Ebola, Ann Coulter, and the Bankruptcy of “Save Yourself” Christianity

Recently, there has been an outcry from some Conservatives about the Ebola virus and the two Americans who were infected in Liberia. Opposition has arisen to bringing them back to America where they can be treated for fear that the disease will spread here. Conservatives like Ann Coulter, Michael Savage, and Donald Trump (or whatever he actually is) have sounded off saying that the Christian missionaries who contratcted the virus should NOT be brought back to this country to be treated. We must protect ourselves, they say.
 
Here is an excerpt from Coulter’s rant:
 

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?

Maybe Dr. Brantly went to Africa because he was called by God to do so? Many Christians listen to these voices on the Right, so I thought that I would share an excerpt from my book, When Heaven and Earth Collide, that tells a story about how the early church approached death, disease, plague, and dying in the Ancient Roman Empire. If we wonder what happened to the influence of the Church in America (as Ann Coulter bemoans in her article), maybe it has waned because we are no longer a people who will lay down our lives for others? Here’s the story:

__________________________

In 260 AD, a great epidemic devastated the Roman Empire. These epidemics had been ravag- ing sections of the empire for a century and when one hit, the death toll was extraordinarily high, at times up to a fourth or third of the people. The common reaction to the onset of an epidemic was for the pagan Romans and Greeks to remove themselves from the sick and leave the cities as quickly as they could. They would leave the dying behind in the hope that they could save their own lives. But during these epidemics, a miracle of sorts happened. The Christians saw things differently.

Dionysius, the bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, wrote to the church in an Easter letter that Christians saw this epidemic differently than the pagans did. He said, “other people would not think this a time for festival [but] far from being a time of distress, it is a time of unimaginable joy.” Rodney Stark, in The Rise of Christianity, writes:

Acknowledging the huge death rate, Dionysius noted that though this terrified the pagan, Christians greeted the epidemic as merely ‘schooling and testing.’ Thus, at a time when all other faiths were called to question, Christianity offered explanation and comfort. Even more important, Chris- tian doctrine provided a prescription for action. That is, the Christian way appeared to work.

The attitude of the Christians in Alexandria causes one to think of James 1:2–4 which states:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let en- durance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Instead of running away from the plague so they could be healthy and prosperous, the Christians of Alexandria reacted in the opposite way. They saw it as their duty to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Jesus. They saw the plague as an opportunity to depend upon God and to see God do miracles of love in people’s hearts.

Dionysius paid tribute to those Christians who loved their neighbor even to the point of giving up their own lives. He wrote:

Most of our brother Christians showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and ministering to them in Christ, and with them departed this life serenely happy; for they were infected by others with the disease, drawing on themselves the sickness of their neighbors and cheerfully accepting their pains. Many, in nursing and curing others, transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead . . . The best of our brothers lost their lives in this manner, a number of presbyters, deacons, and laymen winning high commendation so that death in this form, the result of great piety and strong faith, seems in every way the equal of martyrdom.

Dionysius then explained how the heathen acted. It was very different from the church:

The heathen behaved in the very opposite way. At the first onset of the disease, they pushed the sufferers away and fled from their dearest, throwing them into the roads before they were dead and treated unburied corpses as dirt, hoping thereby to avert the spread and contagion of the fatal disease; but do what they might, they found it difficult to escape.

Stark goes on to illustrate that Dionysius’s observations of the Christians in Alexandria were not unique. This behavior of Christians all over the Roman Empire was much different from the pagan Romans. He tells the story of the Emperor Julian in 362 who tried to counteract the growing influence of the Christians and their charitable work through his own writings. Julian wrote:

I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and ov
erlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence . . . The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well, everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.

“Galileans” was a term used to denote followers of Jesus, the Galilean, who said in his parable of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 that when you cared for those in need, you were caring for him:

For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’ (Matthew 25:35–40).

Early Christians were a people who would lay their lives down to care for the sick and those dying of the plague while everyone else was running away to save their own lives. How they became a people in America centuries later who would come to approve of human slavery and race-based segregation or turn a blind eye to the ravages of destitute neighborhoods, orphans, or abuses of consumerism because they did not want their way of life damaged is a great travesty. In Dionysius’s letter, we see an example of Christianity before it was subverted by Greek philosophy or by appeals to use it to enhance one’s way of life. This example has inspired Christians throughout history, as they have in pockets and movements large and small sought to recover the vitality of the early church and reform back to being a sacrificially loving people. But you cannot find this vitality unless you are willing to lay your life down.

