The Justification of Rock Hudson

AIDS has a dual message for Christians.

If the Star or National Enquirer had broken the story people would only have smirked as they passed through supermarket check-outs. But there it was on TV: Rock Hudson had a gay disease (he died Oct. 2). The tall, dark, and absurdly handsome star of such late fifties cream puffs as Pillow Talk was frighteningly sick with the leprosy of the eighties. The leading man who, by the time the credits rolled, always got Doris Day had gotten AIDS.

TV newscasters in Southern California simultaneously drooled and looked concerned. Some offered edifying speculations: Would Dynasty’s Linda Evans sue Rock for putting her at risk with TV kisses? Others tried to make news of their own lickerishness for Hudson tidbits: Had they sufficiently respected his privacy? Virtually all telecasters assumed the familiar posture of trading on a stigma while lamenting it.

Major news magazine accounts of the Hudson AIDS disclosure have shown a similar approach/avoidance conflict. Most accounts report—and then criticize as cruel or paranoid—the suggestion that AIDS may be God’s judgment on homosexual promiscuity. Such suggestions are called “homophobic.” On the other hand, all reports concede that AIDS really is something to fear. For one thing, the number of cases is doubling every ten months. For another, the scourge’s victims include not only gaunt, scabby refugees from San Francisco bathhouses but also bewildered hemophiliacs infected by contaminated blood. Some are children. Several tainted youngsters have been denied admission to schools. They are, after all, unclean.

Here is an awkward situation for secularists. Pop humanism follows Bertrand ...

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