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Ebola and the antidote to fear

Protestor Jeff Hulbert of Annapolis, Maryland holds a sign reading 'Stop the Flights' as he demonstrates in favor of a travel ban to stop the spread of the Ebola virus, in front of the White House in Washington October 16, 2014 (Jim Bourg/Reuters) Louise Troh does not have Ebola.  The fiancée of Thomas Eric Duncan was quarantined for 21 days after he became sick, but that period has now passed.  Nonetheless, she is struggling to find housing.  The apartment where she had paid a deposit has now been denied to her.  Employees at Texas Health Presbyterian, where Duncan was treated, have been refused access to restaurants in our area.  Parents have kept children home from school lest they come in contact with children of those who have dealt with Duncan's family.

Dallas-Ft. Worth is my home and the nation's fourth-largest metropolitan area with 6.5 million residents.  We have seen three Ebola cases so far.  And yet the nation views us as "Ground Zero" for Ebola in America.  Some players on the New York Giants were concerned about coming to Dallas for last Sunday's game with the Cowboys.  One said, "I think guys might think twice if they were planning to bring their wives or their families."  Their owner was more pragmatic: "the Cowboys are going to get it first, so it's to our advantage."

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Are you tired of negative political ads?

Democratic challenger, former Republican Governor Charlie Crist (L) and Florida Republican Governor Rick Scott (R), shake hands after participating in their second debate in Davie, FL, October 15, 2014 (Credit: Reuters/Wilfredo Lee)If you live in one of the 11 states where a Senate race is closely contested, you may be thinking of leaving home until after the November election.  One study found that voters are seeing an attack on a candidate in 3 of every 4 Senate ads.  For example:

A Republican candidate claimed that his opponent "funded organizations linked to terrorists."  The organization, Points of Light Foundation, was founded by George H. W. Bush and has given nothing to groups the U.S. government considers to be terrorists.  A Democratic candidate accused his opponent of complicity in an attack that murdered a couple and raped their daughter.  The victims' family was so offended by the ad's distortions that they demanded it be removed from the air.

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100,000 atheists are 'unbaptized'

Navy chaplain aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) baptizes an while on patrol in the US 7th Fleet area of responsibility, Arabian Sea, May 8, 2011 (Credit: US Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class James R. Evans via Flickr) The National Secular Society offers certificates to atheists who want to revoke their baptism.  It estimates that 100,000 people have downloaded such documents from their website over the past five years.

Unbaptism.org offers a similar service.  Their certificate reads: "[Name] having at one time willingly submitted to the Rite of Christian Baptism and subsequently having realized my beliefs were in error, hereby publicly revoke any and all implications of that Rite and renounce the Church that carried it out.  In the name of human reason, I reject all that Church's Creeds and all other such Superstitions.  I wish to be excluded henceforth from claims of church membership numbers based on past baptismal statistics."

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Hope in a year of bad news

The WJLA Channel 7, the greater Washington DC area ABC affiliate, news anchors (L-R) Tim Brant, Gordon Peterson and Maureen Bunyan discuss the news while on the air, February 7, 2007 (Credit: Scott S via Flickr) The Wall Street Journal calls 2014 "a year of living on the brink."  Why?  "Liberia, ISIS, Ukraine, Hong Kong, a hospital fighting Ebola infections in Dallas, the year's stock-market gains obliterated, and I almost forgot—just last week Secretary of State John Kerry warned that climate change could end life as we know it."  It's hard to find good news in the news.

Economic turmoil continues as investors worry about the global economy and Europe's debt crisis.  Yesterday an Air France aircraft flying from Paris was grounded at its Madrid destination after one of its passengers began showing symptoms of Ebola.  A hospital in Connecticut stated yesterday that it is evaluating a patient with "Ebola-like symptoms."  As tensions between Russia and Ukraine persist, one Russian expert explains that "in Putin's mind, Ukraine is not a nation."

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Houston officials demand pastors turn over sermons

Mayor Annise Parker greets fellow HERO supporters at City Hall on Thursday before her address responding to a petition submitted for repeal of the anti-discrimination law. (Credit: HoustonPress/Susan Du) Houston officials have subpoenaed sermons preached by local pastors who oppose an equal rights ordinance. The ordinance would allow transgender people to file a discrimination complaint if barred from a restroom of their choice. Opponents leading a repeal initiative have sued the city for refusing to validate their petition. Several local pastors and religious leaders have been vocal in opposing the ordinance and supporting the petition. Now city attorneys have subpoenaed these pastors, seeking "all speeches, presentations, or sermons" related to this issue.

How should the pastors respond? Ethicist Russell Moore notes, "A government has no business using subpoena power to intimidate or bully the preaching and instruction of any church, any synagogue, any mosque, or any other place of worship. The pastors of Houston should tell the government that they will not trample over consciences, over the First Amendment and over God-given natural rights." John Piper was a little more circumspect, suggesting that Houston pastors "maybe invite Mayor Parker to next Sunday's sermon on biblical sexuality."

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