Decaying corpses were stacked all over the burial ground and the streets were littered with the dead. When trains arrived at railroad stations, they had to be cleared of the dead and dying passengers. Five million people died in the nation of India! In the U.S., about 500,000 people died! The killer was Spanish influenza of 1918-19.
From the dawn of history, mankind has experienced times of sickness, sorrow, and suffering. Disease was often deadly and left as quickly and mysteriously as it appeared. Now, we face a more deadly possibility: modern terrorists with the ability, equipment, funds, and commitment to wreak destruction, disease, and death on a massive scale.
Throughout history people often reacted out of fear and ignorance, and that only compounded the problem, extending the pestilence. They ran from the towns, but found that when they arrived in a safe haven they were met by the same pestilence! Of course, the pestilence had been a traveling companion. Hopefully, I will provide some insight as to the mistakes made in the past so they will not be repeated in the future. Our present threat could come from a nuclear blast, poisoned water or food supply, or biological agents sprayed over a metropolitan area. Federal authorities declare that terror is in our near future and will be far worse than the September 11 attacks.
In the plague of A.D. 302, the pestilence had a companion–-famine. The people resorted to eating grass, and the deaths from famine almost matched those dying from disease. Hungry dogs fought over the bodies of the human dead. Hieronymus tells us that the human race had been “all but destroyed,” and that the earth was returning to a state of desert and forests.
The first instance of a true pandemic (worldwide epidemic) began in A.D. 542 at Pelusium, Egypt during the reign of Emperor Justinian. In sixty years it spread to all parts of the known world. Seibel tells us that the plague was preceded by many earthquakes, volcanic eruptions–-Vesuvius, in 513, was one–-and famines that dropped a blanket of terror and death over Europe, the Near East, and Asia. The worst natural occurrence was the earthquake and fire that destroyed Antioch in A.D. 526, killing almost 300,000 people.
When the plague arrived in Constantinople in A.D. 542, it stayed for four months killing so many people that it was impossible for the living to bury the dead. The dead lay unburied in the streets with ten thousand persons dying each day at Constan-tinople. By A.D. 565, half of the citizens of the Byzantine Empire had died! Gibbon suggested that perhaps 100 million people (in Europe alone) died of this plague!
In the early 1300s, the population of Europe had outrun the food supply, and in a few years, the poor were eating cats, dogs, and other animals. Some say they even ate their own children! People were dying, but rather slowly. Bubonic plague (Black Death) would prove to be more efficient and quicker than famine, much quicker.
The poet Petrarch reported about the effects of the plague on Florence: “We go out of doors, walk through street after street and find them full of dead and dying, and when we get home again we find no live thing within the house! All having perished in the brief interval of our absence.”
George Astor wrote that, “Almost half of Europe died from the black death between the fourteenth and seventeenth centu-ries.”
The preceding litany of deaths could be a portent of what the world faces if Muslim terrorists carry out their threats. No sane person thinks they are playing games. It is not demagoguery to suggest that the earth could become a mass graveyard.
When the daily count of the dead reached the breaking point (different in various societies and ages), responsible people became irresponsible, calm people became terrified, and the borderline paranoid became dangerous. As people fled their homes, social and political organizations disappeared, crops were left to rot in the fields, populations were displaced, civil war was fomented, and major shifts in religious thinking occurred.
Many historians have taught that disease has changed the condition of this world more than wars. Ancient Greece would not have fallen into the hands of Rome if it had not been for malaria. Are we not fools if we don’t consider the same or similar results from possible biological terrorism we face today? If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
Maybe we can learn from the plague of Saint Cyprian and not make the same mistakes people of that day made. In A.D. 250, the Roman Empire was in turbulence. The Goths had just won a major victory and the barbarians were at the gates of Rome. Then the plague of Saint Cyprian lashed the empire for fifteen years. There were problems in the palace and bickering on the bat-tlefields. The soldiers were often unpaid because the pestilence sapped the wealth and the cash flow slowed. Rebellious soldiers broke rank and fled into the forests, and took what they wanted from those trying to eke out an existence from the land. Military insurrections, civil disorders, and civil wars became common, and the empire continued to crack along its foundations.
An indication of the extent of national trouble during times of disease, destruct-tion, and death can be seen in desperate laws passed during Diocletian’s reign (ruled 285-305). Farmers were forbidden to leave the farms to take up other jobs and some occupations were made hereditary. Would Americans support such laws under similar circumstances? We have been told that terrorism justifies unconstitutional laws! But are we not vulnerable to become what we detest in the terrorists?
