Because of her latest column about Christian missionaries in Africa and their role in bringing Ebola to the United States, Ann Coulter is being called “monstrous,” “sick,” a “detestable harpy” and a “bitter, vicious troll” – by the American Right. Coulter made the case that Dr. Kent Brantly and his nurse engaged in self-righteous moral preening for choosing to work in Africa. In response, a cavalcade of screeching conservatives began wailing at a level unheard since Tumblr heard that someone called Lena Dunham fat.
Coulter made the obvious point that by going to Africa, contracting Ebola, and necessitating a massively expensive effort to fly back to the United States for treatment, Dr. Brantly squandered millions of dollars that otherwise would have been used to save lives. In response, conservatives joined the Left to engage in a massive exercise in morally indignant wishful thinking. As Breeanne Howe, contributing editor at RedState put it, “He saved lives! You put a price on that?”
He probably did, though not in the way Howe means. By inadvertently sabotaging charitable efforts in Africa, he may have saved many more African and European lives in the long term. After all, he sabotaged stubborn Western efforts to keep African populations at levels they can’t sustain. This overpopulation leads to the famines, resource wars, and monetary costs that plague them and us each and every day. He also accidentally cut the demand for African immigration into the West, thus sparing us the vibrant rapes, murders, and social disorder it entails. European children yet unborn thank you Dr. Brantly! And while we’re at it, probably some Africans too.
Still, for the sake of argument, let’s accept Coulter’s premise. Dr. Brantly’s extravagance probably cost some lives in the short term at the monetary price of more than $2 million and counting, not including government expenditures. Conservatives used to understand that however much we may sympathize with Dr. Brantly and his colleague’s suffering, “good intentions” are no excuse for harmful results. It would be demonic to gloat at Dr. Brantly’s suffering, a fate I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Yet the cold reality is that Dr. Brantly increased the potential that far more will die in the admittedly unlikely but quite possible scenario that Ebola is not contained in the United States.
Besides the obvious cost/benefit argument, Coulter makes more substantial points that (not surprisingly) seem to have gone over the heads of American conservatives:
- In the long term, the fate of Christianity in Africa and the world will ultimately depend on its strength in the First World, what we once called Christendom. In Coulter’s apt phrase, “[A]ny good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”
- To choose to work in Africa instead of America isn’t an act of courage – it’s the easy way out. As Coulter put it, “[I]f 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.
- Finally, African charity is a cheap way to garner social praise. “There may be no reason for panic about the Ebola doctor, but there is reason for annoyance at Christian narcissism.”
Coulter’s understanding that Africa is ultimately a global cultural “follower” reflects a more sophisticated understanding of reality than American Christians who act as if Africa will redeem the West for Christ. Some “conservative” Episcopalians have aligned their ancient seats with the Church of Nigeria, “traditional marriage” campaigners place their hopes on Uganda, and Christian missionaries compensate for the death of the Faith in the West by carving out a new Kingdom of God in the Dark Continent. All of this reflects surrender, rather than a crusading spirit. It’s a way to be surrounded by helpless, dark skinned, agency-free mascots who, as a bonus, have never heard of Christopher Hitchens.
Of course, this is precisely the same way SWPLs use Africa. The only difference is that the pathological altruistic kick comes from racial cuckoldry rather than the Holy Spirit. With luck, you can even fail miserably at providing charity, thus allowing you to experience more of that sweet, sweet shame. As one white Huffington Post contributor (naturally) put it in a column bashing “little white boys” and “white girls,”
Our mission while at the orphanage was to build a library. Turns out that we, a group of highly educated private boarding school students were so bad at the most basic construction work that each night the men had to take down the structurally unsound bricks we had laid and rebuild the structure so that, when we woke up in the morning, we would be unaware of our failure. It is likely that this was a daily ritual. Us mixing cement and laying bricks for 6+ hours, them undoing our work after the sun set, re-laying the bricks, and then acting as if nothing had happened so that the cycle could continue.
To her credit, while the author is still moral preening via the Huffington Post, at least she recognizes that her attempt to “help” was inefficient at best. Christian critics of Coulter seem completely unaware of this possibility in regards to Dr. Brantly.In their mind, only good intensions count. More importantly, “respectable” conservatives (koshercons) see this as an opportunity to purge Coulter, ridding “the movement” of someone who upsets the open bar circuit when she gives anti-immigration speeches at CPAC.
Ultimately, what is at stake is the focus of Christian morality. Christians historically considered their religion as part of the social order which defined and sustained that entity known as Christendom. This concept survived even the massive bloodletting that followed the Reformation and the collapse of the Christian consensus in the non-Orthodox West. Even well into the post-French Revolutionary era, there was an understanding of Christianity’s role that did not necessarily deny belief but also did not require it. As Napoleon Bonaparte said, “I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order.”
