Ministry: The Church’s Response to Aids

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Is compassion waning in light of a so-called gay disease?

The Kaiser/Permanente Medical Center in Los Angeles first admitted patients with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) about two years ago. At the time, chaplain Robert Bird avoided those patients.

“Homosexuality—and homosexuals—were abhorrent to me,” he says. “But as I read the Bible, I thought, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t just avoid these men if I’m a follower of Christ.’ ”

Bird, an evangelical, now spends much of his time with people who suffer from AIDS. “Their lifestyle is not an issue any more,” he says. “These people are going to die, and I’ve never seen such ugly deaths. In addition to the physical discomfort, they face tremendous psycho-social anguish, and, mostly, they die alone.

“I don’t support the gay movement,” Bird says. “… It’s just that I don’t see Jesus coming in with a set of rules and regulations. He met people at their point of need.” Bird’s position does not reflect the attitude of the Christian community at large, which seems uncertain about how to respond.

When AIDS began to capture headlines a few years ago, fundamentalist preacher Jerry Falwell said it could be God’s judgment on homosexuals. Falwell’s political organization, Moral Majority, lobbied against government-funded research to find a cure for the disease. The organization argued that homosexuals should solve their own problems.

Statistics indicate that the overwhelming majority of people who suffer from AIDS are male homosexuals with numerous sexual partners. However, AIDS is by no means an exclusively “gay disease.” It has also been transmitted through blood transfusions, contaminated hypodermic needles, and heterosexual contact. Even infants have gotten AIDS from their mothers, most ...

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