It seems to me that 9/11 and the real estate/subprime collapse have left Americans a little paranoid.
The news about flu cases caused by the H1N1 virus, popularly known as “swine flu,” seems to me to be bordering on hysteria. There has been one death in America and as a result schools are being shut down indefinitely. Good grief. The World Health Organization reports that every year 250,000-500,000 people worldwide die of influenza. The Waukesha County health and human services director said people should stay away from large public indoor gatherings. Does that mean stay away from church? Work? School?
- Vice President Biden told people that airplanes and subways were unsafe because someone might sneeze. People who are trying to revive America’s travel industry begged the White House not to scare people from traveling in mass transit.
- People who already had attitude problems about “illegal aliens” are now having a field day blaming Mexicans and immigrants for the level of disease in America. MSNBC reported that last Thursday Boston talk radio host Jay Severin was suspended after calling Mexican immigrants "criminaliens" during a discussion of swine flu and saying that emergency rooms had become "essentially condos for Mexicans."
- Pork farmers are begging the government to call the virus by its medical name, H1N1, because people are buying a lot less pork these days because they fear they will get “swine flu” from eating it. The fact is that pork farmers are much more worried that a human being with flu will give it to the pigs. The message that you can’t get swine flu from eating pork hasn’t made it to everybody yet.
Maybe I’m a little touchy about this because I live and minister in a central city where long-established churches have been fleeing and dying. Although our congregation still mostly uses the common cup for Holy Communion, there is tremendous pressure in Christendom for individual cups for “sanitary reasons.” I fear that Peterism, i.e. pulling away from “unwashed Gentiles” and back into ritual purity, will keep Christians from engaging people who live in cities, especially central cities. Our culture already suffers from “cocooning” and bowling alone.
Am I off the wall on this one? What do you think?
Straight talk. Real hope.