I’ll be honest, I have skin in this game.
I was a missionary in the very same jungle villages in West Africa that are now reeling with a plague that turns people’s organs to pudding. I care about what is going on over there. I planted churches there. I have friends there.
I left a piece of my heart there.
But with that said, Ann Coulter just gave us Christians a good chance to have a family conversation. Are we really so different from Ann Coulter?
Since she published her rancid article a couple of days ago, the internet is abuzz with a collective “shame on you, Ann!” Rightly so. The article is not a logical argument; it is a rant. Furthermore, it is clearly designed to wound, hurt, and spar. Ann wants people to be mad at her. After all, when you can no longer be taken seriously as a pundit or commentator, you have to feed your brand with controversy. If she can’t get people to read her diatribes, perhaps you can by sharing them out of anger. It’s the strategy of a dying star.
I’ll not link to the article; it’s seen enough light.
However, before I completely dismiss its silliness, I want to point out a line of her reasoning that I believe sits closer to home for us Evangelicals than anyone would care to admit.
“Can’t anyone serve Christ in America anymore?”
That statement is the basis of Coulter’s rant. Her basic claim is that America has enough problems on its own and that we need to take care of our own first. She goes on to say:
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, this statement is low-hanging fruit for even a neophyte theologian or student of the Bible to blow apart. Her theology is bad. Her hermeneutic is bad. Just ask any fourth grader in Sunday School, and she could tell you that. But, I don’t want to pick apart her clear lack of Biblical understanding.
Instead, I want to pick apart our own lack of understanding.
We often say the same thing.
When I was preparing to go overseas as a missionary, I ran into this same idea. It was simply packaged in a more sterile, Christianese wrapper.
West Africa is not a nice place. Before Ebola, there was still sickness, famine, poverty, and war. I knew the people I would go to reach were in a rough place, and that meant I would be too. I had resolved to that fact, but those around me, that loved me, had not.
My own mother was no exception.
My parents are two of the godliest people I know. They labor tirelessly in their local church with underprivileged children in their community and have done so for over 20 years. They love Christ. They love the church. They love global missions. I grew up watching my parents, who do not make much money, give sacrificially to support global missions. I watched them thankfully admire those on the field for their service to God. They get it. They know we are supposed to go. But for my mom (at first), that “we” didn’t include her son.
“Are you sure you’re supposed to go there?” she would ask. “You know, there are a lot of lost people here, too, son.” Furthermore, I know dozens of missionaries who have had the same conversation with family, friends, and fellow church members. The same people that nod their head with approval when David Platt urges our churches to the nations are the ones that tell those willing to go to think twice about it.
Why is it that we are willing to nod our head toward a call to the nations as long as it does not include personal sacrifice on our part? Collectively, we love the idea. Personally, we think someone else should go. We are quick to say God called our churches to send missionaries to the unreached in the toughest places. But, we are just as quick to dissuade our brother/best friend/son from going.
If “we” are called, then your daughter is part of that “we.”
When our “reasoning” attempts to remove us from the risk of the mission, we become no better than Ann Coulter on this one.
May it not be said of us.
Keelan leads the Peoples Next Door project and is a Senior Church Consultant with the Union Baptist Association in Houston, TX. He is working on a PhD in Missiology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In previous years, he spent time as a church planter in West Africa with the IMB and doing ethno-graphic research in Washington, DC with NAMB.