July 16, 2019

Ten Big Ideas for Donny Deutsch

deutsch_coulter.jpgDonny Deutsch’s reaction to Ann Coulter’s claim that it would be good if all people were Christians is about as good a tour of the postmodern cul de sac as you’ll find anywhere. Read the conversation, then report back here for class.

Dear Donny,

I like your program. I really do. I wish all my students would watch it.

And I really don’t care much for Ann Coulter. Way too strident. Always looking for the shock line. Especially don’t understand her as a spokesperson for Christianity, but hey, what can I say?

But Donny…..Donny, Donny, Donny, Donny, Donny…..

As one of C.S. Lewis’s characters said, “Doesn’t anyone teach logic anymore?”

Let’s do this in a list of ten “Big Ideas.”

1. Do you ever have an entrepreneur on “The Big Idea” who implies that it would be good if everyone bought their product? And if it were a competition where only one product could be bought, would they possibly say “I want everyone to stop buying the Acme widget and buy my widget instead?”

Would they be a Nazi for thinking this way?

2. Would it be a good thing if the President of Iran converted to Judaism? A simple yes or no will be sufficient. How about if all the Al-Queda and Taliban gangs would, with one prayer on your part, convert to Judaism. Would you pray the prayer?

3. Listen carefully, Donny. When a person says they believe something is true, they normally mean other competing assertions are false. Let’s try this one out.

“I believe the the car is blue.”

“I believe the car is grey.”

Please note: the person claiming the car is blue does not want to kill, main, gas, torture or forcibly eliminate the “grey” fellow from the face of the earth. But he does believe- rightly or wrongly- that the grey fellow should become like him- a blue fellow.

That’s entirely reasonable, and it also works with sports, politics, religion and fried chicken from fast food outlets. No harm is intended in any of the above cases. I promise.

4. In fact, Donny, you, my friend, believe it would be better if everyone was shocked like you were at Ann Coulter’s answer, and you should come on out and say it: “I believe that on the issue of Ann Coulter’s view of Christianity, everyone would be better off if they believed like me and not like her.”

By saying this, no violence or hatred of the rest of us will be credited to your account.

5. It is impossible to say if the world would be better if everyone _________________ (fill in the blank.) Since that test can’t be conducted, it’s a nonsensical claim. But it is not irrational for a person who has chosen to be a _______________ (fill in the blank) to believe the world would be better if everyone became a ___________________ (fill in the blank.)

Is this coming through OK, Donny?

6. Christianity is FULL of universals. Everyone is created by the Christian, Trinitarian God. Everyone is a sinner and deserves hell. Everyone is loved by God. Jesus Christ died so that anyone or everyone (check your denomination for more details) can be saved. Everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

These universals are as common as fleas on a dog in Christianity. Apparently, the only Christians you’ve met are unbelievers who hate Christianity. My opinion here: probably not going to get a really clear picture with those sources.

7. I believe that many Jews actually pray that the Messiah will arrive and all people will come to the knowledge of the God of the Torah. All as in all. All. No hatred implied.

8. Your equation of Ann’s statements with the Iranian President’s wish that Israel be destroyed is just about the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard in my life. For God’s sake man, get a grip.

9. Listen up: All Truth claims have the implied “benefit of universal acceptance.” Unshock yourself. Go take Philosophy 101, Logic or Debate.

10. I believe every person should be a Christian. I’ll tell them so, but I would rather DIE than force or coerce them to do so. The Christian view of truth has produced a society of real tolerance. Nonsense like your tantrum at Ann Coulter is the opposite of tolerance. It sounded to me like you were ready to vote for burning at the stake.

Now that is a very bad idea.

Comments

  1. I continue to believe that Ann Coulter is actually working for the other side (politically, at least). Didn’t Jesus say something about not casting your pearls before swine? He might have updated that to say, “Don’t let an ass cast your pearls before swine.”

    You’re absolutely right about the logic end of things. But that’s the very reason that we don’t need a half-cocked, self-absorbed, nicotine-and-chardonnay apologist on Fox News.

  2. I’ve been reading you for years and I think this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with you 🙂

    Actually I agree with what you say above as regards to simple logic, but I think it misses the point a bit. People aren’t logic machines. If the transcript was anything to go by (I didn’t watch the video), Coulter came off like an insensitive clod.

