In the midst of this virus-caused pandemic, the threat of other killer viruses will always generate headlines. For example, an NPR article caught my eye: “Are There Zombie Viruses—Like The 1918 Flu—Thawing In The Permafrost?”
The article presumes that layers of frozen soil could warm in coming years, perhaps releasing frozen pathogens into the world. For example, the bodies of 1918 flu pandemic victims buried in the far north could perhaps harbor deadly viruses that could cause a new outbreak. The corpses of smallpox victims have been found buried in the permafrost as well.
Scientists have attempted to revive the influenza virus and smallpox specimens extracted from such victims. However, their attempts have all failed. The reason is simple: these pathogens lived in people at body temperature, not frozen corpses. When they were extracted, they were found to be as dead as their victims.
The story illustrates this fact: fear-based stories dominate our media because they work.
I clicked on the NPR headline because the threat it suggests seemed both real and frightening. If such pathogens are waiting to be released into the world, I wanted to know about them.
Of course, in retrospect, it makes sense that a virus that lives in a living human could not live in a frozen corpse. But by the time I discovered this, I had read most of the story.
In a recent article, David French explained this phenomenon: “Shades of gray don’t raise funds.” Or generate clicks, I would add. He continues: “It’s good guys vs. bad guys, and there are two states of being—victory or crisis.”
As a result, while not all media or activism is fear-based, much is. French notes, “There is virtually no market for a problem that isn’t a disaster. Your public will veer toward putting out the raging fire over tossing a few cups of water on smoldering wood.”
Here’s the bottom line: the more an article can alarm or frighten us, the more it will engage us.
Changing the world through fear or faith
Christians, by contrast, have the best news in the world to share. “Gospel,” in fact, literally means “good news.” The fact that the God who made us also loves us passionately and unconditionally is astounding. The fact that his Son died on the cross so we could live forever is news every person on the planet deserves to know.
If researchers developed a vaccine for SARS-CoV-2 today, wouldn’t you want to know it by tomorrow?
However, we can share this news most effectively when we exhibit its power most personally.
A story even more compelling than fearful headlines is a changed life. When a blind man healed by Jesus was challenged to explain his transformation, he stated simply but profoundly: “One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see” (John 9:25).
Missionary Hudson Taylor: “Many Christians estimate difficulty in the light of their own resources, and thus they attempt very little and they always fail. All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on his power and presence to be with them.”
Will you reckon on his power and presence today?