Robert S. McElvaine: Jesusless: The Church of Conservatism
Robert S. McElvaine teaches history at Millsaps College and is the author of Eve's Seed (McGraw-Hill). He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled ChristianityLite: Getting to Heaven without the Hassle.
In Godless, her latest and most ill-tempered book-length rant, Ann Coulter asserts that liberalism is a "godless" religion. In fact, however, the most fundamental problem in Christianity in America and the world today is that the "fundamentalist" religion that most loudly proclaims itself to be "Christian" is Jesusless.
Coulter demonstrates how Jesusless she and her cohort who have co-opted the name of Christianity are when she identifies "Americans' Christian destiny" as "jet skis, steak on the electric grill, hot showers, and night skiing." For some reason, she fails to cite her source in the Gospels for her definition of Christian destiny, which amounts to: Jesus died for our jet skis.
Read the Gospels from beginning to end and nowhere will you find Jesus suggesting anything like what Coulter sees as the destiny of Christians. Quite the contrary. Indeed, there is no source in anything Jesus said for most of what the best-known "Christians" preach in his name these days. While Coulter fumes that "liberalism is the opposition party to God," the clear truth is that what passes for "Christianity" today is the opposition party to Jesus. She attacks "the liberal hostility to God-based religions" while exposing her own hostility to Jesus-based religion.
As has been widely reported, Coulter offers "Christian" sentiments about widows of 9/11 victims who are not on her side politically: "These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis," the millionaire TV celebrity and right-wing lioness Coulter hisses. "I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much." If Jesus had remained in his grave, surely he would be spinning in it to hear such evil venom being spit out in his name.
"Christians" of the sort who buy Coulter's books call themselves "fundamentalists," but their emphasis is entirely upon the word's first syllable; they're all about having fun. But when it comes to the fundamental teachings of Jesus, they take a pass. Turn the other cheek? Self-sacrifice? Help the poor? Nonviolence? That stuff's too hard. They replace the Gospel accounts of what Jesus said with the Gospel according to John and Paul (Lennon and McCartney, that is): "Give me money / That's what I want."
The Church of Coulter -- and that of the loudest "Christians" today -- should be called what it plainly is: Jesusless: The Church of Mammon. Coulter makes millions by calling others treasonous and Godless and saying, "We should invade [Muslim] countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity." Conversion should start at home, and Coulter first needs to convert herself from Mammonism to Christianity.
Like many others in the increasingly dominant and totally misnamed "Christian Right," Coulter has a persecution complex. Upon the publication of Godless, she used her syndicated column to write a self-review of her book, saying it would be ignored: "If you find Godless without asking for assistance, it's considered a minor miracle." This from a woman whose new Jesusless book was at that very moment rising to Number 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. (That such a patently anti-Jesus book could become the best-selling book in America tells us just how far removed from being followers of Christ most of today's self-proclaimed Christians are.) She's lamenting all the way to the bank, her house of worship.
In my opinion, those who complain about a "War on Christianity" are right. The generals conducting that war include, in addition to Kill-a-Muslim-for-Christ Coulter, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Ted Haggard, James Dobson, and the whole Unheavenly Host of televangelists and megachurch moneychangers and wolves in sheep's clothing who have expropriated the moral assets of Jesus and turned them to their own purposes. They never met a dollar they didn't like. They prefer profits to prophecy and pretend that Jesus did, too. They favor the rich over the poor and invert Jesus to contend that he did, too. They favor war over peace and lie by saying that Jesus did, too.
Coulter and millions of her fellow adherents to ChristianityLite -- a "religion" that is the equivalent of a "Lose weight without diet or exercise" scam ("Easy Jesus! Be saved without sacrifice or good works!") -- have aborted Jesus and rewritten his teachings to suit their own selfish desires. Their revision of the Beatitudes -- what we might call the Be-Ann-itudes -- goes something like this:
Blessed are the haughty in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who exult over others, for they shall be further rewarded.
Blessed are the arrogant, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for domination, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are those who show no mercy, for they shall obtain the wealth of others.
Blessed are the hard in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the war-makers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who persecute for their own sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when you revile others and persecute others and utter all sorts of evil against them falsely on my account.
Onward Jesusless "Christian" soldiers, marching others into war.
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Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006
Jealous/jealousy is a word/feeling that doesn't exist in my vocabulary/psyche. The more appropriate term/ardor is 'pining'. Much the same as the Parrot of Monty Python fame 'pined' for the fiords of Lapland.
Coulter reminds me of that deceased blue raptor with the exquisite feathers and the lifeless/deadpan undertakers' delivery. Outfitted in that Morticia Addams' black cocktail dress joshing about McVeigh bombing the NY Times building instead of the AP Murrah facility or poisoning Justice Stevens or fragging John Murtha or dead husband harpies. What a card your enunciator is. Sorta like the 'Decider' in heels. Only difference is that he actually deals aces over eights and just doesn't chat about it for cable consumption morons to the delight of Sean Insanity and the chagrin of 'Wet Noodle' Colmes.