    Considering the context, “Christian” sounds like a synonym to “super conservative republican” in Ann’s vocabulary. I don’t want a country full of those either (even though I might be closer to that than the opposite). NY city during the RNC sounds… well, let’s just say it doesn’t sound anything like heaven to me.

    Sometimes christians need to do the logic thing and say that everyone should be a christian. Sometimes we should read between the lines and respond to a person’s real objections and not what they’re literally saying. I think this was one of those times. I’m sure Coulter could have defended her faith in a much more sensitive way– but she seems to care about scoring rhetorical points and not actually convincing people.

  3. I am not defending Ann Coulter.
    I am not defending Ann Coulter.
    I am not defending Ann Coulter.
    I disagree with her GOP version of Christianity.
    I disagree with her GOP version of Christianity.
    I disagree with her GOP version of Christianity.

    I’m not interested in that aspect of the discussion. It’s the postmodern logical contradictions that interest me.

  4. It’s true, he should be ashamed of himself. A college freshman ought to be able to debate better than that.

    But when people hear “Christian”, they see red. When people see Ann Coulter, they see red.

    The breakdown in the world’s eyes:

    Good people go to heaven. Bad (Hitler bad) people go to hell. Christians say that Christians go to heaven. Christians must think I’m Hitler bad. We declared war on Hitler. If they get power, they’ll declare war on me.

    Our options: put Smiley Osteen on, who will say he’s not really sure what God’s really going to do, but you can be a better you in the mean time.

    Put John MacArthur on, who will speak the truth in a buttoned-up, curmudgeonly way.

    Put Ann Coulter on, who will do what she did, and relish the reaction that she got.

    You won’t put me on. I won’t go.

    Whom shall we send? Who will go for us? (Two questions)

  5. I think we no longer can rely on logic. The simple fact is that people no longer think in terms of logic for any argument. The one that catches your heartstrings wins the battle. The fact that Anne’s position can be defended logically with a purely “rational” argument is besides the point. The manner of her presentation as well as the emotional pleas of her opponent (references as a Jew to the plight of Israel) doomed her from the start.

    It has always been this way. I remember in an English class reading Julius Caesar by Shakespeare. In that play Brutus appealed to logic by using prose; Mark Anthony to emotions using poetry. As an English teacher yourself you know who won.

    I think we may be in an age when, like Jesus, we don’t answer anything directly. Instead, we use questions to answer questions and parables.

  6. Coulter only got 3rd place in Keith Olberman’s countdown of the worst person in the world tonight. He said of her that in case anyone was in doubt, she was antisemitic. Like most everyone else reading this I would very much like it if the dumb blonde would just keep her mouth shut. Her comments calling Christianity “fast track” and comparing it to FedEx makes me want to bang my head against a wall.

    But, Keith her comment was not antisemitic. Of course antisemitism, like racism, is one of those words that one can pretty much define any way one wants to label anyone antisemitic. Both words are way overused. So Keith, just stick with naming O’Reilly as worst person. BillO is far more deserving.

  7. It is a fact that most non-Messianic Jews, if they care at all about their Jewish identity, consider the notion of Jews converting to Christianity just as evil as Jews being exterminated in Nazi gas chambers or by Iranian missiles.

    That’s because most such Jews believe that when a Jew decides to believe in Jesus, he ceases to be a Jew, and thus for the Jewish people it is as if he had been gassed or shot or otherwise killed.

    And I believe that any intelligent Christian living in New York must know this — whether they agree with it or not.

    And of course Ann Coulter responding “Yeah” to Donny’s summary of her claim “we should just throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians, then” is not exactly clever, either.

    I just came across a quote from Aquinas to the effect that we should not defend the faith in a manner which exposes it to the mockery of unbelievers — whatever Donny Deutsch’s deficits in logical thinking, I think Ann Coulters is guilty of that offense.

  8. If I thought Ms. Coulter was giving an exposition of the Christian faith, I’d join you in giving her a D- or less. In this type of conversation, where Donny is trying to get her to be provocative and she is, as usual, willing to do so, it seems to me she’s just pressing his buttons.

