Scriptorium: A Religion Panorama Another View On Coulter And "A Common Word"

A blog about religion in the news from The Ledger’s religion editor and monkish scribe, Cary McMullen

I doubt if she remembers me, but Beth Newman and I were both in graduate school together at Duke University. I became a journalist, she became professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary in Richmond, Va. She regularly writes opinion pieces for the independent Associated Baptist Press. In a piece published Tuesday, she comments — correctly, I think — on how our differences shouldn’t be easily papered over.

Regarding Ann Coulter’s remarks about Christians wanting Jews to become “perfected” (see my post “Ann Coulter, Amateur Theologian”), Beth says this: “I don’t know what Ann Coulter believes about the Jews’ place in salvation history. Based on the transcript of what she and her interviewer said as they talked past each other, I don’t know what she believes about Christianity even. Her spoken words, when reproduced in print, were grammatical and theological nonsense. … What plagues us is not a lack of civility but a lack of knowledge. To put it simply, we are too ignorant of one another, and often of ourselves, to converse at any serious level. And we are too lazy to do anything about it. The news cycles of NBC, CNN, Fox, et al, reinforce this ignorance and sloth.”

She also is not impressed by the recent letter (“A Common Word Between Us and You”) by Muslim leaders to Christian leaders detailing the common ground between the two: “The appeals to some putatively common foundational principles, such as love of God and love of neighbor, are as pointless as they are well intentioned. If we have so much in common, why have we spent so many centuries at each other’s throats? What divides is as important as what unites us, and understanding that requires effort, patience and time. It can’t be wedged in between commercials.”

Newman advocates simple face-to-face conversation with those who are different, not shying away from what separates us. I agree, although I would say that the “Common Word” letter at least provides a starting place. Ann Coulter — not so much. You can read Newman’s entire commentary here.