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:34–37)

The way available to us to recover the strength of the early church that “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) is to return to Jesus and his life and teachings on the kingdom, the reality of the cross, sacrificial love, and the idea of a cross-shaped or “cruciform” community of faith called the “church.” The idea of a “consumer” church full of “consumer Christians” who are trying to enhance their life by using God and the Bible to carve out and obey principles that will help them live their “best life now” is foreign both to the gospel and the history of the early church, at least in its vibrant forms. I have not even begun to talk about the martyrs and those who were willing to leave home and family to share the gospel all over the world. of course, that kind of people did not exist only during the time of the early church. They have existed wherever the gospel was really believed and Jesus was truly looked to as Lord. Thankfully, those people exist right now all over the world and all over America, even if we do not always know their names. May their tribe increase.

_____________________

I tell a lot of other stories like that in the book. The truth is, Coulter and Trump and others are peddling an anti-Christ message that calls us to care for ourselves and ignore the pain around us. That is neither Christian nor Conservative and it is high time that Conservative Christians said “no” to this kind of rhetoric and join the ranks of followers of Jesus throughout the ages who would run into the disease-ravaged cities instead of running away to save themselves. After all, if one seeks to save his own life, he will lose it. Jesus said that too. Maybe THAT is the real sickness in America. Not Ebola or Christian doctors trying to help the least of these in Africa.

 

8 Responses to Ebola, Ann Coulter, and the Bankruptcy of “Save Yourself” Christianity

  1. It is really interesting post. I never read such kind of post. It impressed me. Thanks for sharing…….

  2. Your blog — because your mind — is a literal storehouse of self-deluded barely rational libtard propaganda.
    You CONFIRM Coulter’s main point by laying out clearly (thank you!) how Christians STAYED home and helped people in their own local environs.

  3. You cleverly chose not to quote Coulter’s main point – the majority of her article – suggesting HOME – [here in the U.S.] – is where dire help is needed.

  4. Thank you so much for these thoughts. Wht Ann Coulter doesn’t realize is that A LOT is being done here in the United States to help others but the workers are few. Many are called overseas, yes, but many(like myself)have been called to do missions and serve here in the United States. Many also don’t understand or comprehend laying your life down for others even to death and disease. Jesus asked us to lay down our lives for our friends. Not many of us do that these days. It is all about protecting ourselves and our comforts. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Yes, Not-a-Libtard, we need more help in a Country that possesses the largest percentage of the world’s wealth and yet, one of the smallest of populations. We need help to free us from a protectionist ideology that when applied down the line would mean no help after tsunamis in the Philippines and Japan, aid to Haitians after hurricanes, earthquakes and tropical storms, and of course, selling arms to Israel to protect herself.
    Home needs help from a consumeristic individuality that means a small company in San Diego produces the serum that may save Brantly and Writebol but larger pharmaceuticals will decline working toward a vaccine because it is not profit worthy. Home needs some help from an empty ideology that worries about the cost of a life-saving plane trip but cannot stomach what it might take to end hunger in places with less developed infrastructure and healthcare systems because there is no economic benefit.
    Home could well be reduced to my State vs your State. In that case, we will let Washington and California burn, the upper Midwest flood, and the coastal cities affected by hurricanes suffer on their own. Detroit can lie there bankrupt, and Tornado alley will just have to suffer the consequences. No help beyond Home.
    The logic is silly in a global world to suggest that what we need here in one of the richest Countries in the world somehow compares to a deadly virus in a Country where people are born not by choice but by happenstance. The poor folks should have just been born here so you could then choose to take care of them here.

  6. And in some folks fanciful thinking if no one from here attempts to respond to Ebola in Africa–then it will just kill off Africa and won’t come here. Some brain disease must have already arrived.
    Fifty years ago a family friend and missionary nurse helped battle an unknown disease in Jos, Nigeria — now known as Ebola. This week my niece flew arrived in Jos to serve a mission–and most of the mission in which my extended family has engaged has been–well–in the United States–with a mindset how that fits within a global mission that glorifies Christ.
    The “do we serve here or there” question is not a Kingdom question.
    The history of missionary doctor, Dr. Paul Brand, is a wonderful testimony of the intersection of global mission, missionary medicine (treating leprosy), US Mission, and public witness (evidenced in this region at the Carville Hospital near New Orleans) http://www.hrsa.gov/hansensdisease/history.html

  7. Thanks for your thoughtful article. Thank you for not bending your knee to fear. Sadly, fear of things of this world sells and the more they sell the more motivated they are to peddle it. Money as the master is a very dangerous sport. Most all our media is mastered by the pursuit of money. I say “most all” because I hang onto hope that somewhere there exist journalists without these motives.
    Fear. Love. Please consider this:
    “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” I John 4:18
    Please also consider if all our media consider themselves “wise in their own eyes” and millions believe whatever agenda they’re selling, even if it is fear. Beware being subject to others who are motivated by money and selling fear.
    God’s Word also warns us:
    “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8 NIV
    “Don’t assume that you know it all. Run to God! Run from evil! Your body will glow with health, your very bones will vibrate with life!” Proverbs 3: 7-8 ~ The Message
    Our pastor has recently talked to us about the early church, as well. A great example and challenge to those of us in today’s church. If we behave like this world we are useless to God.