    The problem with Ms. Coulter as a spokesperson for anything is she isn’t interested in giving a plain answer. She wants to give a provocative answer that gets her opponents into a tantrum.

  9. The problem is people hate Ann Coulter because she is ‘offensive’ and not nice. We are more concerned about being nice than being right.

  10. He might have updated that to say, “Don’t let an ass cast your pearls before swine.”

    Is it bad that I laughed out loud at this line? 🙂

  11. bookdragon says

    Michael,

    Since I have ties to both Jewish and Christian communities, can I weigh in here?

    This strikes me as less a problem of logic than of two people (or groups) not communicating because each is hearing something entirely other than what the other person is trying to say. And the reason for this, at least on Donny’s side (I don’t pretend to understand what goes on in Ann’s warped little head), is that he is not assessing her statements as simple truth-claims. Nor is it necessarily reasonable to expect him to.

    With groups having such a long and difficult history as Judaism and Christianity, statements like hers are difficult for a Jew with any awareness of history to hear without considering them in the context of that historical baggage (and I’m not talking about the Holocaust here. Christianity has a long and sordid history wrt to forcing Jews to convert or punishing for not doing so. Wolf Paul, I think overstates the case, but this history does give rise to something like the reaction he decribes.) Ann, unless she is incredibly naive, which I seriously doubt, must have known that.

    In case of this interview, the understanding diverges because of each groups’ self-understanding. As a Christian, you hear Ann’s words as a simple truth claim that *choosing* Christianity is better. Donny, and most Jews, otoh hear something like this and immediately think ‘auto de fey’.

    There’s a problem with reducing everything to just the simple words of a statement w/o considering the context. An as an English teacher I’m sure you know that. There are things that can be said in one context without causing offense, but that in another are just wrong. To make an extreme example: someone at a PA Dutch folk festival can say ‘Germans are the greatest!’. No offense to anyone else and any reasonable person will only hear it as someone expressing pride in his German heritage. Now imagine someone saying the exact same thing as a neo-Nazi rally…

    Same words right? So why are you offended? Aren’t you being illogical?

    That said, Donny did a lousy job of handling her.

    The ‘perfected Jew’ line made me want to retch since it reeked of everything wrong with supercessionism (the evil fruit of which Donny was also surely reacting to). However, as an educated and practicing Jew, he ought to have been able to engage her better on her false claims about Jewish theology, esp. wrt the whole legalism and ‘fast track’ nonsense.

    It’s one of the problems in both faiths that they so carefully avoid actually learning anything but stereotypes about the other’s theology that Jew and Christian will almost inevitably talk past each other with neither being able to give the other a decent and understandable explanation or answer. Heck, most of the time we can’t even frame questions to each other very well.

    For instance, your big 10 list has one rather fatal flaw in this light. Unlike Christians, Jews really don’t think everyone should be Jewish or that that would make the world a better place. (So I really don’t think ‘yes’ is the automatic response to question #2)
    It’s one of the reasons they don’t evangelize. In fact, if you want ot convert, they are supposed turn you away 3 times and tell you every negative thing about being a Jew before accepting you in (frankly, we might be better off with a little more of this sort of ‘truth in advertising’ in our evangelism). Yet, despite this, universals are also thick as fleas in Judaism – but they apply to mankind in general whether Jew or gentile.

    Hence in the tack you take in this article, you wind up making sense to a Christian audience, but talking right past (or worse, seeming to talk down to) a Jewish one.

    Oh, and btw, statements like “The Christian view of truth has produced a society of real tolerance.” are pretty likely to get you disqualified as a source of logical reasoning with most Jews since from their pov, the Christian view of truth has, for most of it’s 2000 year history, has resulted in societies that engaged in pogroms, forced conversions, kidnappings, torture, etc. all in the name of that view of truth.

  12. Wolf Paul,

    If what you say here is true: “It is a fact that most non-Messianic Jews, if they care at all about their Jewish identity, consider the notion of Jews converting to Christianity just as evil as Jews being exterminated in Nazi gas chambers or by Iranian missiles.

    That’s because most such Jews believe that when a Jew decides to believe in Jesus, he ceases to be a Jew, and thus for the Jewish people it is as if he had been gassed or shot or otherwise killed.”

