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AIDS, Medicine, and Morals

Frank Kaufmann
p. 1

This article first appeared in Mission Herald, the denominational newspaper of the
National Baptist Convention

What about AIDS has to do with being Christian? Much. Healing, sexual
morality, and compassion, are but a few points of overlap. The other
area appropriate for Christians trying to form a proper, personal and
communal response to AIDS is the Christian obligation to have a wise
and sound grasp of the relationship between religion and science. AIDS
is a medical (i.e., scientific/biological) phenomenon on the one hand,
and a personal-social-spiritual one on the other.

What is AIDS, how is it transmitted?

The fact is (and this may be alarming, even infuriating to some) we do

not know.

There exist theories, even "prevailing theories," as to what causes

AIDS, but nothing more than that. The only thing that is known for a
fact is that in some people their immune system breaks down. That's
the only thing we know. Once the body no longer can defend and
protect itself from disease and infection, the slightest malady can be
fatal. No one "dies from AIDS." People with AIDS die from diseases that
healthy people, with in tact immune systems can easily withstand and
recover from.

I am sure there must be some readers now who are reacting, perhaps
vehemently, to what I just wrote. "What do you mean we don't know
what causes AIDS?! We've known that for years. This essay must be a
lot of bunk." My response to this is not only for Christian believers. It is
for many in the modern world, including secular types without
personal, religious belief. The impulse to regard scientific
speculation as "true" is part of the secular and materialistic
bias of our time, and even Christians and other people of faith
are prone to be infected with this bias.

For all of us the short, simple and well-written essay "Do Science and
Christianity Conflict?" by Kenneth A. Boyce could be very helpful. In it
he says:

"Science is not a wholly objective enterprise. Scientific research

is guided by theories, working hypotheses, operational
AIDS, Medicine, and Morals
Frank Kaufmann
p. 2

This article first appeared in Mission Herald, the denominational newspaper of the
National Baptist Convention

frameworks, and the like. Scientists not only make observations

to formulate theories, they also use theories to guide them in
making observations and to interpret what they are seeing, and
these theories and the manner in which they guide observations,
reflect the biases of the scientific community at the time."

The same is true for AIDS. We have observations (the immune systems
of some people break down - some irreversibly), and theories (it
happens because of this reason or that).

Quite apart from all the theories (even the prevailing theories) as to
what causes AIDS, we DO know at least one very important fact about
causes of AIDS; a person can have AIDS as a result of his or her
conscious decisions and actions, on the one hand (namely they bring it
on themselves), or the person can have AIDS through absolutely NO
fault of their own on the other.

Should we have different attitudes to these two different sorts of


No. As Christians we are called to genuine, full hearted compassion for

all who suffer, (even those who bring avoidable suffering on
themselves) [John 8:1 - 11]. Jesus could not be more clear about this.

But even those of us who cannot rise up to the radiant beauty of the
compassion to which Lord Jesus calls us, should at the very least
suspend disdain, judgment, and other non-Christian attitudes if for no
other reason than the fact that there are AIDS sufferers afflicted with
this horrifying, frightening, and despairing condition who did absolutely
nothing to bring it on themselves.

This latter fact (of the innocent ones) should be seen as a blessing, a
protection, a witness, and a teacher for "Christians" who choose for
some reason to fill their faith with judgment and rejection of others.
While we are so busy railing against this sin or that, this group or that,
we wake up to find that we have lumped in with our little list of people
we hope to send to Hell, an innocent 8 year old girl who needed a
blood transfusion, or a soft, giggly baby who nursed at his mother's
AIDS, Medicine, and Morals
Frank Kaufmann
p. 3

This article first appeared in Mission Herald, the denominational newspaper of the
National Baptist Convention

If for no reason than for the innocents, we should meet the AIDS
pandemic of our time with the radiant beauty of compassion. "Jesus
was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10Jesus stood up
and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned
you?" 11She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, (I) "Neither do I
condemn you; go, and from now on(J) sin no more."

The innocent ones can be seen as those who have given their lives to
save US from OUR sins. [Matthew 25:35 - 40]. The tears we shed, the
hospice and the prayers we offer are the gateway and the ladder to our
spiritual growth and an emerging, respectable Christian character. The
pain we feel for the innocents who suffer, helps us to awaken one day
to find that our compassion has grown, that the arms of our embrace is
wider, and that we can no longer turn our back on even one brother or
sister who suffers.

If we can come to this point, with our hearts and our Christian
compassion in tact, then we can address the many challenges to
Christian faith that taint and defile our world.

What causes AIDS? We pray that scientific inquiry be true, sincere, not
biased, not politically and ideologically driven, and that physicians and
those devoted to healing come ever closer and closer to the truth, and
to a cure.

Is AIDS caused by sexual promiscuity (either homosexual or

heterosexual)? If so, then do not be sexually promiscuous. The answer
is NOT, "wear a condom." The answer is do not be sexually
promiscuous. But that advice is wise for 1,000's of reasons, not only as
it pertains to dangers (some fatal) associated with sexually transmitted
diseases. These issues of purity and sexual morality are unique,
distinct (and important) for Christians. But it is myopic to think of these
only in relation AIDS.

The Christian response to AIDS must be forged in the Christian

traditions of healing, compassion, and moral purity.