Zinsser, among others, believes that the Plague of Justinian was partly respons-ible for the demise of the Roman Em-pire. He wrote that the plague was “perhaps the most potent single influence–-which gave the coupe de grace to the ancient empire.”
The plague of Justinian ended about 590, but by that time most of Italy was controlled by the Lombards. The barbarians were no longer at the gates of Rome but inside the gates. The mighty Empire had crumbled, and when the Muslim armies swarmed out of Arabia in 634, the Roman and Persian forces gave only token resistance.
The Black Death raged throughout Europe in the fourteenth century, wiping out from two-thirds to three-fourths of the population! This loss of population impacted the work force, but at first, only the more skilled positions. However, when the second and third wave of pestilence swept across Europe, every job was affected. Farmers, servants, tinkers, and others were in short supply. J.L. Cloudsley-Thompson wrote that, “some 50,000 persons died in London alone, so that all public business was interrupted for two years and the war with France had to be discontinued.
During this time, inflation skyrocketed. Goods became difficult to obtain and very expensive because so many people had died. Gary North wrote that “overnight in Pistoia, rents fell from up to half of the harvest to about five percent. So did interest rates. Wages shot upward. All over Europe governments passed wage con-trols. They made it illegal for people to move to new parishes. And all over Europe this legislation failed.”
The plague also made a lasting impression on the Roman Catholic Church. Some of its monasteries were wiped out. All 150 monks died at the monastery near the French seaport of Marseilles and the same thing happened in Avignon.
There was a scarcity of all kinds of workers so those who were still alive were worth more. They tried to unite and strike for higher wages, but the result was the Statute of Labourers of 1351 that kept wages at the 1346 level. It also prohibited workers from leaving their masters. Other laws followed that were just as bad, but the medieval economy experienced a major overhaul after a series of peasants’ revolts in 1381 and 1449. The plague helped force many economic changes.
Millions of Europeans died of the plague, receiving little help from the medical establishment or the Roman Catholic Church. Consequently, the people lost respect for them and began to examine the old “truths” with an inquiring mind. They discovered that many of the old “truths” were without any foundation, so the people decided to think for themselves. At this time, the Pope gave permission for the bodies of plague victims to be dissected in an attempt to garner knowledge about the plague. This inquiring and commendable spirit and challenge to past authorities was the beginning of modern science. I salute the pope for his salutary and courageous decision.
When bubonic plague turned London into a graveyard, the im-pact on business and industry was devastating. People of means fled the city when people started to die “like flies.” Defoe (an outspoken Christian and author of Robinson Crusoe) wrote that when it seemed that few would be left behind in the city, “you may be sure from that hour all trade, except such as related to immediate subsistence, was, as it were, at a full stop.” Defoe went on to list those who stopped working or who lost their jobs: all those who manufactured articles that were not essential to dress such as lace-makers, glove-makers, etc. Since no ships went down the river, all those workers were without jobs. All homebuilders were out of work. After all, hundreds of homes were empty since so many people had died.
In light of the foregoing horror stories, should we expect to see similar results from the crises we face when terrorists strike again and again and again? As we face the possibilities of biological, chemical, or nuclear warfare, what impact will it have on your life, if you live through the events?
Major epidemics, famines, and natural disasters, not only have a profound effect upon the political, business, and agricultural life of a nation, they also change people. My purpose is to consider the possibility of hor-rific, adverse reactions to epidemics and disasters that face us. Human reactions in the past have wrought havoc upon commerce, cultures, churches, etc., and if the next terrorist attack is biological or chemical, we could face the same experiences of people in the past when the pestilence was natural, not man-made.
There is no doubt that the plague of Justinian nudged Europe into the Dark Ages, so informed people are aware of the danger posed by repeated terrorist attacks against our nation. Those attacks will affect our constitution, community, commerce, churches, and culture, They could affect your character as well.
In 540, the Plague of Justinian smacked the Grecian Empire with 10,000 deaths per day! When the pestilence had passed, there was so much depravity and general licentiousness that it seemed, said Procopius, that “only the most wicked were left alive.”
When the Black Death lashed London in the 17th century, dying was on everyone’s mind. The talk among the uninfected was about the grave, dying, sickness, fevers, spots, dead carts, etc. They were not much interested in fun and games. Defoe wrote that “the gaming tables, public dancing rooms, and music-houses…were shut-up and suppressed.…” People were not thinking of games but of the grave.
