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Ebola and the Lessons of the First Christians

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By Ernesto Tinajro

In the dark days of the Roman Empire, disease was rampant and even took Caesar Marcus Aurelius. This is not too surprising, as most Roman cities were tightly packed (much more so than today) and the sanitation was very minimal. In this environment, Romans were very skittish at the first sign of disease. People coming down with a sickness would be thrown out onto the street, burned, or worse. Gripping fear would cause the Romans to see the sick as disposable. Of course, we now know that such practices helped spread infections and that such fear actually helped fuel historical pandemics. The early Christians stood out among their peers, as their faith and love for one another made them take care of even the sick among them. Rather than letting fear dictate their response, Jesus’s saving grace encouraged these Christians to take risks for each other. Additionally, Jesus’s call to love enemies made Christians take care of others outside the church. These practices made Christians’ survival rates higher during the periodic pandemics that were common in that era. Literally, love saved them.

We now are in the middle of the Ebola scare, some fearing a pandemic, and this example of the early Christians comes back to me. How are we to respond? Out of fear? Or do we join our brethren from so long ago and respond in love?

Ernesto Tinajero
Ernesto Tinajero
Art, says Ernesto Tinajero, comes from the border of what has come before and what is coming next. Tinajero uses his experience studying poetry and theology to write about the intersecting borders of art, poetry and religion.

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