Let he who is without Ebola cast the first stone…
There was some hubbub about my column last week, where I complained about Christians, like Dr. Kent Brantly, who abandon America to do much-praised work in Third World countries.
I planned to respond to my critics this week, but, unfortunately, there’s nothing to respond to. They call me names, say I’m cruel, malicious, not a Christian, compare me to Howard Stern, and cite the titles of my books as if they are self-refuting. (Zippy, aren’t they?)
In other words, it feels like a book tour.
Missing from these alleged refutations is what we call a “point.” What is with these Christians? I know God didn’t distribute brains evenly, but can’t they make an argument? Christian websites should start separating columns into “Arguments” and “Anger” sections.
I’ve decided to help out my detractors with a few pointers.
First, exposing error is much more hurtful than name-calling.
Take former Bush speechwriter Peter Wehner’s digs:
– “The irony of Coulter accusing anyone of narcissism seems lost on her.”
– “Let’s just say that when one thinks about what St. Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control — Ann Coulter’s name doesn’t leap immediately to mind.”
– “Near the end of her 1987 book, Ms. (Elisabeth) Elliot writes this: ‘If there should appear in the 20th century one who was truly holy … would we say, “Away with him! Crucify him!”?’ … If Elisabeth Elliot didn’t personally know Ann Coulter, she certainly knew her type.”
I’ve always hoped to be part of an “ilk,” but I guess “type” will do.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention — and I hope, for their sake, the brother-in-law of some important Baptist — wrote:
– “Ann Coulter has not suddenly pivoted to saying some outrageous, shocking thing. She’s made a living at it.”
– “Ann Coulter’s … comments are none of my concern. The church is to hold accountable those who are on the inside, not those on the outside” of the church.
Whoa, Russell! You got so wrapped up in your insults, you forgot that your whole point was to defend Christian missions to those so far “on the outside” of the church, they’re practicing voodoo! I don’t care how big a Baptist your brother-in-law is, Russ; you need a class in logic.
Liberals have been trying to insult me into submission for more than a decade. These guys think they can succeed where Vanity Fair failed?
Second, to get the upper hand on someone you disagree with, it’s crucial to know what that person said. I find that the ancient art of reading is invaluable in this regard.
On a website called Southern Baptist Convention Voices, Alan Cross wrote: “Conservatives like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage and Donald Trump (or whatever he actually is) have sounded off saying that the Christian missionaries who contracted the virus should NOT be brought back to this country to be treated. We must protect ourselves, they say.”
I said nothing of the sort.
My complaint was not with the bringing-back part, but with the going-over part. My rationale: 1) America is in the fight of its life and if this country dies, the world dies; and 2) the cost of Dr. Brantly’s medical care has now exceeded any good he did there.
I also expressly said: “There’s little danger of an Ebola plague breaking loose from the treatment of these two Americans at the Emory University Hospital.”
(In his defense, Cross devoted most of his column to promoting his own book, so maybe refuting me wasn’t really the point.)
Wehner also skipped the reading step. He falsely accused me of “mocking” Dr. Brantly (in addition to his main point that I am cruel, narcissistic, callous and malicious). “It takes an unusually callous and malicious heart,” Wehner says, to mock a “husband and father who, while serving others, is stricken with a virulent disease.”
I don’t think I “mocked” Dr. Brantly. I mocked — I would say “assailed” — the whole concept of American Christians fleeing their own country, which needs them, to run off to Third World hellholes. (“Mocking” would be saying something like, “Let’s just say that when one thinks about what St. Paul calls the fruit of the Spirit … Dr. Brantly’s name doesn’t leap immediately to mind.”)
True, Dr. Brantly’s mission was my example. I like to give examples in my writing. I find it’s more effective than abstract theorizing about how a hypothetical person might go on a Christian mission to Liberia that would end up being completely counterproductive by costing his Christian charity $2 million if he ended up catching the Ebola virus there.
No one has responded to that argument. It was a major strategic error for my critics to ignore one of my central points, while beating a straw man to death. (He’s a “husband and father”!)
Third, I strongly advise against using one-size-fits-all arguments that can be turned back against you.
They say: “How do you know whether God called Dr. Brantly to go to Liberia?”
Ah ha! But then I riposte: “How do you know whether God called me to write that column?”
And there we are, stuck at an impasse.
This is the weakest technique of my critics, and one that is sadly common among certain types of Christians. (We usually call them “atheists.”)
In this case, it’s even worse than the usual “who’s to say?” dodge, inasmuch as I set forth evidence for what I’m saying about there being glory-seeking and cowardice in Christian missions to Third World hellholes.
Among other things, I wrote: “Of course, if Brantly had evangelized in New York City or Los Angeles, The New York Times would get upset and accuse him of anti-Semitism, until he swore — as the pope did — that you don’t have to be a Christian to go to heaven. Evangelize in Liberia, and the Times’ Nicholas Kristof will be totally impressed.”
(Hey, you know what else a Christian desperate for a pat on the head from The New York Times might do? Write a column questioning Ann Coulter’s salvation!)
Thus, I clearly pointed out that one path — missions to Third World hellholes — leads to worldly glory, while another — serving Christ in America — leads to abuse and ridicule.
The counter-argument to that point would be to say that Dr. Brantly has never been hailed as a hero or won humanitarian awards. But that would be false. Or they might tell me that Christians in Hollywood are the toast of the town — maybe Mel Gibson could write a guest column! That also would not be true.
My critics are left retreating into absurdity, essentially asking: “How do you know whether God calls on people to behave in ways that will get them standing ovations?”
I ask these similarly thought-provoking questions:
“How do you know whether God called the Dixie Chicks to insult George W. Bush in front of an America-hating audience, winning thunderous applause?”
“How do you know whether God called Gov. O’Malley to grandstand about the poor illegal immigrants at our border — while secretly demanding that none of them be sent to his state?”
“How do you know whether God called Samaritan’s Purse to fly out the affluent white Americans at a cost of millions of dollars, and give them an incredibly scarce medicine, while leaving the poor Africans to die?”?
Oh I don’t know. Call it a sneaking suspicion.
Ironically, despite the flailing anger of my critics — in fact because of it! — I’ve changed my mind. I see now that not everyone is called to be a Christian witness in an advanced nation.
You guys should definitely go to Africa.