A young nurse named Nina Pham is now famous, but not in any of the ways she might have preferred to be. As most of us know, she contracted the Ebola virus in the course of her work in treating Thomas Duncan, who ultimately died as a result of it. Currently, every counteractive measure we know of is being applied in the hope that she might be spared the fate of her former patient. Of the many therapeutic interventions being assembled and directed toward her, one is of particular interest. Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician who was also infected with Ebola and survived, has donated his blood to be used in treating her. Many believe that because he survived, there are antibodies in his blood that might provide Ms. Pham with her greatest defense against the disease. One cannot but find it fascinating that the very substance the deadly virus uses as a vehicle to attack her body could be the one that holds the key to her deliverance. We wait and pray for her along with multitudes of others, but our response to Ebola pulls my mind toward other concerns today.
In considering the response to Ebola—accurately deemed a global medical emergency—I can’t help but wonder if the process of having one’s head cut off could be considered a ‘medical’ emergency. I wonder, too, if having one’s home invaded and having some family members killed outright, and perhaps others having their bodies lacerated, or dismembered, and still others subjected to humiliating and excruciating abuses, sexual and otherwise, could be considered a medical emergency. Probably not—but maybe it would help if it was.
These kinds of things are going on every day in Syria, Iraq, and other parts of the world where Islamic ideology and policies dominate. But, since most of it, certainly the worst of it, is directed at Christians and Jews, maybe it’s not a thing to be so concerned about. It isn’t a medical thing, and maybe the thousands that have died horrible deaths, or who were enslaved, or who were driven from their homes, isolated from their families, and robbed of their possessions, aren’t as important as the victims, or potential victims, of Ebola. The Ebola victims are probably more innocent somehow, and thus more deserving of a brand of compassion that actually seeks to accomplish something. Research labs around the world are running at a level of urgency and intensity unparalleled in our lifetime because of the threat posed by an organism invisible to the naked eye. All the while, another organism, if I might call it that, one that is quite visible and much easier to see and target, is feverishly engaged in slaughtering scores of thousands of Christians and Jews, and enslaving thousands more. Comparatively little is offered in resistance to it. Responses to that ‘virus’, with the exception of a courageous few, represent little more than thinly veiled efforts by those in power to use the genocide to seize any political advantage that it might afford.
The horrifying facts are undeniable and unavoidable (except by the liberal media and our own government). So, there are questions we need to address, questions like, what do we do? How will the ‘institutional church’ in America incorporate the stark reality of brutal religious terrorism into our thinking? How do we adjust our approach to what we call ‘New Testament Christianity’ in this self-absorbed, hedonistic church culture? Does any threat of persecution fit in our modern presentation of the ‘gospel’? How do we handle it, and more than that, what do we, who purport to be followers of Jesus, do in response to it?
While I don’t pretend to know all the answers to those questions, I can easily see some things we must not do, beginning with the obvious observation that we must not ignore it. We must not pretend that it has no implications for us, and that we bear no responsibility to hear their cries, or to be haunted by their pain, or to cringe along with them in their deep humiliation. If their suffering does fail to penetrate our obsession to dance in the spirit while we celebrate our abundance, then we are worse off in many ways than some of them.
John warned the congregation in Smyrna,
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” Revelation 2:10 (NKJV).
Wait a minute, did He say that they were going to be “tested”? Imprisoned? Maybe tortured? Even put to death? Surely, these couldn’t have been ‘real’ Christians—not like the ‘born-again, blood-washed, Spirit-filled, hand-raising, living-the-victory’ Christians I go to church with. God wouldn’t let bad things happen to ‘our’ kind of Christians, would He? Maybe when Jesus was talking about bringing all that abundant life, He only meant Christians like us.
Now that I think about it, Peter threw some disturbing thoughts into our gospel party mentality, too.
“Beloved,” he said, “do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings…” 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NKJV).
So, let’s begin our response by removing the delusion that it can’t happen here – and that because it isn’t happening here (yet), it isn’t about us. Many of ‘them’ are our spiritual family, so let’s not ignore them in the midst of their ‘fiery trial’. Let’s add our voice to theirs, and increase the volume of their cry until the world can’t ignore it—until even the American ‘church’ finally has to hear it. Let’s pray until we weep like it was our wife or daughter being gang raped, like it was our father, our brother, or our husband being tortured to death in front of us. And for their sake and ours, let’s move to rid this nation of self-absorbed, godless, paragons of vanity from positions of leadership over us, including (and especially) the ones in our pulpits. The viruses threatening us today are deadly indeed. They aren’t all microscopic, but the blood of the Victor holds the best hope for deliverance from all of them.
© 2014 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.
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