Nicholas Kristof wrote a column for the NYT showcasing the service of Dr. Stephen Foster. Dr. Foster is a missionary surgeon who has worked in a rural hospital near Lubango, Angola for 37 years making no more than $35,000/year.
Kristof uses Dr. Foster to warn his liberal readers about relying on stereotypes:
Today, among urban Americans and Europeans, “evangelical Christian” is sometimes a synonym for “rube.” In liberal circles, evangelicals constitute one of the few groups that it’s safe to mock openly.
Yet the liberal caricature of evangelicals is incomplete and unfair. I have little in common, politically or theologically, with evangelicals or, while I’m at it, conservative Roman Catholics. But I’ve been truly awed by those I’ve seen in so many remote places, combating illiteracy and warlords, famine and disease, humbly struggling to do the Lord’s work as they see it, and it is offensive to see good people derided.
As we might expect, this infuriated Gnu activist, Jerry Coyne.
Coyne begins by once again suggesting this column should not have been published:
Both the Times (which regularly publishes the faith-osculating blather of Tanya Luhrmann) and the New Yorker, which has an obvious policy of never directly criticizing religion, are two of my favorite venues, but both continue to cower before faith. That is a very odd policy for writers who are supposed to respect the truth. But I digress.
I suppose that “very odd policy” needs to be changed, eh? 😉
Anyway, Coyne responds to Kristof’s comment (quoted above) as follows:
Is he as awed by secular people who do the same type of good works, and don’t call it “God’s work”?
I am sure he is. But as Kristof explained later in the article:
Most evangelicals are not, of course, following such a harrowing path, and it’s also true that there are plenty of secular doctors doing heroic work for Doctors Without Borders or Partners in Health. But I must say that a disproportionate share of the aid workers I’ve met in the wildest places over the years, long after anyone sensible had evacuated, have been evangelicals, nuns or priests.
Likewise, religious Americans donate more of their incomes to charity, and volunteer more hours, than the nonreligious, according to polls. In the United States and abroad, the safety net of soup kitchens, food pantries and women’s shelters depends heavily on religious donations and volunteers.
Kristof doesn’t seem to recognize the difference between criticizing people and the good things they do on one hand, and criticizing their religious beliefs, which can be harmful, on the other.
Coyne doesn’t seem to recognize that the religious beliefs of Dr. Foster are linked to the “good things” he does. As a leading activist in an anti-religious hate movement, Coyne cannot admit that religion does anything good. In the black-and-white world of his Gnu activism, religion must be pure evil. Of course, that simple-minded activist position does not respect the truth.
Coyne then engages in some rather sleezy innuendo:
Kristof also notes that one of Foster’s sons got polio while in Africa. I’m curious why the child wasn’t vaccinated.
Given that Foster “has had to make do with rudimentary supplies: Once, he said, he turned the tube for a vehicle’s windshield-washing fluid into a catheter to drain a patient’s engorged bladder” and “the family nearly starved when the area was besieged during war and Dr. Foster insisted on sharing the family rations with 100 famished villagers,” I’d say it’s likely Foster didn’t have access to such vaccines (or if he did, they were all given to the villagers).
Coyne tries to respond to the Kristof’s observation that a disproportionate share of the aid workers are religious as follows:
But note that this aid by believers is usually combined with missionizing
So what? Is Coyne trying to imply it is better for the villagers to die than to be converted to Christianity through the service of a Christian physician? What’s the problem?
Furthermore, it is rather hypocritical for a Gnu missionary like Dr. Coyne to complain about missionizing. Coyne spends every day trying to convert people to his radical strain of atheism. The difference is that while Dr. Foster serves others, Coyne is trying to make money while missionizing.
I once knew someone who vetted these organizations in Africa, and she told harrowing stories about the religious hoops the afflicted were forced to jump through for their treatment.
There is no evidence that Coyne a) once “knew someone who vetted these organizations and b) that even if such a person existed, that they in turn are trustworthy. Does Coyne want us to accept his claim on faith? We can dismiss Coyne’s claim as baseless hearsay.
Would the religious still tender so much medical aid if they were absolutely prohibited from evangelizing or missionizing? Some of them, perhaps, but not nearly so many.
Ah yes, Coyne is fantasizing about “prohibiting” free speech again. Who knows the answer to his question? We may as well also ask if scientists would do as much research as they did if they were prohibited from taking credit for it and had to publish anonymously.
Look, the funniest part of Coyne’s entire shallow response is how he reacts to Kristof. Kristof writes a column about Dr. Foster and encourages his readers to be careful about stereotyping evangelical Christians as evil. Coyne is infuriated and complains Kritof is engaging in “atheist bashing”:
but Kristof uses it as a springboard to bash atheists who criticize evangelicals.
Oh, please. Coyne and the New Atheists bash Christians and religious people all the time. Yet the moment someone says, “Hey, maybe those Christians aren’t quite as evil as we think,” Coyne has a tantrum and starts whining about being the victim of “bashing.” Give me a break.