There’s a great deal of kerfuffle over Ann Coulter’s article about Samaritan’s Purse physician Kent Brantly, his contracting Ebola in the course of treating it Liberia, his transport to the CDC in Atlanta and the cost associated with the entire process. Evidently she thinks him insufficiently patriotic to have gone to another place and fight this disease.
- I was surprised when our government allowed him to enter the CDC. Most readers will recall that Samaritan’s Purse is headed by Franklin Graham, whose position relative to the LGBT community is, to say the least, not a happy one. Given our government’s stance on this (shown by the recent executive order re Federal contractors) their decision to allow Dr. Brantly into the CDC (which is in one of this country’s premier LGBT places) was not a given. But this is the same group which is enamoured with “gay-free Gaza” Hamas, so go figure…
- It seems that any time Americans and medical treatment collide, the only thing guaranteed is an outsized bill. I find this as frustrating as Ann Coulter but this is endemic in our system, one where meaningful cost controls have never found their way into the medical system. But trashing Brantly on account of that seems unfair.
In any case Coulter’s rant about how Brantly should have stuck to these shores—couched in terms of his calling—is absurd. Since when did Ann Coulter understand God’s calling for Brantly’s life better than he does? Churches on both sides of the Atlantic have sent missionaries to die in Africa since the early nineteenth century; there’s nothing new about this. If Brantly had been called to minister in Hollywood (and there are those who are) God would have made provision for him to do so.
I doubt seriously that Coulter’s objections to Brantly’s mission or venue are really based on her idea of his calling, or anyone else’s. What they show is a tension in American conservatism between those who, in the “God and country” scheme of things, put God first and those who put country first—or who have any place for God at all.
It is an Evangelical conceit that the United States was founded on purely Judeo-Christian principles by people who explicitly followed them. While those principles certainly informed our Founding Fathers to a far greater degree than they do to our elites now, those of us who are products of environments where one could be very patriotic without being very Godly know that this is just that—a conceit. Many have gone before us serving this country without the relationship with God that Christians would like to see.
In the past the natural home of those who wanted to tone down the God thing was the Lodge. But the Lodge isn’t what it used to be. Today we have the disciples of Ayn Rand, whose influence on American conservatism is considerable.
Rand, however, was no more of a Christian than Margaret Sanger, and her purely materialistic “objectivism” is inimical to a faith whose Founder called the rich young ruler to sell all and follow Him. In an age where the government is being transformed into a giant patronage scheme to keep those on the left entrenched in power, it’s easy to confuse Christian charity—and the sacrifice that goes with it—with the government’s efforts. Part of the problem is that many Christians—especially those on the “religious left”—can’t tell the difference. But it’s there. Federal Government generosity is no more Christian than Rome’s “bread and circuses”. The church in that time knew the difference and we should now.
But just because Christian churches do what we used to call “benevolent” work and the government does it too doesn’t make it wrong. Rand called for a world where it was everyone for him or herself. And super-patriots, putting country before God, have the idea that we should stick with the home front, probably not in charity but (like Coulter suggests for Brantly) in material success for ourselves.
The African work, for its part, has been a successful one. Although I’ve said more than once that the greatest revival in human history is taking place in China, in many ways the crown jewel of missionary effort is sub-Saharan Africa. We’ve seen the fruits of this in the Anglican Communion, much to the distaste of the First World Left. And, just to make sure Rand’s disciples are paying attention, we are seeing signs of a continent (especially in East Africa) which is throwing off European-inspired socialism for real economic opportunity and growth, with the Chinese the main beneficiaries. In the past the West sent business people and missionaries to Africa; today and tomorrow both go the other way.
But role reversal in colonialism isn’t any easier than it is for elderly parents. Coulter worries about the state of this country. Churches, however, are justified in putting their efforts in places where the need is greatest and the receptivity to the Gospel goes along with it. A big problem with the Christian witness in this country is that it is sowed among a people who combine a self-sufficient idea (which explains the popularity of Rand among the conservatives) with “egos inflatable to any size”. That makes for a tough mission field.
Christians, the only true internationalists in the mix (whether they realize it or not) are reminded again by pieces like this that they have only one true country. Jesus Christ is the light of the world, not the United States and certainly not Ayn Rand or any other materialistic philosopher (and that includes Karl and Fred, too).
If those on either side of the political spectrum don’t like that reality, well, Our Lord didn’t promise popularity either.