I spend way too much time reading political posts and the accompanying comments on Facebook. The posts themselves are interesting enough, but I am really fascinated by people’s comments and how they reflect cultural mindsets.
The Ebola virus outbreak has dominated the social media world lately, and the posts and comments follow a common theme:
“Stop all flights from Ebola-stricken nations!”
“Keep all health care workers coming from West Africa in quarantine for 21-42 days!”
“A person in New York City has the virus! Who did he infect???”
The common theme is fear. Panic. A desire to protect oneself from the potential health crisis.
Is it bad to be informed and want to protect oneself? Of course not. What scares me are the motives that accompany this panic. Most of the comments I have seen are based entirely on protecting Americans from this deadly virus. There is a real sense of protecting here and not worrying about the crisis “over there.”
Where is “over there”? How bad is it “over there” in West Africa? According to Monday’s edition of The New York Times:
“More than 10,000 people in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone have contracted Ebola since March, according to the World Health Organization, making this the biggest outbreak on record. More than 4,900 people have died.”
In contrast, only eighteen people have been sickened with the virus in the United States and Europe. (This is also according to The New York Times from Monday, October 27, 2014.)
These West African countries most affected by Ebola are among the poorest and most politically unstable in the world. Life is not easy at any time, much less during a deadly disease outbreak. Health care resources and basic sanitation are limited or non-existent in much of the area.
The Gospel is not limited to our little world of South Jersey. I’m afraid when we start focusing on our safety and comfort, we lose any vision we have for other parts of the world. How many of us have prayed for West Africa in the wake of this tragedy? Some of the Americans infected with the Ebola virus were missionaries and other aid workers caring for some of the “more than 10,000 people” affected in Africa. Are we praying for these brave people willing to put their lives in danger to save others’ lives?
Or are we more worried that we could be affected in our safe, insulated little worlds?
It is our obligation as followers of Jesus to bear compassion and hope for the darkest regions of the world. When we get caught up in the hype in our culture that is all about me and mine, it is really easy to lose focus on other people.
Make it a priority to live the Gospel even in the “little things.” Pray for West Africa.