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    10. AIDS - A Disease of Fear and Ignorance
    by Chris Medcalf

    Please study this disclaimer before reading further

    Not all the views expressed in this article are necessarily those of the New Covenant Church of God


    The current panic over Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) which has been fuelled by alarmist reporting in certain parts of the popular press, has happened because of fear and ignorance about homosexuality. The following is intended to help Christians not to get swept along with this tide of "gay plague" hysteria.

    AIDS is a relatively new disease, which first came to public notice in the United States in 1981. Its name suggests what happens in the body. The body's defence system becomes defective, leaving the way open for potentially serious invaders which the body normally rejects [1]. Despite fears to the contrary, there are no grounds to suggest that the disease can be spread by ordinary social contact [2]. The virus or viruses that are thought to cause AIDS are not infectious, and must gain entry to the blood stream in order to cause damage. In the western world, the disease was at first limited to certain risk groups, the biggest being sexually active homosexual or bisexual men [3]. This apparent link with homosexuality had led occasional eccentric correspondents to newspapers (who are known in the trade as "the green-ink brigade" because of their frequent use of coloured ink) to claim that "AIDS is the judgement of God on the homosexual community!" Christians aware of the Bible's teaching that homosexual behaviour is sinful, may wonder if this disease is indeed some kind of divine judgement. This view is wrong, I believe, because it rests on three false assumptions:

    False Assumption 1: Only Homosexuals Get AIDS

    Active homosexual or bisexual men are only one of a number of high risk groups, which include also intravenous drug users and haemophiliacs [4]. The risk groups are similar to those for Hepatitis B, another blood transmitted virus. It is now clear that all people (including heterosexual people) who have sex outside of a faithful marriage commitment to one person of the opposite sex who is similarly chaste, are also at risk of AIDS. There is currently no test for AIDS as such, only a test for exposure to the virus thought to cause the disease. It seems that only a minority of people who are challenged by the virus go on to develop the disease [5], and it is not yet clear why this should be so. Therefore if the disease were some kind of judgement we would have to say that it was wildly inaccurate, and that God was "missing" the target group. Many people who have never sinned homosexual are suffering or have died, and many more who have sinned homosexual and have been exposed to the virus have escaped the disease.

    False Assumption 2: Homosexuality Merits God's Judgement in a Way that Other Sins Do Not

    We live in a world which has been marred by the rebellion of man against God. Pain and suffering of all kinds have come into, what was in the beginning, a perfect world as a result of human rebellion (sin). However, it is always a temptation to regard some particular affliction that someone is experiencing as punishment for their particular sin. This was the mistake of Job's "comforters". It was also the mistake of Jesus' contemporaries in reflecting upon the Galileans whom Pilate slaughtered and upon the eighteen people killed when the Siloam tower fell on them in Luke 13:1-5. And I believe it is the mistake of those who see AIDS as a judgement upon homosexual people.

    Certainly God may act in judgement through particular affliction from particular sins [6], but we must not presume to know God's mind when we do not know it. The most that we can say is that the risk of catching the disease for the homosexual is a consequence of wrong behaviour, in the same way that other wrong behaviour may lead to the risk of affliction, e.g. lung cancer from smoking, venereal disease from sexual promiscuity, or heart disease from gluttony.

    Looking at the passage in Romans chapter 1 dealing with mankind's sinful state, we discover that what in our minds are "lesser" sins - greed, envy, strife, deceit, gossiping - are lumped together with homosexual behaviour [7]. In the light of this passage, all of humanity stands under God's judgement, not just those who indulge in homosexual behaviour. Jesus' comments about the slaughtered Galileans and Siloam tower victims might be made about those with AIDS: "Do not think they were more guilty than all the others...? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." [8]

    Romans chapter 1 also tells us what the nature of God's [judgement] is upon sinful humanity this side of eternity. It is repeated in verses 24, 26 and 28: "God gave them over". In other words, God gives people the desires of their hearts. If mankind wishes to ignore Him and flagrantly disregard His guidelines, then he lets them do it. This punishment is not physical, but it effects every part of the personality (verse 27: "...received in themselves the due penalty..." - NOT "received in their bodies"). C.S.Lewis well illustrates this principle of divine retribution. The lost, he says, "enjoy forever the terrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved" [9]. This is how "the wrath of God is being revealed" (v.18). The good news of the evangel is that Jesus has come to take God's wrath upon Himself, and to liberate from enslavement to self and to Satan all people who turn to him.

    False Assumption 3: I am Justified in Also Condemning Homosexual people

    The idea of AIDS as God's judgement is often used as a cover for "homophobia" - an irrational fear and hatred of homosexual people. As we have seen, all of humanity is under the same judgement, because we all fall short of God's standards. In the words of Romans 2:1, "You, therefore , have no excuse, you who pass judgement on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things." Your "thing" might be greed, envy, deceit or gossiping, rather than homosexuality, but that does not make you any better.

    Rejecting homosexual people, rather than just rejecting their behaviour also plays into the hand of "militant gays". It was said by one such "militant gay" that "the only thing that really united gay people is a sense of oppression" [10]. Rejection of people is also not the "way of love" the Christian must walk. Love, the Apostle Paul tells us, "does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people" (1 Corinthians 13:6, Phillips).