The government encouraged the peoples’ devotion by days of prayer and days of fasting and humiliation. Officials asked the people to make public confession of sin and to implore the mercy of God to avert the dreadful judgment which hung over their heads. (Can you imagine the mayor of a major city taking such a position? No? Well, you can imagine him leading a gay rights pa-rade, can’t you?)
People of all persuasions embraced the occasion by flocking to the churches until one could not get near the church doors. The people were saying, “There’s a time to play and a time to pray, and this is the time to pray.” While many Christians got serious about living for Christ which affected their daily activities, Muslims were little affected spiritually by the plague. Their fatalistic philosophy led them to not take any unusual precautions, so they put themselves in danger by expressly exposing themselves to plague carriers.
The people flocked to packed churches to hear the preachers preach the Word of God to a needy and confused congregation. Many people professed faith in Christ, and great crowds attended; but when the plague took control, the churches emptied because it was not safe to be near any per-son who might be infected.
The continuing atmosphere of death and constant terror drove men to look honestly at their lives and at their religious experience. This resulted in thousands becoming more sincere and placing more emphasis on their personal relationship with Christ. It also led them away from the established churches in various countries. Of course, printing had been invented in 1450, and people were now reading the Bible and doing their own thinking for the first time in over a thousand years. They realized that church membership and church attendance did not produce personal satisfaction or personal salvation, as they had been taught. Following personal conversion, those new converts (but old church members) lived and died as Christians.
Christians believed they had a responsibility to help others as a Christian duty, so during times of famine they shared their food; in times of sorrow they wept with the bereaved; and, in times of pestilence, they nursed the sick and dying. The non-Christians and the pagans took notice of such kindness-, and at a time when other institutions were discredited and often dissolved, the Christian churches were enhance-ed. William McNeill wrote: “pagans fled from the sick and heartlessly abandoned them.” Christians stayed and served–and died.
When rumors reached a city that a pestilence was working its way to their area, the social fabric often ripped apart at the seams. To make matters worse, the authorities were often the first to flee to the countryside. Riots, thievery, killings, and plundering of homes were common. The approaching plague was cover for old hatreds and fears to spring to the surface.
Many people were blinded by hatred and used the plague as an excuse for violence. In Mayence, 12,000 Jews were killed when religious extremists known as Flagellants entered the town. In Spain, the Muslims were the “culprits,” so they were persecuted. In 1346, all the lepers in Languedoc were burned as suspected well- poisoners, while gravediggers were persecuted in other cities. If the haters had opened their eyes, they would have seen that the Jews, Muslims, gravediggers, and others were dying of pestilence like everyone else. Some Jews saved their lives by accepting bap-tism (sprinkling by the Roman Catholic Church) but were later killed. When non-Catholic Christians tried to assist the helpless Jews, they too were executed.
Church of-ficials did not endorse most of this persecution. Pope Clement VI condemned the massacres and threatened to excommunicate those who harmed the Jews. It must be understood that Bible-believing (and practicing) Christians don’t persecute anyone, but church members do.
Someone needs to write a book about the “Christians” in Ire-land and Lebanon. Usually, “Christian” simply means a specific part of the country, or a city, as in the case of Beirut. Real Christians don’t kill innocent people, take hostages, and blow airplanes out of the sky. Nor do they finance and defend such activities! Church members do, and all real Christians get the flak.
Some have made unsound assumptions, giving the plague too much credit for some of the social and religious changes that resulted. It has been argued that the Black Death led to religious fervor that eventually culminated in the Reformation, and the immediate result was the Inquisition. There was no doubt some connection, but there were many more fac-tors that prompted the Reformation: the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church, the invention of printing, the general population’s ability to read, etc.
The persecution of a minority, while never justified, is understandable. Death was stalking the streets. People were buried in mass graves. No one could be trusted, not politicians, priests, or physicians. Terrified people looked for someone to blame and to hate, and they found them: Jews, Muslims, gravediggers, lepers, and others. Such action is a “scapegoat” response that is as old as man. They felt they had done something by placing blame and throwing stones.
I’m afraid people will act as they always have in times of major disasters. Will we see even more depravity, drunkenness, child abuse, robbery, and murder as terrorists kill more and more Americans? Will honesty, loyalty, kindness, honor, and compassion become obsolete and even suspect? Will those of us who profess normalcy exhibit major character flaws and not be true to our highest ideals? Will church members permit hatred, fear, and bigotry to take control instead of faith, hope, and love? Will real Christians get weary in the battle and surrender their long-held Bible principles to accommodate the soft, sinister purring of unbelieving liberals who tell us the Bible is antiquated and unreliable? Probably so! In times of distress, disease, and death, even good people often capitulate to evil to gain safety.
