5 Ways Churches Can Help Stop the Ebola Hysteria – Tom Ehrich

5 Ways Churches Can Help Stop the Ebola Hysteria


Once the first person in America died from Ebola, the usual bigots and ideologues blamed it on President Obama, whom they loathe. Some suggested Obama deliberately allowed the virus into the U.S. for nefarious purposes.

“He wants us to be just like everybody else, and if Africa is suffering from Ebola, we ought to join the group and be suffering from it, too. That’s his attitude,” said Phyllis Schlafly, the matriarch of America’s religious right.

Every misstep will be laid at the president’s doorstep, as if he personally ordered a Dallas hospital to screw up.

Such nonsense plays well in an election year, at least with a certain portion of the electorate. But the question remains: How are we as a society to deal with a potential contagion that could impact our lives?

Our worst instincts, as always, will be to blame whatever we don’t like, to imagine barriers and travel bans that would protect us, and to turn against each other. Schlafly, for one, blames Obama personally for  “letting these diseased people into this country to infect our own people.”

Similar instincts served us poorly after 9/11, during various Red Scares and during our many wars. They are like a child’s instinct to hide under a bed: We crouch in fear without thinking first.

Our current legislative leaders, unfortunately, have little instinct for leadership. They are most likely to harvest votes among the fearful by stoking their fears. All but the most responsible media will join them in making hay from havoc.

Let’s imagine a better scenario, perhaps even one that faithful people could help to bring about.

First, no cheap blaming. God isn’t causing this virus to spread through western Africa as some sort of punishment for the people there, or to come to these shores as some punishment of us. Diseases happen, and they spread through a combination of bad luck, human error and ignorance.

Second, people need to be helped back from the edge of hysteria. Not through unrealistic predictions, as we seem to be hearing now, but through confidence in those tackling the virus and our ability, through common sense and bravery, to deal with it.

Third, we need to take personal responsibility for getting informed and staying informed, so we can provide useful guidance to children and the vulnerable and take appropriate precautions within our sphere of care and influence.

Fourth, we need to look outside our walls to see who needs help. Beyond family, beyond church, beyond our community — where is help needed, and can we provide it?

Fifth, we need to muster our personal and spiritual resources and find the courage to face something largely beyond our control. If the Ebola virus breaks out of current containment measures and spreads into the general population, our communities will require people with mature judgment and the courage to stand against the legions of fear.

This is a lot to ask. Little in our faith formation has prepared us to deal with such things. Faith communities need to be preparing now, not later. Teaching good theology, for example, in the area of disease causes. Forming emergency response teams. Preparing safe places in case hysteria gets out of hand. Checking in with constituents to counter isolation.

It could well be that none of these steps is necessary to deal with Ebola. But the effort won’t be wasted, for these are fearful times. Ideologues are in full assault, and people are too isolated for their own good. Getting ready for Ebola will get us ready for other crises, as well.

Tom Ehrich is a writer, church consultant and Episcopal priest based in New York. He is the president of Morning Walk Media and publisher of Fresh Day online magazine. His website is http://www.morningwalkmedia.com. Follow Tom on Twitter @tomehrich.

3 Things Christians Should Stop Doing on Social Media – Ryan Duncan

A while back, I stumbled across a funny conversation someone had posted online. It all began with a serious question:   

   “If someone from the 1950’s suddenly appeared today, what would be the most difficult thing to explain to them about life today?”  

To which one person responded,“I possess a device, in my pocket, that is capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and get in arguments with strangers.”

Humans have not always been the most judicious in their use of social media, and Christians are certainly no exception. Just read the comments under any CNN article if you don’t believe me, it’s enough to make a person cringe. This is not the way things are supposed to be.

Christians should be known for their love and grace, not their twitter arguments. Behind the safety of a computer screen though, many of us lose our ability to show compassion.

Pastor and blogger Jarrid Wilson believes there are three things Christians should stop doing on social media, most notable among them: Trying To Explain Theological Doctrine in 140 Characters Or Less.“Theology is a subject that was never meant to be paraphrased, half-hearted, or partially explained. Take the time to write a blog post or even make a podcast.

Don’t try and manipulate Biblical doctrine to fit in the form of 140 characters or less. God’s word deserves to be drawn out, elaborated, and explained in a plethora of words. Nuggets of partial truth will never be more fulfilling than a plate filled with the whole meal.” Wilson is not alone in his views either.

Crosswalk contributor Ava Pennington also published an article citing the many mistakes Christians make while trying to minister online. Like Wilson, she believes the gospel must have a solid presence in any ministry, but that social media is not the place for public sparring.“Do you argue or debate with those who disagree with your social, political, or theological views? Social media is not the place to engage in verbal sparring.

You may win the battle but lose the person. Of course you want to stay true to your convictions, but this is not the place to be drawn into angry disputes.”

Psalm 34 tells Christians to keep their tongues from evil, a warning that applies to the words we say as well as those we post.     

What are your thoughts? Do you believe Christians require more discernment when using social media?