Ann Coulter used her national megaphone to trash Dr. Kent Brantly Wednesday. Brantly is the American doctor who traveled to Liberia to use his medical skills and training to serve the poor there. He and Nancy Writebol served patients who have Ebola, and have now come down with the deadly virus themselves.
Coulter can be a genius one day and a fool the next. In this column, she takes the latter route.
Coulter’s basic argument is that Dr. Brantly should have stayed home and served in Texas instead of Africa, because it’s safer to serve here.
That’s not necessarily true on the border. But missionary service isn’t always about doing the safe thing. It’s about being obedient to God. Being obedient to God is often the riskiest thing a Christian can possibly do.
Coulter accuses Dr. Brantly of “Christian narcissism.”
Right there in Texas, near where Dr. Brantly left his wife and children to fly to Liberia and get Ebola, is one of the poorest counties in the nation, Zavala County — where he wouldn’t have risked making his wife a widow and his children fatherless.
But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn’t have been “heroic.” We wouldn’t hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly’s “unusual drive to help the less fortunate” or his membership in the “Gold Humanism Honor Society.” Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away — that’s the ticket.
Today’s Christians are aces at sacrifice, amazing at serving others, but strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life. They need to buck up, serve their own country, and remind themselves every day of Christ’s words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”
There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.
Coulter’s column makes me wonder whether she really believes in God or not, or if her God is actually a country and not a supreme being. That would be idolatry, of course.
The Christian missionary call crosses borders, and is as old as Christianity itself. It’s Christianity 101.
Coulter trashes not just the doctor, but every American Christian who has ever gone on a mission trip of any kind.
Which explains why American Christians go on “mission trips” to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.
So Americans are now exempt from God’s missionary call, because we have problems here? Sure, American Christians are tired of all the things Coulter mentions. Some of us recognize in that, that America is rejecting God. We also recognize the heart-breaking consequences that are coming America’s way if the nation stays on this course. But even that doesn’t exempt an American Christian from answering a call from God to work outside America.
Coulter doesn’t seem to understand anything about mission work if it doesn’t fly the Stars and Stripes and preach Reaganomics in charter schools. What about the Japanese missionaries I knew in the 1990s, who spent their time and treasure smuggling Bibles into China, at great risk to themselves? Were they risking everything because of America’s culture war too? What about American missionaries who planted churches in China decades or even centuries ago? Were they narcissists too?
China has more than a hundred million Christians now, by the way. It’s fast on its way to being home to the most Christians on earth, despite the Communist government’s official repression of Christianity. Before long, China’s Christians may have to make risky trips to teach American Christians how to live under a hostile regime. Maybe Ann Coulter will write a column mocking both.
Dr. Brantly did not choose to serve in Liberia. He answered God’s call to serve there. He answered a call that supersedes nationalism, to save souls, not serve some economic or even patriotic interest. He followed a Christian vocation that goes all the way back to Jesus’ call in Matthew 28, to go into all the world and preach the gospel.
It makes you wonder if Coulter wrote that column just to be provocative. Kicking a missionary doctor who came down with the deadly disease he was treating in others is not provocative, it’s cruel and terrible.
For what it’s worth, it’s a good thing that Dr. Brantly and Mrs. Writebol have been brought back to the U.S. for treatment of Ebola. They’re Americans. We shouldn’t be fearing them or scorning them. We should care for them and learn about the virus that afflicts them. The chances that they will cause an outbreak here are remote, because our medical authorities knew that they have Ebola before bringing them back, and took all necessary precautions to prevent an outbreak during transport and during their hospital stay. Dr. Brantly was able to walk into the hospital when he arrived.
The two American missionaries who contracted Ebola have the best chance of survival here in the States, and our scientists have the best chance of fighting and defeating the disease by studying them here, not in Africa.