Missionary doctors are, once again, at the frontiers of compassionate medicine. Witness the way they care for patients suffering with Ebola. Going where nobody else will go. Caring for those nobody else is bothered about.
As this grudging science writer says, "Like it or not, though, we are deeply reliant on missionary doctors and nurses. The 2008 ARHAP report found that in some sub-Saharan African countries 30 percent of health care facilities are run by religious entities. That system is crumbling due to declining funding, possibly motivated in part by growing Western suspicion of missionary medicine. We have a choice: Swallow our objections and support these facilities, spend vast sums of money to build up Africa’s secular health care capacity immediately, or watch the continent drown in Ebola, HIV, and countless other disease outbreaks.
As an atheist, I try to make choices based on evidence and reason. So until we’re finally ready to invest heavily in secular medicine for Africa, I suggest we stand aside and let God do His work."
As Douthat points out in his commentary below, this sentiment runs in the long line of opponents of Christianity being forced to grudgingly appreciate what Christians do. "...there is still a parallel, at once amusing and illuminating, between his tone in the Slate piece and the tone of some of the surviving comments on Christianity from Roman authorities, which so often married incomprehension, hostility and (eventually) resentment at being, well, shown up by these strange cultists and their zeal. In particular, there’s a little bit of Pliny the younger in Palmer’s essay — the 2nd-century governor of Pontus writing in bureaucratic bafflement to his emperor (in a tone that W.H. Auden borrowed, I suspect, for his King Herod in “For The Time Being”) — and a whole lot of Julian the Apostate, the 4th century emperor who tried and failed to restore paganism, and whose letters include various complaints about how “all men see that our people lack aid” from pagan sources, even as “the impious Galilaeans support not only their own poor but ours as well.”
Possibly related posts from the past:
1. What is a Mission Hospital?