Against Againstness

against

Inside my generation is a gnawing need to be part of something. To belong to something greater than ourselves, to be part of something great.

The problem is that belonging to great things involves a lot of work and determination. We aren’t really into working or determination, so we choose the next best thing.

Againstness

You see, it is easy to belong to a growing mass of critics. You read watch a video of Ray Rice punching his wife. You are filled with outrage. You tweet a nasty denunciation of Ray Rice, Roger Goodell, The Baltimore Ravens, the Western Culture, Men, and the spiraling failure of humanity. If you are especially industrious, you even wrote a blog post about it.

Take a deep breath. That was hard work. You did something.

But you didn’t. What you did was join the large mass of humanity in agreeing that Ray Rice had done something terrible. You aren’t a lone voice bringing attention to a terrible situation. You are part of a large self-congratulating mob patting each other on the backs for how much they are against domestic violence. Againstness gives you the illusion of doing something. As Barnabas Piper clear shows in his article Defined by What We Aren’t, againstness is at its best laziness and at its worst Pharisaical.

Throughout my teen years I traveled with an organization called Teen Missions International. Every year, the great Bob (he has a last name, but we all just called him Bob), would stand in the darkness on commissioning night. We were all ready to have a pizza party that night as we headed out to our overseas work, but Bob would solemnly say.

“Do you see this darkness. It is better to light a candle than it is to curse the darkness.”

He would light a single candle in that large tent. We would see the outlines of people even in that large space, with the lighting of a single candle.

Darkness cursing is easy. Candle cursing is even easier. Wouldn’t a bigger candle be better? If you really want to light that space, why not get some big halogen bulbs? Candles are bad for the environment. That message he spoke after lighting the candle wasn’t that inspiring.

Bob did something. The rest of us are just critics.

Hating sin is not loving God. Hating the effects of sin is not caring for people. We need to define ourselves by what we are FOR.

Yes, I know. This sounds an awful lot like work. We need to make a hard choice, stop pretending we are loving people by being critical of their enemies. Don’t pretend you love God because you hate his enemies. We need to actually love our God and love his people.

Ironically, this is really mundane. Loving God looks quite boring, even domesticated. For most, it means living a quiet life working their jobs and loving their families. It means we complain less and compliment more. It means looking at God and asking why I don’t delight in him more.

The greatest sinner you know is reading this article right now. Is it possible that you are so critical because you feel your own sin. It is easier to justify my sin if Ray Rice and Chris Brown are evil. At least I don’t do that! But that nagging knowledge that you have failed your God won’t go away.

The cure for againstness is to look deeply at what God has done FOR you. If you are so screwed up (and you are, much more than you realize) and God loves you so much anyway, WOW. That is good news. When you look out of your broken heart and see other sinners, the bent of your heart won’t be to condemn, because if I condemn them, I condemn myself. God does not condemn me, even though he really should.

I want that for others too.

We stand with the God of the Universe at our back and in front. With that kind of security, we have so much to be for and too much work to do. Sometimes that means being against evil. Most of the time it means proactively teaching and training and loving and building. It means being rather boring most of the time. If we don’t build, the world will fall apart.

So let’s do some building.

-Chip

I would also like to recommend the excellent book Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers. In its pages, I discovered much of my own againstness and where it came from.

The image above is courtesy of Acid Pix and is used with permission.

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The Miracle Drug for Ebola

1280px-Ebola_virus_virionWe Americans love our medications. It seems every other Ebola news article spends a few paragraphs talking about ZMapp or a possible vaccine or even a homeopathic cure for Ebola. We crave the silver bullet that will take Ebola down and (more importantly to us) make us feel safe from it.

Wouldn’t it be comforting if we were infected with Ebola and an unconcerned doctor gave us some pills and said we would be virus free in a few days. Such a plan is safe, sterile, and reduces the uncertainty of our lives.

Life doesn’t have those certainties. Ebola has no existing silver bullet and even if it did, there is another virus on the horizon that also will resist a simple cure. We have been battling with HIV for decades and only recently have started winning.

The truly effective treatments for Ebola are not so spectacular or mysterious. The best treatment is prevention, which is why Ebola isolation wards are the first and best line of defense. But what of those people who do get Ebola anyway. What is the best treatment for them?

IV fluids.

Yes, I know it is disappointing. Salty water is not a sexy cure for anything. But what those patients need the most is a steady drip of sterile saline flowing slowly into their veins. Ebola kills by depleting fluid volume and IVs are the cure for that, replenishing the fluid volume.

Now this miracle cure won’t save everyone. Ebola is a vicious little bug and will kill some anyway, but the most powerful and effective weapons in the fight against it don’t look powerful. They are gloves, gowns, masks, and goggles. While we spend 42 million dollars on ZMapp, what remains the most effective treatment is the most boring ones.

We as a people and a medical community need to let go of the super hero model of health care where powders and pills have mysterious powers that will save us from our enemies. Sure there are miracle cures that come from time to time, but most of them are built on the backs of basic, boring health care and prevention.

We should pray (another boring yet effective treatment) and fight for a cure for Ebola and all other disease, but let’s also recognize the limitations of these cures and move forward with tried and tested solutions to disease.

And by that, I mean boring solutions.

-Chip

 

Ebola and the Death of Shakie Kamara

Ebola CrowdThe following is based on real events.

Shakie Kamara had a hard life. He had suffered through much more than a 15-year-old would normally be expected to. When he was young, his mother and father had died, leaving him the care of an aunt, Eva Nah. Eva was not in a good financial position to care for Shakie, but she took on the responsibility with a firm sense of duty.

