Swine flu and a calm, reasonable, rational Church

Swine Flu? I was at London’s Heathrow airport yesterday and a lady walked off a plane with a face mask. I was tempted to take her picture but it occurred to me that only one person out of thousands and thousands had a mask and my photo of a single individual would create a distorted view of how people are reacting to this swine flu situation. I dont think its nearly as bad as the WHO and the media is saying. Really.

While I am sympathetic to those who have lost loved ones, I am of the opinion that this swine flu from Mexico has been overexposed out of proportion and has created unnecessary fear. It is, as Simon Jenkins has judged, a “panic stoked in order to posture and spend”. And the church should not be part of the media push that will help fund pharmaceutical companies like GSK that have already starting working on it under a “sleeper” contract.

Hey preachers! Don’t be conformed by the world’s media voices. The church overreacted to the Y2K crisis at the turn of the new century, which was hardly a crisis at all. I had a friend who even wrote a book on it and published it around the time of the millennium, which, on looking back with a cringing face, is now just an embarrassing entry on his resume and a reminder that the church is to be a voice of reason and rationality in a world going crazy with fear.

Regarding pigs and intensive farming, [not saying there is a direct connection with pigs and the H1N1 virus but there MIGHT be], I feel that the church should lead the way in healthier industrial practices that may prevent weird strains of viruses in the future. Our family leans towards a cruelty-free meat diet and away from intensive farming techniques that are cruel to animals and unhealthy for everyone.

What do to? Pray for the families that have suffered lost. Pray for those with the swine flu to recover quickly. Keep yourself healthy and eat well. Don’t sneeze on people but carry a hanky. And be of good cheer.

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Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • Adam S says:

    A facebook friend (who is a pastor) ask on facebook what his response should be to parishioners that were debating whether to cancel a vacation to Mexico. The response was overwhelmingly fear based. The US has already started having racial profiling going on and it will likely get worse.
    1 person in the US has died, less than 200 worldwide. But every day 23,000 children die from preventable causes. Every year 36,000 die in the US from the normal flu. We don’t get freaked out or really even concerned about these.

  • Thank you for this post. I’m at ground zero in Mexico and my worries are more about how this will affect the already weakened Mexican economy rather than the virus itself. This virus is massively affecting tourism – an important part of the economy which has already suffered because of the bad press Mexico’s gotten over the Drug Wars (which doesn’t affect tourists at all!). Like the Simon Jenkins article says:
    Nobody anywhere else in the world has died from this infection and only a handful have the new strain confirmed, most in America and almost all after returning from Mexico. A couple from Airdrie who caught the flu on holiday in Cancun are getting better. That tends to happen to people who get flu, however much it may disappoint editors.
    We appear to have lost all ability to judge risk.

  • Becky says:

    Good points as always Andrew. I’ve had a bit of a cough/cold this past week caused by rapid changes in the weather coupled with lack of sleep due to deadlines and covering the Tribeca Film Festival. I always bring a hankie but ever since President Obama told those of us with coughs to “stay home,” I am perceived as a leper when I don’t have any flu like symptoms whatsoever.

  • Yes! At a time of recession lots of money is being spent combating this pandemic, while more people will die of regular flu and more to the point many more people in the Third World are dying from other diseases because of lack of medical treatment. That’s where the money should be going. It’s all out of proportion. That’s what media hype does to us in the West. It is so sad.

  • Wulf says:

    A picture of one person in a mask out of thousands without would have been an elegant commentary in itself!

  • KB says:

    And, of course, all these diseases are part of the pact we’ve made with domesticating animals: http://www.kesterbrewin.com/2009/04/28/swine-fever-part-of-the-deal/
    We get to eat their meat / drink their milk / use their pelts. And they get to share their diseases with us. Quite right that part of our response needs to be good animal husbandry.

  • chad says:

    I loved it when Geraldo mention “28 days later” on camera earlier this week-wow thats a great way to calm a nation.
    I do think that churches should be a voice of reason in this chaos, but sadly enough, many will interpret it as another sign of the end times. Not looking forward to Sunday morning.
    As always, good thoughts Andrew

  • Andrew – I called the swine flu help line and couldn’t get through… all I got was crackling!

  • Oli says:

