We’re All Warped (or What Ann Coulter Should Have Said)

Two stories caught my attention this week as I was contemplating all things theological. Having a newborn will do that to you. My son is ten days old and is already giving his mother fits playing the only power card in his 7 pound existence. He refuses to breastfeed. He cries because he’s hungry and in a fit of stubbornness normally reserved for Cold War negotiations, he refuses to latch on. It’s difficult to remember that his cute face and adorable smile (or is it gas?) shares with the rest of the human race the same depraved nature. My son is warped. Left on his own, he will be self-centered, foolish, and vicious. No amount of practice, guidance or teaching, will ensure he doesn’t become this way. I hear the echoes of the garden and the curse in my son’s cries. This is the state of us all: warped and incapable of making ourselves right.

I was thinking about all of this, when I happened upon the story of A.J. Jacobs and his experiment in living biblically. It seems Mr. Jacobs, editor for Esquire and a self-professed agnostic decided to go on a spiritual journey by attempting to follow all the commands of the bible for one year. The Today show had him, on the subway, in his clothing that was carefully not made of mixed fibers playing an honest-to-goodness lyre and singing psalms with what looked like a 6 month growth that actually made me have beard envy. When asked what was the hardest part about living biblically, his answer was obeying the commandments against coveting and bearing false witness. While still professing to be an agnostic, but more open minded after a year of living biblically, Jacobs explained that he was enlightened by the experience but was glad to go back to his normal life.

Now I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know the details. What I saw in his face was a sort of cynical exasperation at the thought of trying to fulfill all the requirements of biblical holiness and a smile that betrayed the fact that his project might have changed his daily life but didn’t change his heart. He left me with a kind of sad hopefulness. Sad at his exasperation and hopeful that he might find some answers. I was reminded of Paul’s lament:

Who will set me free from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24)

And how sad it would have sounded if he had left it at that and had not added:

Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!.” (Romans 7:25)

Which brings me to the second story of Ann Coulter and her incredibly ham-fisted attempt to explain what Christians believe about other religions—specifically Judaism. When asked by Donnie Deutsch of the “Big Idea” what her idea of a perfect America, she responded:

It would be like the Republican National Convention in 1994: They were all happy, Christian, and tolerant.

Deutsch responded incredulously:

We should all be Christians?

The thought that anyone would want the whole country to share a single worldview, apparently to Deutsche was akin to asking if yellow-cake uranium should be sold at K-Mart. Coulter went on to say that Jews needed to perfected and that Christianity was the short-cut to salvation like “Federal Express.” Yeah. That’s what Paul meant when he said:

For it is by grace you are saved, and not of yourselves but it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But what I found incredibly annoying is how she was branded an anti-Semite for suggesting that Jews should give up their religion and become Christians. Deutsch went so far as to talk about her view in the same breath with that of the president of Iran Ahmadenajuad (I protest his fascism by refusing to learn to spell his name) who wants to wipe Israel off the map. What Coulter should have done after the uncomfortable commercial break, was to distinguish from religion and race. Christians want everyone to become Christians—that’s the great commission, but what we don’t ever subscribe to is the idea that someone’s race makes them “less perfected.” What Coulter meant was lost in haze of bad theological explanation of the kind that none-the-less will sell copies of Coulter’s new book.

The truth is that the idea that those who believe they are right want everyone else to share that belief only gets apoplectic angst when Christians do it. When Richard Dawkins says that religious people are definitely stupid and possibly wicked and that the world would be so much better without religion, he is in fact engaging in the very same dogmatic, narrow-minded recommendation that Coulter is, only he isn’t on the business end of very many prominent newspaper op-ed pieces. If Coulter is guilty of diabolical elitism then so is every vegan, politico, P.E.T.A. and Greenpeace protester, and yes your friendly neighborhood militant atheist. Evangelism isn’t about Fed-exing ourselves to God but neither is it about elitism. Everyone is warped. Christ didn’t come to make bad people good, he came to deliver each of us from the warped character that beats in our hearts from the moment we are severed from our umbilical cord. And our desire that everyone become Christians isn’t born of bigotry or bad theology. It’s born of compassion and love.

Coulter’s comments aren’t diabolical because coercing people to be Christians isn’t so much immoral as impossible—about as impossible as trying to live up to all the commands of a holy God even for a year. There is no Fed-Ex fast track to God, there is no track period. There is only acceptance, a giving up of all our efforts. The world is changed one heart at a time giving in to the invitation of Christ and that has nothing to do with a Fed-ex or growing a beard and playing a lyre.


We’re All Warped (or What Ann Coulter Should Have Said) — 9 Comments

  1. Jonathan,
    Been there, done that (re: infant that couldn’t latch on). It’s not stubbornness on the infant’s part despite what people told me. There are plastic shells that can help facilitate the process – contact a “nursing moms” organization. No baby should have to be hungry!

  2. I agree with the commenter above. I couldn’t get past the association of reflexive behavior (designed for survival) that needs a little more help than usual, to sinful stubbonness, in order to read the rest of the article.

    What you said reminds me of Gary Ezzo on infants. Please realize that a newborn’s reactions, most of which are geared for survival and getting used to life in the outside, cannot, and should never be taken for sinful rebellion.

