you misunderstand him, whether intentionally or otherwise.  Trump’s comments are not xenophobic or racist as you claim, and that becomes apparent only if you are willing to listen to all of his statements.  Coulter and Trump implicitly differentiate between the spheres of authority (government and others) and properly realize that government shouldn’t regard its tasks, nor the analyses involved in its tasks, in the same way as should individuals, churches, businesses, etc.  Until we, the Christian community, regain our understanding that government is a unique institution (as are all institutions in the Kuyperian scheme known as sphere sovereignty), we’ll give ourselves little choice but to support government policies that are EITHER racist and xenophobic (as you say) OR destructively milquetoast (as Coulter says).  I’m not satisfied with those choices.  I want to personally show love and compassion and give help to the inmate at Oregon State Penitentiary but yet be able to expect my government to continue his imprisonment.

In Reply to Doug Vande Griend (comment #27587)
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Doug,

Thanks again for the exchange. When Coulter assesses Trump’s posture toward illegal immigrants as Christ-like and indicates that the survival of Christianity itself is at stake in this election (i.e., not voting for Trump means it is toast), she is doing more than just making a political statement. She is making a theological case for her position, and her use of Scripture does not offer the support she claims.

Submitting to government and supporting it are two different things in the context of the early church. Yes, there was a holy war of sorts in the Old Testament, but to view that as paradigmatic somehow for how Christians should choose their political representatives is unfounded. It is proof texting at its worse.

When Trump insinuates that a majority of Mexican immigrants are rapists and murders, I think it is safe to say that is a racist comment. If it doesn’t qualify, I’m not sure what does.

Thanks again for your thoughts.

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