A traditional Christian has duties to his God, his family, his country (and sovereign), and his kin—none of which requires immoral behavior towards humanity at large. Traditionalists and Kinists are some of the few survivors of this kind of Christianity, which would have been recognized by men of sincere faith like Stonewall Jackson. God is the source of all, and as such, is also at the pinnacle of the great Chain of Being, a concept which is older that Christianity itself. It’s this civilizational Christianity that Coulter is defending, however distantly.
One “Latino conservative” who goes by “SooperMeixcan” said, “So, ironically, Christianity would never have come to @AnnCoulter if early Christians thought the way she does. That’s how stupid she is.” Of course, Christianity spread throughout the West and came to Ann Coulter – and the rest of us – because it was turned into a Germanic religion of Empire. Absent Constantine, we might be Odinists, Mithras worshippers, or Muslims—which is why Christians historically saw Constantine as an instrument of divine will, along with Charlemagne.
The faith was spread to the European pagan and the foreigner through steel, not alms. “SooperMeixcan” is Christian because conquistadores forced it on his indigenous ancestors. Today, Christianity is dying in its Middle Eastern birthplace by the sword – and the Christian Right could not care less. One would think they could at least spare a hashtag.
The god that is “worshipped” by many mainstream Christians can’t really be called “God” at all. It’s simply liberal morality conflated into the figure of a personality known as “Jesus,” or, if you are one of the more enthusiastic Judeo-Christians, “Yeshua.” Many Christians, like the conservatives at “Twitchy,” are content to engage in PC Judo in order to prove that they are the real universalists and the real liberals. The result is rather than a real religion, we get a floating deracinated abstraction – a belief in “Jesus” as your savior, however that is interpreted – which defines a global “community of believers.” Those “conservative” denominations that still exist take care to reinterpret Scripture at a stately pace, keeping behind the culture at large, but still moving in the same direction.
Therefore, to spread the belief in Christ as Savior to as many people as possible is more virtuous than trying to build a Christian community or nation at home – because community and nation ultimately don’t matter except insofar as they lead people to profess belief in the abstraction. Nor can many Christians even agree what social norms should be anymore. Even enforcing behavior such as supporting restrictions on sexual behavior or traditional gender roles becomes secondary to spreading the faith abroad. This only seems to intensify as the faith collapses at home.
As even a casual comparison of the “Christianity” of Haiti, China, Nigeria, or South Korea shows, how the belief in “Christ” is understood is apparently not that important. To quote the one Bible verse all leftists know, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28 KJV)
But if modern Christianity leads to a moral structure ultimately indistinguishable from secular humanism, why not just dismiss the supernatural elements? Well, exactly – hence the great secularization taking place throughout the West, and now even in America. Christians who ground their apologetics in trying to rationally explain the irrational concede the battle. As Coulter implies, if Christianity collapses in the West, its cultural colonies in the West will collapse too, and whether they are a generation or so behind the times in terms of feminism or gay marriage will make no difference to the survival of traditional moral values. What we will be left with is slave morality without a master, divine or otherwise.
What conservatives and many American Christians are doing is simply playing for time. They can avoid the crucial struggles at the core of the global system by kidding around at the margins. As if in an unconscious parody of Marx, they are moving the process of History forward by trying to drag Africa out of barbarism into liberal modernity, and so sowing the grounds of their own irrelevance. By valuing abstract belief over civilizational order and identity, and seeking praise from liberalism rather than its destruction, the American Right is taking the easy way out. Getting Ebola is less morally terrifying than being called a bigot. And feeling like you helped someone (and getting lots of applause for it) is far harder than confronting the cold truths that human well-being rests upon.
Both liberals and modern Christians (or do I repeat myself?) need Africa. It is the Passive Continent, always that which is acted upon, rather than acting for itself. Whether it is the source of meaningless and poorly understood “conversions” or a tool to enhance the self-satisfaction of white liberals makes no difference. Far easier to save 10 African souls or build a well in a village than run a public school for one day in a typical American city.
Be it for Christians or SWPLs, the African humanitarian trip is as pure of an expression of modernity as playing Clash of Clans on your cell phone. It’s an indulgence – in both senses of the word. And if Africa didn’t exist, it would be necessary for them to invent it.
To close with a reading from the Good Book,
Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. (Matthew 6:2, KJV)
“But Rabbi,” we can almost hear the modern disciples say, “what about our Facebook likes?”