Having dipped into 'Slander' and 'How To Talk To A Liberal' both of which were lite/quick/easy reads, I found no real substance/life changing/earth shattering information. Just another ho-hum rainy day piece of entertainment comparable to Franken, Hightower or Begala from the left without the hard data/statistics. One thing about Coulter her books lack real numbers.
Coulter is fine for the GDE rightists but, she in no way can safely line up against the likes of the KKK (Kagan/Kristol/Krauthammer), JL Menezes, John Lukacs, Bevin Alexander, Thomas Woods or Ed Klein. Her spiel is more comedy than serious history/ party shaping ideology/political commentary/social criticism yet, that's not to say I'd kick her out of bed for eating crackers.
Patrick M. Ebbitt - 9/24/2006
A circus act to enthrall the crowd. A beautiful woman in black sequin skin tight leotard dances high upon the tight rope defying deaths every advance. The audience watches in terrified anticipation...
What will she say next? What truly educated person cares!
For the author to confuse a work (that word is a real stretch) of a self promoting/plagiarist under the guise of an an HNN essay to expose/defend/support the presence or lack of religious zealotry on the liberal/progressive left is pure hokum.
Exactly where does Ann Coulter fall on the belief in God/divinely religious scale between say, Pope Benedict on one end (strongly believe) and Anthony Flew (strongly disbelieve) at the other? Whether one is a strong-arm rightist or a flaming pinko does not have bearing/ equate/ define an individuals religious beliefs.
Like oil and water/ religion and politics do not mix. This is being played out/ come to fruition/ proven in the current clash of civilizations between the Christian and Moslem worlds.
If Mr. McElvaine seeks to defend the religious foundational underpinnings/ dogmatism/ fervor of the looney left a comparable study against the unshakeable essence of Christ displayed/ flowing from the demon seed mouths of Republican stalwarts/benefactors Sun Myung Moon, Marion 'Pat' Robertson, Jerry Falwell, his high holiness James Dobson or the irascible Fred Phelps would be a more ersatz focus point.
Coulter is a clown for the mental midget masses of FOX News and will continue to sell books (lot volume buys), speak confrontational/ vitriolic/idiotic/ slogan driven/ mimicked rhetoric, attack a timid/ weak/ pre-occupied/ uncaring left all the while raking in vast amounts of dough for her cockeyed efforts. However, she will never add any new information/ ideas/ problem solving solutions to the current dilemma we face as a nation.
Godless, at 310 large typeset pages, is the most voluminous fish wrapper tome from Coulter to date who, is the epitome of Republicanism, making easy money off the backs of societies victims and exploiting an already unfortunate chain of events for personal gain and (15) minutes of fame.
Randll Reese Besch - 7/23/2006
Is that the best you can do Mr.Hagedorn? No analysis,no incites just he is like her and is jealous?
There are other sites that find
Coulter to be a muckraker without proof just enquisitions and venemous aspersions cast far and wide. If she had her facts straight, would she be so wild and wooly flaming bomb thrower? Does it disturb you that she is a best seller? Fact checking isn't taught in school, much less thinking as more than a chore, in this simplistice a-literate culture.
At this HNN site I do find people of many opinions and an glad for it.
Frederick Thomas - 7/6/2006
of Ms. Coulter? Of her political, financial, and personal success? Of her ability to enunciate her political beliefs in ways which break right through the info wars of her leftist enemies? Of her ability (unlike acolytes of Mr. Soros) to get through to her constituency, and to rally new members?
Perhaps not, but then appearances say otherwise.
Thomas W Hagedorn - 7/5/2006
McElvaine proves himself no better than Coulter. Wild assertions, mixed with a lot on invective, with a microscopic amount of evidence. What's missing? Only the fortune Coulter will make from her book. Is McElvaine perhaps a bit jealous?
Carl Becker - 7/5/2006
Thanks for your reply.
What is no longer true?
McElvaine’s tone in this article may be too direct for some but he sounds like he may be someone who’s fed up with this culture that mixes religion, politics, money, and pleasure into a brand that forgets to disclose the real ingredients. We’ve never been bombed to rubble like the Europeans, so here in America, most of us live life lite.
Coulter gets more attention than she deserves. But using Coulter seems appropriate anyway because she seems to represent the mentality of a large proportion of our culture that appears to be more in decline into classlessness than Jesusless. Coulter’s saying what others of her prettied-up, self-centered, soft and spoiled class think, at least it seems that way from her book sales. She makes money, that makes her legitimate. The antithesis of Jesus, reloaded, then made to look the opposite.
McElvaine could have picked on any number of trashy mega church characters or poltical pundits on both the left and right just as tasteless. I’m especially disappointed with liberal politics these days – one side is worse than the other. The constitution is being reinterpreted, becoming water-down, just as Jesus has been watered down over the ages to suit the times.
