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Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Kingdom of God and Competing Loyalties

A Response to Ann Coulter's "Ebola Doc's Condition Downgraded to 'Idiotic'"

Conservative commentator, Ann Coulter, blasted Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse for wasting the charity’s finances, needlessly risking his life, endangering his family’s well-being, and ignoring the plight of his fellow countrymen for the futile purpose of serving Africans suffering from Ebola. Coulter writes,
“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, forgetting 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.'

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.

But serving the needy in some deadbeat town in Texas wouldn't have been ‘heroic.’ We wouldn't hear all the superlatives about Dr. Brantly's ‘unusual drive to help the less fortunate’ or his membership in the ‘Gold Humanism Honor Society.’ Leaving his family behind in Texas to help the poor 6,000 miles away -- that's the ticket.” 

Coulter’s critique strikes at the believer’s identity in Christ. Yes, we are Americans and there is nothing wrong with loving our country and seeking the best for our nation per se. It is natural for us to have a deeper affection for those closest to us whether they be family, members of our local community, or fellow Americans.

It should go without saying, however, that the Christian’s deepest and most essential affiliation and allegiance belongs to Christ and His kingdom. The kingdom of God knows no geographical boundaries and supersedes all national, political, racial, and ethnic divisions and differences. Being an American pales in comparison to being a member of the family of God. God is still calling men and women, boys and girls to become members of this family which is why Christ gave us the command to “go” as Coulter cited.

If Christians followed the other command to “open wide your hand” to those “in your land” in the manner Coulter seems to suggest, we would never go into all the world. After all, there will never cease to be needs in our own land. Stay where you are and take care of your own. This is where Coulter reveals her misplaced allegiance.

For Coulter, “your country is like your family. We’re supposed to take care of our own first.” This sentiment goes beyond a natural love for kin and country. This is a form of nationalism incompatible with a predominant allegiance to the kingdom of God. For Christians, the family of God isn’t like your family, it is your family.

“But he [Jesus] replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother’” (Matthew 12:48-50).

“So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another” (Romans 12:5).

If Coulter believes your country is like your family, wouldn’t it follow that we should strive to build a massive welfare state in order to care for our fellow “family members”? But we know she doesn’t believe this.

If we ought to focus on helping our fellow countrymen rather than go to all the expense, hassle, and hazard of helping people overseas, shouldn’t we stop all foreign aid and military interventions and use those resources to fund this welfare state? Again, we know she would not support reducing the size and scope of the military in this way.

So why should Christians be singled out for condemnation for helping the “needy” abroad but not the State if it's true that your country is like your family?

Furthermore, if Christians are to give preference to one group over another when it comes to charity, preference should be given to fellow Christians rather than fellow countrymen. “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

The Church is mature enough, gifted enough, and empowered by the Holy Spirit enough to walk and chew gum at the same time as we 1) do good to everyone, 2) do good especially to the household of faith, and 3) work to expand that household of faith as we obey the Great Commission both locally and globally.

Christian narcissism is annoying but so is prostituting the mission of the Church in order to sustain America's glorious status as the most consequential nation on earth.

If Ann Coulter is a Christian then she is called to serve others in the name in the name of Christ too. If she's called to focus her efforts on her fellow Americans, great, but that's no reason to attack the desperately few individuals called to minister to people overseas.

"The needy in some deadbeat town in Texas" do need Christ but they also constitute some of the wealthiest people of the face of the planet. What people like Ann Coulter would demean as slinking off to Third World countries others identify as selflessly charging to the front lines of the battle.

Hebrews 6:10 reminds us, "For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints" and I would add, "whether these saints are in America or Liberia."

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