    Andrew, I couldn’t disagree more with your post! if anything I think the media is playing down the risk! (panic after all won’t help at all)
    I have noticed speaking to friends family and colleagues that we really don’t want to believe that this could be serious (denial) – this position acts as a psychological defence when we have a threatening situation that we have no control over. A similar example was how prior to the credit crunch many people had said over many years that the crunch would hit (a readjustment or such like) but for people who relied on the value of their homes not going down it was almost impossible to consider that something so bad could happen (and so carried on regardless ignoring the warnings).
    However there are other factors that mitigate against us taking A-H1N1 seriously 1.It hasn’t happened for a long time (last serious flu pandemic was in 1968)so we haven’t experienced it 2. We have had recent scares overhyped by the media when objectively the risk was low (SARS though serious was not easily enough trasmitted between people) 3. We tend to distrust authority (WHO the government media conglomerates) we can make use of this distrust to ignore what we don’t want to believe.
    So I believe we are in denial (which is actually ok as long as there is nothing we can do to make things better), that doesn’t however mean we are all going to die it means to we aren’t prepared to accept that might be a possibility. I don’t know how serious this pandemic will be but – the scientific community are taking it very seriously and governments are taking it very seriously and as fun as it might be to believe that they benefit from producing this undirected fear this seems to be unlikely (how will they benefit?)
    And without wishing to scare you this is probably going to be worse than we want to believe. 1. The virus will get here and it is likely that 40% of the population will be infected (as is normal with a new strain of flu) 2. If even 1% of those infected die that would mean 24million deaths around the world or about 240000 people in the UK so 99% of people reporting that is isn’t too bad doesn’t make me feel happy!

  • elliemac says:

    I think it’s way more complicated than simply hype and over-reactions.
    My comments aren’t about the swine flu, as such. Who knows yet whether that’s hype. But I really wish people would stay home if they have a cough at any time – i wonder what makes us think it’s acceptable to go out and spread germs… A significant number within the population have compromised immune systems, their lives are put in danger by us saying ‘it’s just a cold’… I have a friend whose baby was born very prem last year, and the baby won’t be leaving home this winter. I caught the flu last year – it laid me out for two weeks, and then I got over it. It would have killed my friend’s baby if she’d caught it. I’m not against people wearing masks, because we never know the story behind the mask… sometimes it’s hyped up fear; sometimes it’s knowledge of what will happen if you don’t.

  • Eric says:

    In 1998, not too many people were too worried about Y2K: the IT world seemed to have an appropriate concern, the business world was watching cautiously and the most of what I saw of the Aussie Church paid little attention. But at one church I visited, they said they were having a meeting to talk about what we should do about Y2K. I, then a computer science student, stayed for the meeting.
    There was a fair bit of talk about how in worst-case scenarios the commercial, electrical, water etc systems might be put out of action, and how it would be wise to have things like food & water saved up. But what I didn’t hear (until I spoke up myself) was anything about helping our neighbours.
    Y2K turned out to be an anti-climax, probably due to the diligence of many in the IT world, and that partly due to the great concern that many were expressing in 98-99.

  • Eric says:

    What I meant to say there was that there wasn’t much over-reaction around my part to the church, but I suppose it depends on what the particular church thinks about eschatology, the powers that be, etc.

  • robbymac says:

    Between the media hyping the violence of Tijuana and now the swine flu, the net result I see (as a resident in Tijuana) is (A) a pandemic of fear more than anything else, and in the practical arena, (B) less destitute & desperate Mexican families are getting houses built through YWAM’s “Homes of Hope” program here in Tijuana, Ensenada & Tecate (because teams from Canada and the USA are canceling out of fear).

  • guess for me it’s the basics…. since flue germs can live on most surfaces for a few days…- wipe down door handles, phones, toilet handles.. things that are used on a daily basis…. Refrig door handle for example… lysol spray over surfaces… wash my hands a lot. Since i work in a hospital… and exposed to things such as MERSA- i use gloves, gowns and masks- but i don’t walk around in fear of it.. fear increase stress and stress decreases the immune system… which in a logical stream of things, perpetuates it’s ability to affect/effect people. Also… i pray. Asking Jesus to cover me and those i love, friends and family from harm and illness. I’ve been sick before and picked up a few really yucky ones- but for the most part … healthy. Another note, lavender oil, tea tree, oregano, thyme, rosemary and lemon are all natural anti-virals…….. so stick some rosemary in a spray bottle and clear the atmosphere – i stick lavender and rosemary in a bottle and use it as a body spray- it works as a filter. If you don’t mind smelling like a salad… rosemary, oregano and thyme work realllllllllllly well. – and garlic kills basically everything. – not the most pleasant i know but it works. If i get sick i use many of those oils in a hot compress and stick it on my chest- i’ve been well in less than 12 hours with that stuff.
    Guess it all comes down to wisdom and prevention to me… but as i’ve said…. fear helps no one. ok, that was my 10 pence worth of insight. Let just keep praying for healing and health, i want every drop of freedom that Christ’s blood and rez power affords us.. Sozo form….

  • John Lunt says:

    This definitely appears to be the most overhyped story of the year. I’m in the Dallas Fort Worth area and I am amazed at the response. Many local school districts have cancelled clases for a week or more when there have been few reported cases. In some cases the situation has been one of two cases in the entire school district. Hardly an epidemic. So what happens. Those kids who should be in school are in day care if they are young and just as potentially exposed there or if they are older they are hanging with friends.
    Oh well…

  • H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. Symptoms of swine flu are similar to those caused by other influenza viruses. Health authorities across the globe are taking steps to try to stem the spread of swine flu after outbreaks in Mexico and the United States. The World Health Organization has called it a “public health emergency of international concern.”

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