A Process Appreciation
Let's start with some theology. God is a loving agent, God is continuously active everywhere, God never abandons anybody, God does not wear a decontamination suit, God shares in all suffering, God adapts to each new situation, and God is not in complete control of the world. At least that's the way we process philosophers see things. God is all loving but God's power is not one-sided or unilateral. Our hands and hearts are the way that God acts in the world in light of Ebola and all other forms of suffering. See God and Ebola.
But let's go further. J. Timothy Cloyd rightly points out that an obstacle to God's work in our lives is our own exaggerated fear of Ebola, rooted in a fear of vulnerability and neglect of so many other problems in the world that are equally if not more harmful, many of which are preventable.
Fear itself can become a false god - a clinging to hopes for protection from vulnerability at the expense of constructive actions in the world. The need is to allow powerful fears to drop way, so that their energies can be transmuted in more constructive directions: helping heal a broken world.
This healing has a theoretical, practical, and spiritual side. Theoretically, it lies in coming to see the world as a place that can become a community of communities of communities rather than a set of self-contained and reified units. Practically, it lies in taking steps to prevent diseases that can be prevented, working to build communities that are creative, compassionate, and participatory, with no one left behind. Spiritually, it lies in listening to a still small voice, quietly operating in the human heart, which chooses healing over harmony, respect over dismissal, care over callousness. Fear of vulnerability can obstruct our capacities to hear this voice. J, Timothy Cloyd has it right.
-- Jay McDaniel
Hold This Rock
The other day at a high school football game I overheard a conversation about the dread and fear that seems to be growing about an Ebola Epidemic in the United States. In fact it is gripping and paralyzing people with fear. Even President Obama has appointed an Ebola Czar. An Ebola Czar? Wow! Now this matter has become an issue of national security. There are currently 20,000 nuclear warheads in the world. We humans have the ability to destroy our entire species and world with 8 minutes! Ebola Czar!
The conversation I overheard unfortunately had racial and racists undertones.Thus, the dread and fear of an Ebola Epidemic is having social consequences for how we as humans in our civil society see each other and even react to and treat each other in social situations.
But consider this set of facts:
The number of estimated deaths worldwide from Ebola from 1976-2014 is estimated to be about 7,000-10,000. Granted the current outbreak is complex and has killed more than any of the previous outbreaks have killed combined. Nevertheless, Ebola spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
Contrast this set of facts with Influenza and Pneumonia:
Every 20 seconds, somewhere in the world, a child dies from pneumonia. Globally, pneumonia kills more than 1 million children younger than 5 years of age each year. This is greater than the number of deaths from any infectious disease, such as HIV infection, malaria or tuberculosis.
Pneumonia isn’t just a public health issue in developing countries though. For example, each year in the United States, about 1 million people are hospitalized with pneumonia, and about 50,000 people die from the disease. Most of the hospitalizations and deaths from pneumonia in the United States are in adults rather than in young children.
Many of these deaths—both globally and in the United States—are preventable through vaccination and appropriate treatment (like antibiotics and antivirals).
As far as influenza is concerned consider the following:
Influenza occurs globally with an annual attack rate estimated at 5%–10% in adults and 20%–30% in children. Illnesses can result in hospitalization and death mainly among high-risk groups (the very young, elderly or chronically ill). Worldwide, these annual epidemics are estimated to result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness, and about 250 000 to 500 000 deaths.
In the United States alone the death rate from influenza is between 30,000 and 49,000 annually.
Seasonal influenza spreads easily and can sweep through schools, nursing homes, businesses or towns. When an infected person coughs, infected droplets get into the air and another person can breathe them in and be exposed. The virus can also be spread by hands contaminated with influenza viruses. To prevent transmission, people should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing, and wash their hands regularly.
In temperate climates, seasonal epidemics occur mainly during winter while in tropical regions, influenza may occur throughout the year, causing outbreaks more irregularly.
The answer is to get a flu shot and a pneumonia shot!
The answer about Ebola is not to panic. Put things in perspective. If the discourse and practices of national security kick in then our dread of Ebola may result in overreactions that have implications for our civil liberties and for our basic decency in human relations. This is not the Bird Flu!
But I think Ebola as an idea has tapped into our human existential condition of uncertainty and the desire to somehow guarantee our drive for a sense of absolute security. Unfortunately, being human means being vulnerable – always, somehow, in some way. The solution to this fear and dread is ultimately spiritual!