Thursday, June 18, 2009

one christian response to swine flu

The Bible text for Sunday is the story of Jesus touching the leper. I’m not sure how to relate this to the quaratine culture surrounding swine flu containment. But it reminded me of two women. One became famous overnight, simply by marrying a prince. The other became famous over 45 years, by living – simply – among the poor.

Both are remembered because they choose to touch the sick. In 1987, Lady Di, shocked many, when she choose to publicly shake the hand of an AIDS patient. Instantly famous, for touching the sick.

Then there’s Mother Teresa, who in 1948 began to minister to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying in Calcutta. She went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. She also became famous for touching the sick.

Both woman follow in fine footsteps. In Mark 1, we find Jesus touching a leper. Historically lepers were declared unclean, quarantined from society for fear of infection. The actions of Jesus, of touching the sick, began to make him famous.

Today we know better. Medically we know much more about germs. We know that leprosy is spread not by touch, but when an untreated infected person coughs or sneezes on another.

Rodney Stark in a sociologist has studied the growth of the early church. He wrote that one of the main reasons the early church grew was because of the way they cared for the sick.

In 165 AD a flu pandemic swept Roman Empire. Over 25% of the population died. Amid panic and hysteria, many choose to flee. But not the Christians, who became famous for the way they stayed and cared for the sick and dying. So much so that by 362, the emperor Julian, complained that “The [Christians] support not only their poor, but ours as well.”

Today we as New Zealanders are facing a flu pandemic. As Christians we have the example of Lady Di and Mother Teresa, of Jesus and of the ordinary Christians of early church. I wonder what we’ll become known for in the coming days?

Posted by steve at 09:33 AM


  1. I heard a story of a doctor who went on holiday to New Caledonia last week, and when they heard he had treated a boy in NZ who had swine flu, they quarantined him to an old leper colony! Which is where he spent his holiday, before returning home once they established he did not have swine flu. I’ve been told to stay at least 1 metre away from my son who has the swine flu – but how can I, he’s sick, he needs a cuddle, I’m his mother…

    Comment by Jan — June 18, 2009 @ 7:14 pm

  2. big hugs for your sick wee man,


    Comment by steve — June 19, 2009 @ 12:31 am

  3. The swine flu pandemic seems to be yet another of WHO and the media’s big crises – YK2, bird flu, 9/11 and so on. The fact that 250,000 to 500,000 die of ‘ordinary’ flu each year seems to have passed WHO by.

    Comment by Mike Crowl — June 19, 2009 @ 3:32 pm

  4. WHO are in no win situation. if they do nothing then they didn’t look after us, if they over alert, they’re accused of being scare mongers.

    who’s to say that what they’ve done to date has not actually saved lots of lives?


    Comment by steve — June 19, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.