Tim R. Furnish - 7/4/2006
Thanks for the temperate reply.
Actually, I have an overdeveloped sense of humour, according to my wife and students. This, however, struck me at rather along the lines of Air America's "Rush Limbaugh is fat!!" Not funny, and actually no longer true.
Carl Becker - 7/4/2006
“Neither side of the political spectrum has a unique claim to Christ, and it's just as reprehensible for the Left to claim the other side is "Jesusless"
agree, excellent point, although I wasn’t claiming Jesusless for the Left in case you got that impression. Of course, what Jesus would do today is anyone’s guess and this sort of mystical approach can provide material to shape an argument the way you want - but that’s okay since CS Lewis did it too. He was brilliant, like many writers, could create strong arguments for just about anything. But long after his conversion he was writing his Narnia stories based on Greek mythology (did he secretly go pagan again?)
But if you say the article wasn’t funny, you’re welcome to your own opinion. Maybe this issue here is one of the problems with Belief.
Tim R. Furnish - 7/4/2006
In one of C.S. Lewis' essays (which I can't find right now), he says that if Jesus were on Earth today he'd probably surprise conservatives with his agenda for the poor and dispossessed, YET he'd also surprise liberals with his quite "conservative" views on matters such as abortion and sexual ethics. I totally agree, as a Christian. As James says, "religion that God the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress [liberal/progrssive] and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" [conservative].(James 1:27). Neither side of the political spectrum has a unique claim to Christ, and it's just as reprehensible for the Left to claim the other side is "Jesusless"--as this author does--as it is for the "Christian Right" to do so.
And this article was NOT funny.
Craig Michael Loftin - 7/4/2006
Mr. Thomas, why do you use such insulting language when somebody disagrees with you? Might it hurt your cause a bit?
Carl Becker - 7/4/2006
Come now, Steve, we should forget about the rubic of history, it's meaningless. Who really pays attention to it except academia.
The more I think about it, this is a funny post. Paints a caricature of America’s dangerous political circus. Brings up thoughts, images for us more fun than fiction.
The Jesusless of the Far Right Christian Coalition with its center in the Oval Office. Benedictions straight from the Oval office folks. A leader who gathers pastors for a laying-on of hands, our leader called by Jesus to seek higher office, implementer of God’s master plan for the planet and “to export death and violence to the four corners of the earth in defense of this great country and rid the world of evil." GW’s own words in Woodward’s Bush At War book.
the Bush doctrine and the doctrine of "dispensationalism" are one and the same. (Rev. Tim LaHaye)
This means, central to this administration’s agenda, or theory, . . . is the Rapture, the second coming of Christ, which will presage the end of the world – history is already written so don’t bother writing it brother - repent instead, HNN is merely entertainment.
Steve Broce - 7/3/2006
I was wondering when you'd turn up, Carl.
What I object to, Karl, is HNN publishing the ravings of McElvaine, who pontificates about the holiness of others, by name, all under the guise of criticizing Ann Coulter ( for whom I also have little respect). All this, mind you, under the rubric of “history”.
Carl Becker - 7/3/2006
who prefer dogma over knowledge and who would follow their messianic commander-in-chief to the bloody ends of every Iraq quagmire that came along.
Because the article laughs at America’s current wingnut fundamentalism, it irritates these clowns since they embarrassingly belong to the same group by political affiliation.
And speaking of butts, I wonder if old Mr. T would even understand the origins of his own existence if it bit him in the butt. And Broce ought to display us his very own annotated bibliography informed opiniated opinion, not that anyone would care.
Steve Broce - 7/3/2006
Lorraine, you really thought it was “brilliant, and funny”.
What was the most brilliant part, would you say? What part, in your opinion, was the funniest?
Frankly, I consider it on a par with Coulter’s rant against the 9/11 widows-- a puerile, shallow screed that is neither brilliant nor funny. The difference is that Coulter didn’t get HNN to publish her work under the guise of “history”.
I really don’t give a rat’s about McElvaine’s uninformed opinion, undoubtedly colored by his politics, of the holiness of others and I think it inappropriate of HNN to give him a forum to spread this garbage.
Frederick Thomas - 7/3/2006
Ms. Paul, you would not know the religious right if it stood up and bit you in the butt.
But you would know the straw man "religious right" created by your whacky leftoid buddies.
Get a life. By the way, book sales figures say that Ann Coulter's version is better accepted than is yours-vastly better.
Lorraine Paul - 7/3/2006
What is wrong with this article? I thought it was a brilliant, and funny, summing up of the Religious "righteous" Right.
Steve Broce - 7/3/2006
..to publish this tripe.
Is this what HNN has come to? Robert McElvaine tries to race Ann Coulter to the bottom to see who can be more despicable, and HNN provides him the forum.
Congratulations, Bob, I think you just pulled ahead of Ann.