“I think I speak for all of the writers on this website when I say that her piece is distasteful, ridiculous, and just plain wrong,” Live Action’s Murray Vasser writes of Ann Coulter’s latest column, in which the provocatively prolific conservative commentator criticizes Dr. Kent Brantly for an Ebola-treating mission trip to Liberia, when she would rather see him treat cultural decay here in the United States.
Well, I can only go along with one of those adjectives.
I agree with Murray that it’s distasteful to question the motives of anyone who goes out of their way to help those in need, particularly when they do so at great personal inconvenience and risk. Saving lives is always worthwhile for its own sake. But what he quickly dismisses as “angry, arrogant, and judgmental posturing” contains truths that deserve serious contemplation from pro-lifers.
Anyone who’s ever tried to get friends, neighbors, or classmates to join them in political activism knows that the “path of least resistance” mentality—lining up for politically correct, feel-good causes but hiding from anything someone might dislike them for tackling—is very real. And while Dr. Brantly may not suffer from it, Christian culture isn’t immune from it, either. There are more than a few Christians who seem to think that as long as they do something good for someone, it’s an excuse to not care about the legalized mass murder going on right in front of them. If we’re going to end abortion, we need to call out that thinking a lot more.
When I was in high school, I was part of a small local group of pro-life teenagers. We did what we could to spread the pro-life message at community events, raise money for our local crisis pregnancy center, etc., but the one area that consistently disappointed us was recruitment. Whenever we grew, it was usually because one of us roped in a new friend. But our outreach efforts at local churches and religious schools were almost entirely met with cricket chirps. Having personally encountered the very “Christian narcissism” she describes, I know something other than “enjoy[ing] being angry” drove Coulter’s column.
Nor is she wrong when she points out “that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream”:
America is the most consequential nation on Earth, and in desperate need of God at the moment. If America falls, it will be a thousand years of darkness for the entire planet.
Not only that, but it’s our country. Your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first. The same Bible that commands us to “go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel” also says: “For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.'”
Now, we obviously shouldn’t belittle treatment of any individual case of poverty or disease, but nor should we oversell it. Murray writes that “the cause of life is advanced whenever an individual stands up against the forces of darkness and displays love to another human being,” but with all due respect, that doesn’t refute Coulter’s point that there are differences in scale, severity, and urgency between the plights that will always afflict mankind and grave evils that are actively protected and promoted at the institutional level—especially when we’re talking numbers like 3,562 abortions a day. Add on top of that the related crises she identifies—“More than 40 percent of babies are born out of wedlock” while “our elite cultural institutions laugh at virginity and celebrate promiscuity”—and it’s clear much more needs to be done domestically.
Dr. Brantly’s work may “reflect a worldview which values the weak and the marginalized over personal comfort,” and “embod[y] the life-affirming culture which we are seeking to establish,” but how does that translate to chipping away at the cultural and intellectual forces that sustain abortionism?
I’m not saying Christians should stop taking mission trips, but is it really “ridiculous and just plain wrong” to suggest that some of our priorities are misplaced? That, as Walter Hudson puts it at PJ Media, “Sometimes — I think it fair to say most of the time — God has you where He wants you”? Just imagine how much closer we’d be to ending the abortion holocaust if churches made pro-life involvement anywhere near the priority they make missionary work—if more churches preached it as a duty of American Christians.
Ann Coulter’s core mistake is the (presumably unintentional) implication that helping the needy is an either-or proposition. But her critics err too in dismissing the reasoning beneath the rhetoric.
All good is not interchangeable. And all evil is not equal.