Recently, a listener called into a New York City talk show to complain that the speculation about a possible avian flu epidemic was actually fueling unhelpful hysteria. At about the same time, a US Naval medical research unit had confirmed that one of the avian flu strains had been found to have caused several deaths in Azerbaijan. It's hard to pick up a paper or hear the news without learning of the mounting fear people have about a possible epidemic. One of those fears is that there might not be an adequate defense.
Over many years I have found a sure defense against the encroachment and spread of disease. It's a spiritual defense.
This isn't about pleading with God to stop a terrible force of evil. Nor is it merely ignoring what people believe to be a potential threat to health. This spiritual defense begins with an affirmation of God's complete, supreme, uncompromising all-power. God, as many people realize, is the supremely good, supremely powerful force for good. God doesn't send evil, and wouldn't permit a scourge of epidemic proportions.
In beginning my spiritual stand against the establishment and spread of avian (bird) flu, I came across a reference in the Holy Scriptures: "As the bird by wandering, as the swallow by flying, so the curse causeless shall not come" (Prov. 26:2). God's promise that no matter how we may fear a curse or disease to be coming - whether by bird or not - the ever-presence of God, good, understood as supreme and infinite, prevents the entrance of fear and the images of disease into one's consciousness. That's a significant and liberating help.
I remembered that during my years of living in the tropics, I became very ill a couple of times. The symptoms were identical to colleagues' cases of malaria and dengue fever that had been medically diagnosed. Those diseases are thought to be spread by mosquitoes, not birds, but the threat is much the same. In both instances, through my application of Christian Science, the symptoms disappeared overnight.
I quieted my fear through acknowledging God's omnipresence and omnipotence. My prayers lifted my thought to discern that under God's control I couldn't be in a place or circumstance where there is no protection. I wasn't vulnerable or defenseless when armed with the certainty of my oneness with God. I felt confidence that my health and well-being were established, and were God's gift to me. I proved that my protection was mental and spiritual.
The totality of God's protection in one instance reminds me that it is true in any instance.
As one who was reluctantly led into bird-watching, first grudgingly to accompany my wife, and later as an enthusiast myself, I love watching the swoop of birds, whether on the soccer field in back of my house or in a more exotic location. It is not part of God's design that these lovely creatures be the carriers of something evil. The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in her major work, "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," "The fowls, which fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven, correspond to aspirations soaring beyond and above corporeality to the understanding of the incorporeal and divine Principle, Love" (pp 511-512).
Over the weeks and months ahead, even if media reports fuel fear about avian influenza, I am going to recall frequently that description of the fowls of the air. That's not an image of something that can deliver suffering. I will know that myself, my community, and the whole world are not defenseless against threats to health. By removing the fear of disease, a powerful and practical step is taken in maintaining and promoting health in the human family.