An Open Letter to Ann Coulter, from a Card Carrying “Christian Narcissist”

“Those crazy Christians, go and jump on some airplane
And fly to Africa or Haiti, risk their lives in Jesus’ name…”
–Brad Paisley

Dear Ann Coulter,

I hesitated before writing this open letter to you. I’m writing about your column about Dr. Kent Brantly titled, “EBOLA DOC’S CONDITION DOWNGRADED TO ‘IDIOTIC’”

But you get so much wrong in your column that it’s hard to know where to start. And ironies abound. Points you think support your cause, are actually proving the opposite. But then, true narcissists fail to see this all the time.

Where to start?

First off, to open an essay like this by calling the good doctor “idiotic” does not bode well for sincere conversation. Just sayin’

Below, I’ll simply respond to various quotes from your original essay. (In bold below…)

“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…Why did Dr. Brantly have to go to Africa? …Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”

missionThe premises that all the good he’s done has been wiped out by his illness, by money spent to cure him, is ludicrous. This reduces Christian ministry to crass economics. While it is true that all ministry has a business-side to it, ministry can never simply be reduced to dollars. If it were, it would just be “business.”

Taken to its logical extreme, your argument would suggest that we should never do ministry anywhere. The “costs” would almost always, surely, outweigh the “benefits.”

The Christian understands that “life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” The Christian understands that everything we have been given, all good gifts, have come to us from God. And that our calling is to share those gift with others.

The Christian God is constantly turning crass economic analysis like yours on its head. Jesus tells the story of about laborers in the vineyard all being paid the same regardless of how long they worked in a day.

Seen from the eyes of economics, ministry is always foolish.

“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.”

That’s an argument that tugs at our nativist heartstrings. And, it’s an argument repeated inside every church in America too. But as with much else you say here, it’s simply not true.

You can fall off a roof and be paralyzed shingling a house in McAllen, Texas. If you’re a doc, you can get sick from patients you see at the North Dallas Shared Ministry.

I’m not trying to raise your fears here. I’m simply pointing out that any mission work involves risk. Were Dr. Brantly to minister to the good folks in Zavala County, there is no credible way to guarantee his wife and children that his ministry would be harm-free. That is simply not reality.

Loving always involves risk. Serving always involves risk. We cannot promise ourselves a risk-free life. Whether it’s in Africa, or rural Texas, no act of mission and sacrifice can be described as “safe.” Again, you gloss the truth in your zeal to pull the heartstrings of fear.

Finally on this, my own experience in leading foreign missions over twenty years is that people return from these trips deeply changed, and more committed to being compassionate in their daily lives. They do do amazing things to make their own communities better. Therefore, I assure you, whatever you think you know about the doctor and his motives (and, Jeez, you assume a lot…) he most undoubtedly was helping his own community too.

Compassion breeds more compassion. Love breeds more love.

“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.”

Of course, we’d have to define what “doing good” means first. But the whole premise is laughable. Really? 100 years vs. 1 patient?

You see, again, it’s a xenophobe’s dream to believe what you say is true. But logic tells you it can’t be. And I almost hate to point this out, because it plays into your own “cost-benefit analysis.” But Dr. Brantly could literally save the lives of 100s of thousands, if not millions, of human beings over a hundred year span.

My only point here is that you’re so far inside your own rhetoric that you’ve disproved your own logic (a logic that, again, I don’t share).

“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…”

What a nice fiction, to believe that the so called “culture war” —itself a verbal Molotov cocktail that you and others created to divide us— is what drove Christians to serve in foreign lands. How quaint.

I’ve got big news for you, Ann. Christians have been traveling to so-called foreign lands to bring healthcare, education, and basic necessities centuries before people like you invented the term “culture war.” Look it up. Please. One of those foreign lands is now called America.

The case of Ebola is actually a very good one to show just how important foreign assistance can be. Yes, it would be more cost-effective for Christians to send money to pay local people to run clinics and fight disease. Yes, that should be the long-term goal of any mission work. But in outbreaks like this, the local resources are clearly over run. In fact, there are stories in this crisis of local nurses and doctors simply not showing up for work, out of their own fear.

Far from serving as an example of the kind of mission we should avoid, an Ebola outbreak shows the necessity for Western technology and assistance, in the short term.

“Today’s Christians are aces at sacrifice, amazing at serving others, but strangely timid for people who have been given eternal life…”

Wait. So…a doctor who travels to Africa, knowing the risks, putting his own life on the line, is “timid?”

That’s insanity. You act like he was unaware of the risks to himself and others. Nothing I’ve read indicates this. He was completely aware of the risks, and went anyway. That’s the heart of sacrificial love. That’s one of the primary callings of the Gospel.

“There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.”

I’m reminded that the first use of the term “Christian” was derogatory, even perhaps along the sarcastic tone you take here.

If having a heart for mission (international and local), if showing compassion (for those at home and abroad), gets one branded “Christian Narcissist,” then sign me up.

Send me my membership card.

I’d be proud to be called a “narcissist” along the likes a doctor who risked his life for others.

My Lord and Savior once said there was “no greater love” than a love like this.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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