    Having dealt with some facts about AIDS and with the question of why some people who engage in homosexual conduct suffer this disease, we now consider how Christians should respond to the threat of AIDS hanging over the homosexual community. I would like to suggest a threefold response:

    Response 1: Offer ACCEPTANCE Instead of Rejection

    It is vitally important that the homosexual person is shown acceptance rather than rejection - whether he or she is your offspring, your sibling, your boy- or girlfriend, your colleague at work, or someone at your church. Remember that acceptance is not the same as approval. In other words, the distinction is between "loving the sinner" and "hating the sin". Our pattern is Jesus Himself who shocked the orthodox religious people of His day by welcoming sinners and eating with them [11]. Jesus did not approve of the wrong way of living of those He associated with, nor compromised God's law. However, he did not shun them because of that, but instead reached out to them in love. He explained in Matthew 9:12-13 that it is the sick, rather than the healthy, who need a doctor, that God desires mercy not sacrifice, and that he Himself came to call all sinners.

    Response 2: Show LOVE Instead of Fear

    Although there is no evidence that AIDS can be spread by ordinary social contact or even kissing [12], this has not stopped the stigmatising of homosexuals in general and those with AIDS in particular, so that they may feel like lepers [13]. he Hebrew word in the Bible translated "leprosy" is "primarily a word describing ritualistic uncleanness or defilement characterised by the presence of coloured patches" [14], interesting in view of the coloured skin blotches due to Kaposi's sarcoma, an opportunistic cancer which appears in nearly 40% of AIDS victims [15]. Jesus not only healed people who were victims of leprosy, but he made a point of touching the "untouchable" in Matthew 8:3 even though he could just as easily heal people without touching them. We, too, can show by touch our love and God's love to people with AIDS, since the touch of a hand or even a hug will not transmit the disease [16].

    Rather than wondering if AIDS is God's judgement, we ought to be more concerned with God's judgement upon those who care fail to care for the sick and others in need, as described in Matthew 25:31-46. Developing a terminal illness early in life and for which medical science can offer little hope at the moment has a devastating impact upon the person concerned and their family and friends [17]. The support which an ordinary carcer patient may receive, for example, may not be forthcoming from family and friends of the AIDS patient, due to the unwarranted fear of catching AIDS and the shock of discovering for the first time that the person is actively homosexual or a drug abuser [18]. Thus, the Christian has a real obligation to care for the AIDS patient by hospital visiting, or providing help to the person being nursed at home, and so practically demonstrating Jesus' love.

    Response 3: Proclaim FREEDOM instead of Despair

    One man told of his exposure to the virus and consequent risk of developing AIDS said, "the one thing that's been going through my mind ever since I was told has been that the only deep human contact that I've ever had with other people has been through sex... I feel as though that has been taken away from me" [19]. The good news we have as Christians is that people do not have to be trapped in a homosexual lifestyle which exposes them to risks of catching or passing on AIDS. Change is possible ("and such were some of you" [20]). If Jesus sets us free, we will be free indeed [21]. Free from enslavement to our sexual appetites, free from fear of relating to "straight" people, free from the fear of death. God has in Jesus broken into our world of isolation to restore a relationship with Himself, and to make us members of a new community with whom we can enjoy deep, loving relationships, without using sex in wrong ways. For the person who already has AIDS, Jesus can also bring wholeness - whether by giving strength and courage to face death, or by bringing physical (as well as spiritual) healing.

    For the person with homosexual feelings, a homosexual lifestyle exposes you to the risk of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. Don't be fooled by the illusion of "safe sex". There is no such thing: there are only ways of lowering the risk of catching AIDS. The risk remains. Fear of AIDS itself is insufficient to prevent homosexual involvement; consider the number of people who smoke though risking cancer. But it is another price to pay; is it worth it? There is a way of finding love, acceptance and happiness through entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and becoming a member of His family - the Church.



    [1] Dr. Peter Jones, AIDS and the Blood: A Practical Guide (Haemophilia Society, 1985), p.5.

    [2] AIDS - Interim Guidelines (Health & Safety Executive and DHSS, 1984), p.3.

    [3] Fauci et al, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, Annals of Internal Medicine, January 1984, Vol.100, No.1.

    [4] Fauci et al, ibid.

    [5] Dr. Peter Jones, ibid. p.5

    [6] Acts 5:1-11

    [7] Romans 1:26-32

    [8] Luke 13:4b-5

    [9] C.S.Lewis, The Problem of Pain (Fontana Books, 1974), p.115f.

    [10] Being Homosexual programme transmitted by London Weekend Television, 2 December 1984

    [11] Luke 15:2

    [12] Dr. Peter Jones, op.cit.

    [13] Susan Robins, Home AIDS Nursing Mirror, 20 February 1985, Vol.160, No.8.

    [14] Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Intervarsity press, 1980), p.618.

    [15] Fauci et al, ibid.

    [16] Susan Robins, op.cit.

    [17] Royal College of Nursing draft document on nursing AIDS, quoted in Nursing Times, 6 February 1984, p.14.

    [18] Susan Robins, op.cit.

    [19] The London Programme, London Weekend Television, 8 March 1985

    [20] 1 Corinthians 6:11a

    [21] John 8:36

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    This page was created on 30 January 2001
    Last updated on 30 January 2001

    Reproduced with Thanks