Have you heard something? Let it die with you. Be brave, it will not make you burst!
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Sirach 19:10 (NRSV) – October 27, 2014)
Ben Sira’s admonition is set in context in a discussion of gossip, but in the United States today it could also apply to the silly, ignorant, unthinking panic that has attended the arrival of the ebola virus in our country.
Today’s morning headlines include news of yet another state adopting rules and regulations requiring a 21-day quarantine for any person arriving from certain west African countries. I don’t know what to make of this nor do I care for the precedent it sets. Incarceration without due process, which is essentially what this is, probably has more chance of spreading than does the virus from which it allegedly is protecting us.
Ben Sira’s advice about gossip – “question a friend” (v. 13) and “question a neighbor” (v. 14); in other words, check it out! – is equally applicable here. Get the facts! Know what you are saying! Know what you are doing!
We are in the midst of an epidemic, but it is not an ebola epidemic. It is an epidemic of mindless, ill-considered panic and prejudice which (continuing another disturbing trend in our society) ignores science and good medical practice. This epidemic is not a medical issue; it is a spiritual problem. It is an epidemic of fear ignoring the constant reassurance of scripture: “Fear not.” (Here’s a website that’s collected a bunch of verse references for this.) As Ben Sira says, “Be brave.”
Have you heard something that made you afraid? Check it out and “let it die with you. Be brave.” Don’t help the panic pandemic to spread.
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Father Funston is the rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Medina, Ohio.