Stephen Beale has been a freelance writer and journalist for over 10 years, reporting on presidential politics, government corruption, and other public affairs. He also writes frequently about Church history, spirituality, and theology. He holds an undergraduate from Brown University in classics and history. He currently resides in Providence, Rhode Island.
In a recent column, avowed pro-Trump supporter Ann Coulter takes John Kasich—who dropped out of the presidential race earlier this week—to the woodshed for a surprising reason: his tendency to talk about his Christian faith in public. More surprising is her criticism of the way he speaks about his faith.
John Kasich, she says, “rants about religion in a way that only he can understand.” Her first example:
Kasich is constantly proclaiming that illegals are “made in the image of God,” and denounces the idea of enforcing federal immigration laws, saying: “I don’t think it’s right; I don’t think it’s humane.”
For someone who famously called for the United States to invade Muslim countries “kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity” in the days immediately following September 11 and has also written a book excoriating liberalism for being “godless,” the above lines display an astonishing lack of knowledge of basic Christianity.
The idea that we are made in the image of God, of course, comes from the creation account in Genesis 1, verses 26 and 27. That we are made in the image of God is, to state the obvious, one of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. It is the basis for our belief in the dignity of the human person as someone bearing the very image of God. And this, being the creation account, this is a dignity that all members of the human race—regardless of race, creed, or religion have.
For Catholics specifically, the truth that we are made in the image of God is the cornerstone of Church’s entire pro-life message, social teaching, and much of its theology—from its vision of the human person as a rational being endowed with freedom to its understanding of the Incarnation.
Kasich is Anglican, but the importance of this truth is hardly recognized by Catholics alone. It’s cited in the Westminster Confession of Faith and appears to hold a place of centrality in the theology of contemporary Protestant Reformers (see for example this article).
It’s hard to believe Ann Coulter does not recognize the reference to the creation account Genesis, but her wording certainly indicates that possibility. That’s actually the more charitable reading of her column. The alternative is that she cannot understand how illegal aliens could be possibility deserving of the respect for the dignity of the person that Genesis urges all of us to have for all people by virtue of their common humanity. In other words, Coulter seems to be saying that the suggestion that illegal aliens should be treated in ways that do not denigrate their human dignity is a confusing concept for GOP voters.
One certainly hopes not.
Of course, embracing the teaching of Genesis does not compel one to agree with him. But it does impose an obligation on Christian voters and policymakers to ensure that whatever particular solution they envision for the problem of illegal immigration is one that does not violate their basic human dignity. That leaves a lot of room for a range of humane solutions. But it probably does enjoin Christians to refrain from talking about illegal immigrants as if all are inveterate drug-smuggling rapists who live on welfare.
But there’s more that Coulter says is confusing about Kasich’s Christianity:
When asked about his decision to expand Medicaid under Obamacare—projected to cost federal taxpayers $50 billion in the first decade—he said: “Now, when you die and get to the, get to the, uh, to the meeting with St. Peter … he’s going to ask you what you did for the poor. Better have a good answer.”
He lectured a crowd of fiscal conservatives on his Obamacare expansion, saying, “Now, I don’t know whether you ever read Matthew 25, but I commend it to you, the end of it, about do you feed the homeless and do you clothe the poor.” He also attributed the law to Chief Justice John Roberts and said, “It’s my money, OK?”
Coulter’s claim that this is overly religious “ranting” that “no one understands” is itself puzzling. Who isn’t familiar with the popular cultural of image of St. Peter being the greeter at the “pearly gates” of heaven? And who hasn’t heard the gospel commands to feed the homeless and clothe the poor? Certainly Christians may disagree with how Kasich applies these gospel principles to public policy. But the fact that such a connection could be made should hardly be confusing.
Again the alternative interpretation of her words worse: that Coulter has become so accustomed to reading the Christian gospels in light of Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek—or whatever laissez faire libertarian author is her gospel when it comes to economic questions—that the mere suggestion that the injunction to help the poor would be cited as a basis for government programs has become simply incomprehensible to her.
All of which leads one to wonder: when Coulter once advocated for forcible mass conversions to Christianity—a position that she never retracted or backed down from as far as this author knows—just what did she have in mind when she talks about ‘Christianity’?