How long would it take for any major city to be crippled if 2,000 people died each day? If there were a massive attack upon a major American city, could the hospitals care for the injured or infected? We know the answer is negative. Who would handle all the paper work for their deaths? What would it do to the insur-ance companies? Are there enough funeral homes to handle the dead? Are there enough grave plots presently available? How long would it be before the labor force could no longer supply workers to replace the dead? Would there be enough experienced managers to train new workers, if workers could be found? What impact would those deaths have on the tax base? What would it do to the Social Security system?
What would follow a massive terrorist attack? Would law and order totally break down with looting and vandalism? Would stores close for the safety of the owners? If so, where would you get the supplies you need? If most stores closed, what would that do to our economy? Many financial advisors would tell you that a massive attack followed by a paralyzed economy would make the stock market plummet to the basement. What would that do to your retirement? Would the military take over police duties, and if so, how would that impact your daily life? Would you oppose that takeover since it is unconstitutional and the military is trained to kill not to protect citizens and enforce laws?
There is no doubt that new, intrusive laws would be passed (or implemented) that would restrict our freedom of movement. There would be mandatory vaccination against smallpox and other infectious diseases. What if you thought the shots would be far worse than the risk of getting the disease? What if you refused the shots? If a smallpox outbreak happened in your city, you would no doubt be quarantined. What about your traveling job? What about seeing your children in another city? Would you obey a law that restricted public meetings such as church services? If so, for how long? Would you secretly attend church or would you severely criticize fellow-Christians who thought it right to break such a law?
Two of our major problems would be obtaining health care and eating. Where would the necessary nurses and physicians come from? What about hospital beds? How could we exist if only 30% of the farmers were no longer producing food? If politicians reacted as they have in the past to major disasters, they would freeze prices and wages and might even prohibit a person from changing jobs. Would you support a law that required a man to stay in his present job? Well, what if he was a farmer, and if he didn’t farm, you wouldn’t eat? Would you support that law under that condition? How firm are your convictions when it affects the feeding of your family?
These questions must be faced now; how-ever, our leaders give no indication that they are being consid-ered, and some will question my loyalty for asking the questions! Patriotic Americans will ask some questions and demand answers from the people whose salary they pay. Keep in mind that we are the masters, and the politicians and bureaucrats are the servants! And servants do as they are told!
Following the next terrorist attack we can expect the divorce rate to soar even higher, as unin-fected mates leave their infected spouses. To whom will judges give the children of those couples–the infected or uninfected mate? Euthanasia and suicide will become acceptable, even legal as the death rate climbs. Some political conservatives will notice the economic foundations cracking under the financial strain of mil-lions of patients and will decide that it is a person’s right to do what he wants with his or her body, without state interference. Euthanasia, suicide, and abortion (the unholy trinity) will become respectable and legal. Euthanasia and suicide will become more desirable for some people as the hope for a vaccine and cure becomes more and more distant. People will lose hope, and in despair will end their lives as the HIV-infected “couple” who tied themselves together with a silk rope and jumped to their deaths from the 35th floor of an office building. Similar events happened in every plague.
Since events of history have given us an indication how U.S. civilians, military, and politicians will react in a time of mass destruction, it is certain that Muslims will also pay a price as thoughtless and wicked people see them as “the enemy.” Innocent and patriotic Muslims will be identified with the terrorists, and since they are available, when terrorists are not, a pound of flesh will be exacted from them. I expect a massive overreaction to the next terrorist attack upon the U.S. Every Muslim will have a target on his back; unprincipled politicians will declare them fair game to strike back at the enemy. That’s another reason why Muslims should go to extremes to explain their disagreement, disapproval, disgust, and disassociation with all terrorist activity. It may help protect them later.
In a recent talk show aired from Indianapolis, when I tried to convince Muslims to take a very outspoken pro-American and anti-terrorist position, a caller said, “We should just go out and kill them all.” I’m afraid that there are too many such thugs out there who will respond in that way when we get hit again.
People are basically the same everywhere in every age, so we should consider how authorities reacted to the London plague. It is most informative and interesting. It is worth noting that the London officials based their actions on law. When King James I came to the throne during a plague in 1603, the Parliament took action giving city officials authority to deal with the plague. When the plague sneaked into London in 1665, the officials of London took action. Will we see similar laws in America?
