Ebola frightens me. It frightens me because it kills its victims in a horrific way. It frightens me because I have a wife and little children and their health and well-being are so very important to me. It frightens me as a pastor of health care workers, day-care providers, children and the aged. It frightens me because it has come to the Metroplex where I live. It is no longer far off in West Africa. It isn't in New York or LA. It is here, just across 360.
I am afraid because of how disappointed I am in the obvious lack of communication when the first patient arrived at the hospital in Dallas. And even further how insufficient protocols at the hospital were for dealing with the patient and staff.
Ebola is a real disease that has been with us for many years. However, we have been able to ignore it largely because it has been isolated in Africa. A place and people most Americans know little and care even less about. But now Ebola is on our shores.
Make no mistake, hospital workers and staff, law enforcement, ambulance crews and clean up crews are all in danger from this disease. As they are from many other diseases and dangers. I am afraid for their health and for their family's health but I am also afraid of something more.
Most of all Ebola frightens me because of what I am already seeing happening in my community and around the United States. The things I see from "friends" on Facebook. What I read on the news. The fear and sensationalizing. The misinformation, stereotyping, and the profiling of West Africans. The xenophobia from the usual cranks as well as people I have considered friends.
This is my fear. That we will succumb to the fear that not only kills the body, but also kills the soul. Jesus knew about this fear. He had sent the 12 into mission in Matthew 10. They were sent to "Proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons."
They go with a mission to be part of the missio dei. God's saving work in world. In doing so they would face adversaries and adversity. Jesus encourages them to be strong. But also warns them about the dangers of this mission and who they should really fear. "Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell (gehenna)"
I am afraid because I worry that the fear of Ebola, not Ebola itself, is going to destroy not only bodies but also souls. That getting just a taste of the anxiety of this disease our sisters and brothers in Africa are flooded with will show our true captivity to sin and that captivity will win. That we will fall into that fear that destroys rather than take the opportunity to confront this disease and our fears.
I am afraid we won't take this opportunity to build up our society and and make us stronger. To learn from our earlier mistakes. To recognize that what happens in west Africa does matter to us. To take seriously that those ancient words about being the body of Christ in the world and that when one part of the body suffers we all suffer, aren't just words.
This is very real for us here in the Metroplex. But I have a feeling it will be increasingly real for people around this country and ultimately around the world. It is easy to close ourselves off. To spread rumor and fear. To blame and to stereotype. It is harder, much harder, to have courage. To insist that hospitals quickly establish protocols for healthcare workers. To give generously to help stop the spread of this disease where it is most devastating. To recognize that thousands die in this country each year from diseases like the flu or from inadequate access to general health care.
I am afraid. Afraid that instead of mobilizing the massive resources and potential of our great nation to combat this crises here and abroad we will turn inward. "Let them descend into chaos and death" we will say. That the mission to proclaim good news will fall short. That we will lock our gates to our homes, neighborhoods, and ultimately our nation. That even in the church the mission of God in the world will be forgotten in our fear. That the one who can destroy both body and soul will win.
I am afraid and I want to end with hope. But right now, I am afraid.