She had been a good caregiver within her means, which were not great. The only housing she could arrange was in one of the poorest slums in Monrovia, West Point. Their small home was cramped, but relatively happy despite the circumstances.

When Shakie had first heard the word Ebola, it was in a radio broadcast talking about a strange sickness in Lofa County. He had not thought much of it then, there were many bad sicknesses in the world and Lofa was far north.

Within weeks, Shakie was hearing from friends that Ebola had come to Monrovia. The discussions in the shacks on rainy days were conflicted. Some were very afraid of this new illness that cause you to bleed from your eyes and eats. Some said that this was a plot by Ma to get more money from America. Some said this was a plague made by white men to eliminate Africans.

Shakie didn’t concern himself with such grand things. Day to day food was a much more pressing issue for him. Eva worked where she could and Shakie also did whatever work he could for their small home.

When the first West Point residents were taken to the hospitals with Ebola, the community became tense. Several people Shakie knew had gone to those hospitals and very few of them ever returned. Not only were they fighting the ever-present plague of hunger, now a fearsome disease was stalking among them.

When the West Point Clinic was opened, Shakie was somewhat relieved. There was not a place for the sick to go. Maybe he wouldn’t get sick now. Plus, with the schools closed and the clinic in the schoolhouse, maybe Eva will get off his back about learning to read better.

The next day, Shakie saw a crowd trotting toward the new clinic. He followed at a distance (they didn’t look friendly). They arrived at the clinic. Men in the front yelled and ripped the gate off its hinges. A mass of humanity rushed into the clinic and many of the sick people were brought out.

Shakie did believe in Ebola so he avoided all the people leaving the clinic. When he saw people leaving the clinic with mattresses, sheets, and food, he rushed into the clinic himself to see what he could grab for his home.

The crowd had been swift and thorough. There wasn’t a stitch of fabric or a crumb of food left in the entire clinic. Shakie searched but all he found were a few nurses and about ten sick people who refused to leave the clinic. On seeing them, Shakie made a quick exit.

There was a strange calm in West Point over the next day. It felt like being heard for the first time in a long time. The slum had been ignored by the government for so long and they had shown them that they mattered. While Shakie didn’t like what was done, it did feel good to be heard.

The following morning, Shakie woke to a commotion outside. There, at the entrance to West Point, was a mound of debris blocking the streets. Soldiers stood behind the piles with guns in hand. A man who had an air of authority to him walked up with a megaphone.

“West Point, Ma has placed you under quarantine. You cannot come or go. If you have any sick people, please bring them to be taken to the hospitals.”

He repeated this several times. Few in the crowd knew what a quarantine was and it took a lengthy explanation from the  soldiers to get the message through.

They were trapped in West Point.

Well, to be clear, people without money were trapped. The bribes to leave came quickly. People quickly learned that if they looked poorer, they could get out with a smaller bribe. Most of the residents didn’t even have the meager amount necessary to bribe the soldiers.

Shakie was on the poor side even for West Point so he and Eva were going nowhere.

The calm after the clinic had been ransacked was gone. Now West Point seethed. Through the night the people of West Point became more and more agitated. They quickly realized they would run out of food. Prices for rice and fruit had doubled immediately once the quarantine had been placed. The soldiers had not mentioned anything about food coming. No one could go out and get food to bring it back.

They would starve.

The air that night was pungent not simply with the usual smell of humanity, but with the sense that something was going to happen soon. As men sat around small fires discussing, all of them were planning how they could escape from West Point.

Shakie was not involved in such discussion. Eva made sure that he was in before dark. During these troubled times, she had kept him on a shorter leash.

As dawn broke, Eva asked Shakie to go to a small shop near the entrance to West Point to get some tea and bread for them for breakfast. After grabbing what he hoped would be the necessary funds, he left. As he approached, a large mass of humanity moved quickly to his left. In an instant, Shakie realized he had walked into a riot. A soldier with a bullhorn was yelling some final warning, but the crowd rushing the barricade was no to be stopped.

Gunfire…

As suddenly as the crowd had lurched forward, it exploded in every direction away from the barricade. Some were bleeding, but in good enough condition to run away. No one noticed a small, 15-year-old boy with his legs mangled beneath him.

“No ma, No pa,” he screamed into the sudden stillness around him. Some trails of blood led back into sundry places in West Point, his blood left no trail, but a pool.

The soldiers didn’t know what to do and stood, paralyzed for a moment. The man with the bullhorn quickly ordered them to call for an ambulance and to tend the boy as best they could.

Despite the close proximity to several hospitals, ambulances in Monrovia take some time to arrive. Shakie was already unconscious with an inconsolable Eva nearby by the time the ambulance pulled up. Shakie was rushed to Redemption Hospital where he died quickly of blood loss.

The Defense Ministry claimed the Shakie had been killed by barbed wire, but the staff at Redemption were not persuaded. Shakie had obviously died from gunfire. The war had taught many of them what a bullet hole looked like in a person’s body.

Shakie Kamara never caught Ebola. The infection was spreading through Liberia and was slowly working out a much deadlier and more dangerous disease: panic. Though Shakie did not die of Ebola, it most certainly killed him.

-Chip

The story above is based on real events. I have taken some artistic liberty, but the events are real. I do not personally know anyone involved, but I felt that the story, as much as it is known, should be told.

The image above is from Abrissa Someri and is used with permission.