Ann Coulter branched out into theology this week, in a misguided rant against Dr. Kent Brantly, the Texas doctor who contracted the Ebola virus while serving the poor in Liberia. Her article, called “Ebola Doc’s Condition Downgraded to ‘Idiotic’” has about as much theological accuracy as an average Bill Maher monologue, but with much less entertainment value.
I wonder how the Ebola doctor feels now that his humanitarian trip has cost a Christian charity much more than any services he rendered.
What was the point?
Whatever good Dr. Kent Brantly did in Liberia has now been overwhelmed by the more than $2 million already paid by the Christian charities Samaritan’s Purse and SIM USA just to fly him and his nurse home in separate Gulfstream jets, specially equipped with medical tents, and to care for them at one of America’s premier hospitals. (This trip may be the first real-world demonstration of the economics of Obamacare.)
There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital. But why do we have to deal with this at all?
Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? The very first “risk factor” listed by the Mayo Clinic for Ebola — an incurable disease with a 90 percent fatality rate — is: “Travel to Africa.”
Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?
The United States, she helpfully explains, is where he should’ve spent his time. “Your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first.” (This is an argument I’ve heard countless times from people critical of our Ethiopian adoption. “Doesn’t America have orphans?” and “Why aren’t you taking care of our own?” Of course, no one who’s actually adopted through America’s foster care system has ever said this. This comes only from people with a passing, casual dismissal of adoptions.)
Coulter’s article – believe it or not – gets worse and takes a turn for the absolutely absurd when she speculates that Brantly went to Africa because he was “tired of fighting the culture war.” Mark Twain famously said, “To a guy with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” Perhaps “to a woman with a political column, everything looks like the Democrats did it.” Here, without any knowledge of Brantly or his politics, she writes that Christian doctors are “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…”
Apparently, Coulter couldn’t be bothered to do any research about Brantly before writing her article. And haven’t Christians been serving overseas well before anyone ever heard of Jerry Falwell?
Coulter goes on to make a statement she probably believes is pragmatism at its best:
If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.
Thankfully, we don’t have to read Coulter’s screed to know why Brantly went to Liberia. In this touching sermon my mother-in-law sent me, (armed with only an iPad, my kids’ grandmother is a better researcher than Coulter) Brantly reads prepared notes, his voice full of emotion. He didn’t go to Liberia because of the culture war or to win accolades from Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times.“Like any good church going kid, I loved seeing pictures of visiting missionaries who gave their reports to the congregation,” he said. He was particularly interested when his uncle Frank Black came and told of his African missions. (My husband David French is also Frank Black’s nephew.)
In an eerily prescient passage, Brantly openly discussed the hard times he’s faced since deciding to be a medical missionary. He wasn’t ready to be called to certain parts of Africa, but God worked on his heart and confirmed his calling
Nothing has gone as I expected. Time and time again, God has shown me through my circumstances that he is sovereign. He’s in control… I have no doubt, no hesitation that he has called me to be a full time medical missionary. Though I don’t know what the future holds, my heart leaps with excitement and joy to know He has called me.
Brantly, above all, went to Liberia because of this Scripture in 2 Corinthians, which flies in the face of Coulter’s suggestion that he stick to the influential crowd:
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”
Matt Perman, writing for The Gospel Coalition, elaborates:
God is a God of grace, and since grace is unmerited favor, it by definition cannot be clearly seen if the primary focus is on helping those who seem most influential… God serves (and commands us to serve) those who seemingly have nothing to offer, even at great risk. This, in turn, allows us to see those with seeming influence (in Coulter’s example, Hollywood power-brokers) in the right light as well — namely, as those who in fact do not have anything to offer of their own either, but rather who are just as dependent on God as those visibly in great need and without influence.
So God isn’t creating an us vs. them scenario where people of influence don’t matter but those of no influence do, or where people next door don’t matter but those 8,000 miles away do. Rather, he is doing exactly what it takes to make it clear that we are all equally and fully dependent on grace.
Coulter, however, doesn’t seem interested in a deeply theological discussion. She concludes her strange column with these words of admonition to Brantly and those of his ilk:
They need to buck up, serve their own country… There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.
Imagine the hubris it took for Coulter to tap this out into her laptop before publishing the ignorant criticism of a man fighting for his life on behalf of the gospel. I doubt Brantly has grown tired of the culture war, but I sure am tired of Ann Coulter. In fact, if Coulter decides to really strike a blow to “Christian narcissism,” she could easily do so by immediately discontinuing her column.
But perhaps her diminishing audience will take care of that soon enough.
Photo Credit: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)