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FIRST-PERSON: Amid horror of anthrax, teachable moments abound

EVANSTON, Ill. (BP)–As awful as anthrax is — several people have died and thousand are being tested for exposure to the toxin — the current national scare also provides opportunities for Christian growth and ministry. Here are 10:

1. Neighborly intercession. While surveying for a church plant in Avon, Ind., I came across a lady very concerned about her daughter’s health. I offered to pray for her and the mother agreed. When I finished, I looked up and saw tears running down her face. I then realized that many or most people never have what we Christians can take for granted, personal intercessory prayer. In a variety of settings, we hear fellow believers voice petitions for our guidance, traveling mercy, ventures, kids, recovery, etc. And in these anxious days, we might well volunteer our intercession to lost neighbors and colleagues.

2. Evangelism. Some evangelistic presentations begin with diagnostic questions about one’s readiness to face the hereafter. Those questions now seem less theoretical. Though we won’t likely see much loss of life from anthrax, we’re already seeing much loss of confidence in personal security. It’s a teachable moment.

3. Thankfulness. Threatening the United States with an anthrax plague is a little like threatening to throw a bird from the roof of a building. Our pharmaceutical resources and other toxicological defenses are considerable. And, of course, we give thanks to God for our marvelous immune systems, which make vaccination and recovery possible.

4. Empathy. We’re getting a little taste of the terror commonplace in underdeveloped nations where plagues, natural disasters, aggression and other dangers run relatively unhindered. It can help us to be more mission-minded.
` 5. Clear thinking. The Chicago Tribune recently reported that each year 3.5 Americans are killed by falling televisions, 4 by garage doors, 5 by barbecue grills, 75 by lawn mowers and 13 by window blinds (infants strangled by the cords). So be careful. Terrorists may start sending televisions and lawn mowers through the mail. I don’t make light of the deaths which have occurred, but let’s keep things in perspective.

6. Relief. It can be unnerving to discover that your enemies have moral scruples, chivalry, empathy and class as well as the courage and decency to face you. It can make you wonder if you’re the one with the problem. No cause to wonder on that account here.

7. Recollection. Even if worse came to worse, we Christians have done well in the time of plague. Read the accounts of self-sacrificial ministers during the reign of the Black Death. Though the bubonic plague was at its worst in the 1340s, it continued to resurface well into the 16th century. When it came to Wittenberg, Germany, in 1527, many fled to Jena at the direction of Elector John. Martin Luther remained, convinced that a pastor should stay with his parish. His pamphlet, “Whether One May Flee from a Deadly Plague,” went to 19 editions. In the same period, he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God,” and it is no stretch to think that the context of plague informed his writing.

8. Cheerfulness. Paul and Silas sang in jail. This is our time to sing in difficult circumstances. Folks are disoriented. Let’s show them what it is to live oriented.

9. Honor. It’s a good time to offer words of praise to postal workers who show up for work and deliver our mail despite the danger. They don’t get much thanks, and it’s time they did.

10. Moral discourse. It’s been said that modernism collapsed with the destruction of the Pruit-Igo housing project in St. Louis and that postmodernism collapsed with the destruction of the World Trade Towers. The former marked an end to our confidence in comprehensive social engineering. The latter marked an end to the reign of moral relativism, cynicism and irony. Even the morally and spiritually challenged heavy metal band Anthrax is appreciatively quoting conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer at their website. The anthrax offensive strengthens this growth of conviction that evil is evil, that lies are lies, that background and culture are no excuse, and good folks will go in harm’s way to set things right. Truth is back, and all truth is God’s truth.
Other writings by Coppenger can be seen at www.lissten.com and www.comeletusreason.com.

    About the Author

  • Mark Coppenger