The alleged "bigotry" of evangelist Franklin Graham is being cited as reason enough to question the motivation of his group's aid to victims of coronavirus in the Big Apple.
Samaritan’s Purse collaborated with the Mount Sinai Health System and opened a 68-bed emergency field hospital next to its hospital in Central Park to provide added specialized care for coronavirus victims in New York City. But the ministry is being ridiculed by “progressive Christian” columnist Jonathan Merritt, who derides the relief efforts of the evangelical humanitarian aid organization.
With nearly half of the United States’ 370,000-plus known COVID-19 cases popping in the Big Apple during the proliferating global pandemic, Merritt took the opportunity to take a swipe at the evangelical group’s efforts to combat the virus – rather than commending it for trying to curb the infections and death toll.
“New Yorkers are right to be skeptical of [the] evangelical-run coronavirus ward in Central Park,” Merritt wrote Friday in his Daily Beast column. “Franklin Graham’s religious org has done good around the world, but it’s not wrong to question whether his history of bigotry could get in the way of caring for the sick.”
Playing politics with lives?
In his column, Merritt accuses Graham and President Donald Trump of discrimination against minorities.
“Of chief concern is the person overseeing the Central Park ward: Samaritan’s Purse’s president and CEO Franklin Graham – the son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and a spiritual adviser to President Donald Trump who has a surprisingly long history of controversial comments and hate speech,” the columnist insisted before mentioning Graham’s description of homosexuality as “detestable” to God and Islam as an “evil and wicked religion.”
“That’s the man running Samaritan’s Purse’s coronavirus hospital," Merritt says of Graham. "So yes, Muslim New Yorkers are right to be skeptical.”
He also took offense to the fact that Samaritan’s Purse workers are required to agree with the nonprofit organization’s belief in God’s Word on moral issues.
“Merritt is also uncomfortable that an Evangelical Christian organization ministering to both physical and spiritual needs would require its personnel serving in Central Park to agree with its ‘Statement of Faith,’” Juicy Ecumenism reported. “Merritt, of course, laments the statement’s inclusion of traditional Christian sexual ethics.”
According to Juicy Ecumenism’s Chelsen Vicari, Merritt was primarily concerned that Samaritan’s Purse wouldn’t give the same care to patients with differing beliefs in faith and sexuality.
“Many liberal-leaning Christians have seemingly decided that to maintain traditional biblical teachings on sex and marriage is equivalent to discrimination and hatred of LGBTQ people,” Vicari points out in her column. “[Merritt's] writing seems to question whether or not Samaritan’s Purse would treat LGBTQ patients with care and respect – though he acknowledges Samaritan’s Purse signed a written pledge to Mount Sinai to treat all patients equally.”
NYC’s mayor ungrateful, too?
In league with Merritt’s slam on Samaritan’s Purse’s medical, spiritual and emotional assistance to those in America’s most populous city struck with the coronavirus, New York City’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio also reserved some criticism for the evangelical disaster relief group.
"When I heard more about the organization – and in particular some of the things that Rev. Graham has said – it was very troubling to me," de Blasio expressed, as reported by OneNewsNow Monday. "Was there going to be an approach that was truly consistent with the values and the laws of New York City that everyone was going to be served and served equally?"
When Southern Evangelical Seminary president Dr. Richard Land caught wind of de Blasio’s comment and intentions to dispatch representatives to inspect Samaritan’s Purse workers at its field hospital, he pointed out the anti-Christian bigotry the mayor displayed in the name of political correctness.
"If the Muslims were putting up a hospital, he wouldn't ask if they were going to discriminate against non-Muslims – and Islam is much harder on homosexuality than Christianity is," Land explains in the OneNewsNow piece.
Answering the call for help
As president of Samaritan’s Purse, Graham was eager to help a city in crisis – one with dire physical and spiritual needs.
"Samaritan's Purse has been asked to help in New York as the state and their medical infrastructure have been overwhelmed by the coronavirus," Graham stated in his organization’s press release.
"We are grateful to be working alongside Mount Sinai Health System to help meet this critical need. In a time of crisis, we all have to come together to help people who are suffering. Samaritan's Purse is responding in Jesus' name – please pray for everyone affected by this deadly virus."
Mount Sinai Health System (MSHS) CEO Margaret Pastuszko was grateful for the assistance.
"In order to meet the needs of the coming surge, we must work as a united front in order save as many lives as possible,” Pastuszko explained in the release. “We are grateful for the collaboration with Samaritan's Purse who have come to the aid of the people of Italy and now New York. Through this partnership, we are leveraging our collective resources to care for our patients and community."
MSHS executive vice president Dr. Jeremy Boal also expressed appreciation for the help provided by Samaritan's Purse, as did Dr. Brendan Carr, chair of emergency medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at MSHS.
Photo credit: Samaritan's Purse