    Then I cannot see ANY way to proclaim the Gospel without giving offense to the Jewish person. None. It would not matter if you were non-provocative or not. If a Jew equates conversion to Christianity to extermination by the Nazis, then how can you say such in ANY way not to “give offense?” I don’t see how. In which case, you “exterminate” the Gospel itself.

    Again, maybe the questions route (much as iMonk did here) or responding in parables would work better. But such nuances take time and don’t fit in well with todays TV interview environment. Especially one in which the interviewer is gunning to get you to get that inflammatory sound bit on the air.

    In other words, we must recognize that our foes really don’t want an answer. They just want to trap you and shame you in public. If that is the case, then we need to study Jesus more when he responded to such “dangerous” questions as “should we pay taxes to Caesar or not?” “who is my neighbor?” etc.

  13. Jews and Christians have both produced societies of often embarassingly imperfect, but nonetheless often real, tolerance in comparison to other worldviews. It takes a less than sophisticated reading of history to get around that one. Both faiths are failing themselves at their core when they are less than tolerant. They have failed, but not by acting consistently to the Biblical faith.

  14. bookdragon says

    I won’t argue that, Michael, except to point out that the same could be said of nearly every major religion.

    My point had more to do with understanding how your audience is going to perceive your statements. Like it or not, very few of us view read history objectively esp. in the places it touches on personal/family experience. I’m a Christian, but my gut reaction to the statement came from hearing so many stories and firsthand recollections of what Jews a couple generations ago experienced of ‘Christian tolerance’ in Europe. The ‘Christian kingdoms’ of Europe and Russia were seldom kind or tolerant toward non-Christians (or even Christians of different denoms).

    So my criticism, which I guess I did not put well, was more to say that if you want to present a case, you need to consider how your statements may be heard by your audience. Speak from your own worldview without taking theirs into account and you are just asking to be dismissed as not understanding the issue.

  15. That Christians have historically failed and succeeded at tolerance is a lecture in and of itself. That Judeo-Christian beliefs tend to produce tolerance could only be argued effectively by those who know that Jesus was tolerant and Christians have not always been.

  16. I think we no longer can rely on logic. The simple fact is that people no longer think in terms of logic for any argument. The one that catches your heartstrings wins the battle.

    The problem comes that it’s not just that ‘catching the heartstrings’ is what people go for in argument, it’s that the logic has largely been replaced by the particular ‘catching the heartstrings’ technique that C. S. Lewis called “Bulverism“. It’s also referred to as the genetic fallacy. Instead of arguing logically against your opponent, you speculate on the origins of your opponent’s thought, and promulgate your speculations as a fact. “You only say that because (fill in the blank).” From what I can see, Bulverism has become pretty well ubiquitous in modern public discourse, and practically everyone has succumbed to using it at some time.

    The problem with Bulveristic argument becoming as pervasive as it has is that you end up no longer arguing about facts and logic (“who is right?”), but about motivations (“who is righteous?”, or “who has the most positive motivation?”). At this point, you can’t really argue without casting aspersions on the motivations of your opponent. When you’re arguing about facts and logic, it’s possible to argue dispassionately and without rancor. When the argument is about motivations, you can’t argue long without denigrating your opponent’s motivations, and the more negative it is, the better for your ‘winning’ the argument. I have to wonder if this is one reason the ‘hate’ label has become so common in the last few decades. As the most negative possible motivation, it would be felt to be a show-stopper in motivations-oriented argument.

    The ironic thing is that if what you want is peaceful coexistence and cooperation, belief in objective facts and logic and basing argument on them is going to give you far more of it than a postmodern belief in no objective truth accompanied by arguing primarily over motivations.

  17. In the interview, Deutsch and Coulter shared something far more basic in common that puts the reasoning (or lack thereof) displayed by either of them in a very qualified context: they both were in a television studio and speaking with one another because they wanted to hold an audience and keep them from changing channels. What takes place in “talk” shows is about as far removed from reasoned discourse as you can get.

    Michael, your criticism of Deutsch’s analytical skills is not an illustration of “postmodern” logic or thinking. If they had been engaged in a conversation to inquire into the truth with dialectic, which is more likely to happen in the Socratic Club or around a pint of beer at the Eagle & Child, then your point would be well-taken. But I don’t think you get through to Deutsch by asking or expecting him to engage with Coulter in a detached or “for the sake of argument” way.