London officials appointed one or more “examiners” to inquire as to the status of every home in the parish. An examiner was to keep a list of the homes where plague victims lived, and those houses were to be “shut up” by the constable. If a man refused to become an “examiner” because of his family, job, fear, etc., he was to be imprisoned until he was convinced to do the work. “Watch-men” were to be appointed to watch every house where there was infection! There was to be a watchman for the day and one for the evening, and they were to keep anyone from entering or leaving the house. Any such person attempting to enter or leave was to be “severely punished.”
“Searchers” were women who were appointed to identify the dead and ascertain whether they died of plague or some other disease. Such women were forbidden by law to “keep any shop or stall, or be employed as a laundress, or in any other common employment whatsoever.” But what if she had to work or was fearful of examining the dead? Too bad. Since some of the searchers were not very effective and the disease continued to spread, “chirurgeons” were appointed to provide a more precise accounting. “Chirurgeon” is an archaic word for surgeon. Some of those surgeons worked in the “pest house” or hospital for those with contagious diseases, while others were independent physicians. They were to be paid from the personal effects of those they examined! If that did not prove profitable, the city would pay the cost.
Citizens were required to report to the examiner any member of the family who showed signs of infection, and it had to be done within two hours! Any infected person was to be sequestered for 30 days following the first signs of plague. All burials were to take place either before sunrise or after sunset, and no friend or neighbor could accompany the burial under threat of imprisonment. There could be no funeral in the church during this time, no matter what was the cause of death. Each house where a person was infected was to be marked with a 12 inch red cross in the middle of the door over which these words were to be written: “Lord, have mercy upon us.” All those who came in contact with the dead were to carry, in public, a red rod at least 3 feet in length in their hands. Nor could they go into any house but their own except on official plague duties.
If America experiences a massive biological attack, look for similar laws to be passed. There will be limitations on personal liberty, but hopefully lawmakers will think these issues through, debate them, and implement only those most necessary.
Reasonable people will argue that, in times of emergency, extreme measures must be taken for everyone’s good; however, there is always a problem. When extreme measures are taken “for the present time,” some of them persist after the danger is past. There are many examples of that in our history. So ask questions and expect answers from the authorities.
In 1878, a deadly plague started along the Gulf Coast of the U.S., almost wiping out some towns. It caused horror and fear wherever it hit. It slowly worked its way up the Mississippi River to New Orleans, killing the poor and prosperous, ignorant and intelligent, and city-folk and country-folk alike. Its name was whispered in awe: yellow fever.
New Orleans in 1878 was a prosperous, proud, and prissy city. Cotton was king, food was an obsession, dueling was common, and gambling was rampant. The wealthy lived in opulent, antebellum homes nestled along the Mississippi. Everyone knew that yellow fever was working its way north along the river, and everyone knew it was deadly; however, New Orleans officials and media told everyone not to worry. Things would be all right. They wanted to believe that but had no reason to believe it. When the fever hit New Orleans, it was the worst plague to lash across the face of the city in its history. More than half of the inhabitants were killed and in fact, the city lost its charter and was not an official city until 14 years later. Public officials dallied, dawdled, delayed, and denied the danger thinking they were too smart, sophisticated, and special for such a thing to happen to them. It happened. They refused to take the warning seriously and paid for it.
New Orleans may be a prototype of America when massive terrorism smacks us again. We know further attacks are coming and are reacting in ineffective, even silly ways. Federal officials are making plans for their survival, but there is little concern about the mass of citizens. We must realize that we are not too smart, sophisticated, and special that such a thing could never happen here. It already has, and plans are being made inside the Trojan Horse to see that further devastating attacks take place.
Following are some suggestions to prepare yourself and family for coming terror:
1. Make sure you are right with God and with others.
2. Have a good supply of food and water.
3. Plan on getting water from unofficial sources and a means to purify it.
4. Plant a garden.
5. Decide what your convictions are relating to the Constitution.
6. Get to know local police officers.
7. Form your convictions about vaccinations. (My report on vaccinations will be helpful.)
8. Designate a room to be a “safe” room. Have duct tape available to seal it after an attack.
9. Decide what you believe about self-defense then go out a buy a gun and ammunition.
10. Then get some police officer or neighbor to teach you how to use it.
We must react as concerned, committed, and compassionate Christians, not as people have reacted in past times of distress, disease, and death.