    While it is true that your precious son needs the Savior, I would beg of you to rethink interpreting what he is doing now through the eyes of an adult.

  3. I successfully nursed 3 babies before having one who could not latch on. I am a La Leche League leader. All the knowledge of breastfeeding does not matter when you have a baby unable to latch on. The baby must be taught how to do it. What worked for my baby was to have a large (bigger than newborn size)NUK type nipple stuck in her mouth….get the entire thing in so baby learns how to open her mouth. After a couple days of this, my baby began latching on the breast.

  4. Jonathan, I just received that book “The Year of Living Biblically” in the mail this week. I ordered it because for many years I did try to follow the OT Law — as a Christian. But it didn’t work for me as a Christian any more than it did for Mr. Jacobs as an agnostic. II Cor. 3 tells us that following that Law is like having a veil over our hearts. I am not surprised that this experience did not bring Mr. Jacobs to Christ. I know that God can use anything, but generally preaching the gospel is preferable to preaching the Law.

  5. Jonathan,
    It breaks my heart to hear what you have to say about your tiny new one. He is a miracle of God, and is struggling to find his way; in this instance, he needs to eat but is finding it difficult to latch. Be very careful that you are not standing in judgement of your own son, who has done nothying wrong. Is his nature sinful? Of course, as is the nature of us all. But I will refer to a passage that you yourself have used in your blog here:
    “For it is by grace you are saved, and not of yourselves but it is a gift of God, not of works lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
    You son is already saved by God’s grace. A parent’s job is to treat the baby as Jesus would treat him.
    “Let the little chilren come unto Me.”
    “For you must become like one of these to enter the kingdom.”
    “Whatsoever you do for the least of these, you do for Me.”
    How would you treat Jesus if He were a baby in your arms? Whatever your resposne to that question, it is the answer for how you should treat this gift of life that God has sent to you.
    And please, get some help with the latching on. The baby wants to eat, but feels helpless. He’s brand new to every single thing here, he has no “preconceived idea” or “point of reference” of what is going on. Help him to understand, and to know that when you show him kindness and love you are witnessing to him the love of Christ.
    Happy “Babymoon!”

  6. Thank you for all the advice. Did the plastic shells–No help. Called the La Leche League. Got help with breastfeeding from a lactation consultant. He’s doing better but still fights. Several people took me to task for assuming my son’s problems were part of his nature. My statements were somewhat tongue in cheek. I only wanted to recognize that my son is in the same warped state the rest of us are sinful, depraved even if he’s cute and cuddly (and he so is!). The fact that he is fallen like all of us of course has NOTHING to do with how I treat him. That I agree with Paul that we are all in need of redemption, doesn’t change how I treat him. I’ve loved my son from the moment he drew breath just as God has loved all of us even if we were born in sin and in sin our mother’s conceived us as David says. Whether his lack of latching on is stubborness or just a learning curve could be called poetic license.
    However, the person who says that my son is already saved by grace, might run the risk of being confusing. While I agree that my son has not reached the age of accountablity (what ever it is) he is not morally responsible yet, according to the New Testament, he already has the propensity, the bent towards sin. This is what a sin nature is. He can’t lie (since he can’t speak) but he will lie and rebel etc. And when he old enough to actually reveal his sin nature he will still be in need of a savior and he will still need to believe that Jesus is his savior or he will be separated from God forever. To quote Ephesians 2 doesn’t remove the “faith” part. My son will be saved by grace THROUGH FAITH (not shouting just emphasizing) and that will be a necessary condition because he was born with a sin nature. This was my point. For all his cute and cuddliness, If I read Paul right, we are all bent towards sin even my son.

  7. My fourth child had trouble latching on. Turned out to be something called “breastmilk jaundice.” He was removed from breastmilk for 72 hours (given formula instead) in order for some needed biochemical reaction to occur to enable him to latch on, and voila, all better. Just a thought.

  8. Jonathan… we ARE all bent toward sin, but sin, in order to BE sin, has to be conscious, willful rebellion against God. An infant is incapable of this – he has no concept of right or wrong, and his whole “will” at this point is geared towards survival. All he knows right now is that he’s hungry and that SOMETHING doesn’t feel right when he tries to nurse, so he cries and fails to latch on.

    As for the Ezzos, and other popChristian parenting “experts”, my opinion is there are SOME people who OUGHT to use birth control — those who carry hereditary diseases, those who because of mental illness have abused the children that they DO have, and people like the Ezzos and the Pearls who in their ignorant hubris have disseminated advice which has resulted in untold abuse, harm, misery to untold numbers of innocent babies.

    I am all for free speech, but it’s a pity that people like the Ezzos can’t be arrested for preaching and printing the cr*p that they do.

    The Ezzos and their teachings are a public menace.

  9. Jonathan,
    Glad baby is doing better with nursing. My experience was that as baby got bigger and stronger things continued to improve. I nursed my baby for a little over a year, but the first 2 months were difficult.
    I clicked the link to see Wesley Owen’s picture. He’s precious. Congratulations to you and your wife. I wish you all the best.

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