    The issue is not deficient reasoning skills. It is the propagandistic nature of the media glut which is primarily concerned with grabbing and holding your attention through the sponsor break. Ann’s job is to keep you from putting in those earbuds from your iPod. David’s job is to let voicemail answer your phone while his show is on. That is the postmodern predicament. It is a social breakdown, and publicly broadcast irrational claims are a symptom of incivility, not the cause of it. And in the crazy calculus of omnipresent media, it is desirable to have us pissed off about as many issues and with as many people as possible. And propaganda can then serve its dual purpose: to promote alienation in the social sphere as well as to provide the emotional salve to keep it under control. Therefore, Deutsch and Coulter are acting out their dual roles as faithful servants to an antagonistic and spirit-crushing system.

  18. If there is any validity to my claim above, then we ought to be able to examine how their exchange functions in the new media and arrive at a similar diagnosis. But I’m too tired to do that right now 🙂

    …but surely the quality of blogospheric argumentation can be assessed in light of the technologies that make it possible, both in how they operate as well as what they purpose they have.

  19. Roger Plafkin says

    When people make comments degrading another person’s religion, then there is the possibility that certain elements in our society are going to assume that it is perfectly okay to downgrade or make fun of others. We saw this in Nazi Germany with the Jewish Community, which had contributed much to German society in the way of music, medicine, commerce, education, and religious ethics. However, when Hitler came to power, he gave the German people the right to throw all of that recognition away, and in a sense create a whole new standard for judging the Jews. When comments are made by Ann Coulter, for whatever her reasons, they should be taken seriously because the younger generation who may look up to her, may be influenced by her remarks, and thus think it is acceptable to attack others.

    Roger Plafkin–Plafkin Farms(View on Photobucket.com and Webshots.com).

  20. The basic assertion that a Christian believes the world would be better off if everyone were Christian, should not be hard to understand.

    I also believe that the world would be better off if everyone eliminated personal debt and contributed ten percent of their earnings to charity. Does this speak of intollerance to people who are in debt?

    I can tolerate all sorts of people, but it does not mean that I don’t pray for them to be saved by Jesus. Is praying for them imply some hate?

    Get a grip!

  21. A big “Yep” to all the folks who make it clear that Christianity teaches that all humans ought to be Christians.

    As a Jew who grew up in the south, this is one of the things that has always enabled me to avoid the trap of too much indignation over being told all the time, “I’ll pray for you,” or “But you can believe in Christ and still be a Jew: You’ll be a COMPLETED Jew!” Note that I say I avoided TOO MUCH indignation. I mean I didn’t let my indignation overwhelm me. But the Jew does get indignant because it’s a contention from the Christian that the Jew’s faith is imperfect, incorrect, and of comparatively little value. This is an assault on Judaism, in matter-of-fact sense, and while logically it should stop there, historically this attack on the Jew’s faith has led directly to attacks on the Jew himself.

    I agree with Mr. Spencer’s point that our culture is largely one of tolerance and that we in the West have mostly been able to develop societies that distinguish between attacking the Judaism and attacking the Jew. MOSTLY. But we have done it so inconsistently that the Jew still looks over his shoulder when he hears his faith denounced.

    So looking at this essential doctrine of Christianity, we return to the basis of my relative calm in the face of Christian challenges to Judaism (or any other faith when I hear them): Christianity is by its very nature an attack on Judaism. That attack is the story of the Christian gospels. It’s the basis of Christianity’s origin stories about itself. In a very simple and basic sense, Christianity is anti-Jewish. It is NOT intentionally Antisemitic, however. “Of COURSE they want the world to be Christian,” I contend, “It’s in John 3:16!” You cannot get to the Kingdom, Christianity teaches, without Christ. End of story. Period. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.00.

    As a Jew, once I understood this, I could settle down and ignore religion as an overarching factor in my friendships with Christians. I love them, but with tongue in cheek I paraphrase to myself the line from _Last of the Mohicans_, “[Religiously], they are a breed apart and make no sense.” I fully expect they think similar things about me. And then we go and drink together.