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- Reprinted from HERALD OF THE COVENANT, Volume 7 Number 4

Newsletter of Covenant Presbytery, Presbyterian Church in America



AIDS: A Christian Response

by the Rev. Barry C. Waugh

pastor, Eastland Presbyterian Church

Memphis, Tennessee


The Black Death which ravaged Europe in 1347 and rapidly spread across

the continent is estimated to have killed from one fourth to three fourths

of the populations of the individual countries of the continent. It is

thought that the plague killed a total of up to twenty-five million people,

a total of one fourth of the entire continent's population. A popular

theory of the origin of the disease was the belief that the Jews had

poisoned the wells of Europe. As a result of such thinking, Jews were

massacred throughout the continent. In one case, twelve-thousand were

cruelly murdered in the hopes that the killing of the Jews would end the

horrors of the Black Death.

The time of the Black Death was, to say the least, chaotic and insane.

When one considers that the medical knowledge at the time was minimal or

non-existent it becomes easier to understand the response of the people.

In our age we have the best of medical technique and knowledge

available to us, but we find our fears cause us to knee-jerk reactions

rather than thoughtful analysis of the AIDS situation.

When we consider the statistics given by the medical and scientific

communities our fears increase. As of November 1986 it was estimated that

1.5 million Americans were infected with the AIDS virus and 15,000 had died

from its devastation. AIDS deaths by 1991 are projected to total 180,000.

It is more frightening when one realizes that as time passes the occurrence

of AIDS outside the "high risk" groups of homosexuals and intravenous drug

abusers is increasing. The percentage of heterosexual cases has risen from

one percent to four percent in recent months. (1)

The guarded projections about the future spread of the disease are

even more frightening. In 1985 there were 19,081 cases and it is projected

that for 1988 there will be over 91,000 cases. The outlook for the United

States in 1991 passes the quarter-million mark. (2)

The disease is not limited to the United States. It is believed that

up to 10 million people worldwide carry the AIDS virus and are potential

victims. We must remember that there is a difference between carrying the

virus and having AIDS in it's advanced stages, but as study continues and

the years pass it is being discovered that a greater and greater percentage

of the carriers of the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) do come down with

the disease. These 10 million victims represent about eighty nations that

have reported AIDS cases. (3)

It is believed that the AIDS virus originated in central Africa. At

the present time it is central Africa that is facing the greatest

devastation by the disease. The countries of Zaire, Uganda and Kenya are

facing the pain of many of their citizens and loved ones dying from the


An article by Robert Bazell, science correspondent for NBC News, in

the NEW REPUBLIC cites the destructive power of the plague. Bazell

estimates that the disease will kill millions in central Africa as it

spreads in the coming years. Bazell said, "In the six years I have been

reporting AIDS, I never imagined it could become so horrible." (4)

Researchers in Kinshasa, Zaire report that one-fourth of the deaths in the

city's main hospital are now from AIDS. In Nairobi, Kenya scientists have

watched the number of infected prostitutes climb from 4% in 1980 to more

than 60% at the present. (5) In 1985 in Kinshasa, Zaire four cases of AIDS

were being diagnosed every day and almost all were heterosexuals. (6)

Why are statistics from Africa so important? Because if Africa is

where the virus originated it means Africa has a longer history with the

disease and more years for the progress of its devastation. In other

words, what we now see in the African nations is a picture of what may

await the United States and other nations if the spread of the disease

progresses unchecked.

It is necessary for us to understand what we can about the way the

virus is transmitted. The present medical opinion is that it is

transmitted in three ways: intimate contact, contaminated blood, and to

children born to infected mothers. We also know that the virus is not only

present in the blood but in secretions, saliva, sweat, tears and various

body tissues including the brain and skin. (7)

When medical doctors or research scientists give us information about

AIDS they will inevitably qualify their findings with statements like, "as

is known at this time," or "according to our present research." Medicine,

like any other science, is based on research, statistics and

experimentation. If the information available tells us the disease is only

transmitted in the three previously mentioned ways it is on the basis of

WHAT IS PRESENTLY KNOWN. What about the possibility that the evidence is

deficient? What if, since the virus is present in many body fluids, it can

be transmitted through spit, tears or urine? We should be careful to not

conclude it is necessarily true the disease can be transmitted through

these fluids but we better be sure it CANNOT if we are to say it cannot.

What about something as simple as kissing? When you kiss you are

making contact with saliva and if you have bleeding gums or chapped lips,

what then? One health professional has been honest about his lack of

certainty in this area when he said, "I, and just about every health

professional, would like to duck that topic. (The topic of kissing as a

way of transmission.) Designate kissing as a transmitter and, deep panic,

all human association will carry a sudden deductible clause." (8) There is

a hesitancy among some in the health care community to eliminate kissing as

a possible way of transmission.

It could be that some of the responses to AIDS seen today are plain

old superstition or reactions based on fear and not fact. In the case of

Rock Hudson we find that the nurses who attended him while in France burned

their garments and destroyed the utensils he ate with. (9) If the French

nurses attending Rock Hudson acted in such an extremely cautious manner, it

might be appropriate for all who have contact with AIDS victims to take

more caution. It would be tragic for us to discover in the future that AIDS

is transmitted in more casual ways than the three previously listed. The

tragedy would be that we were not as cautious with this deadly disease

which is admitted to be a unique virus by the medical professionals.

AIDS is a disease of utter devastation and destruction. We have all

viewed the news reports showing victims with a drawn appearance, bleary

eyes, and a body covered with sores. It is a pitiable condition. The

destruction, though, goes beyond the ones infected and touches family,

friends, fellow workers and society in general. In one case, an American

soldier stationed in Africa in the late 1970's made use of the services of

a prostitute. On returning home to the States he married and fathered

three children. At age 37, about ten years after his African tour of duty,

he developed AIDS and died. His widow and their fifteen month old toddler

are severely ill with AIDS. The older two children show no infection. (10)

The disease is rapidly spread through illicit physical contact and the

result in most cases is death and destruction that reaches beyond the one

originally infected.

Another case involved chief warrant officer Martin Gaffney of the

United States Marines. He is suing the Navy for 55 million dollars

alleging that its doctors botched the care given Gaffney's wife during her

first pregnancy. Gaffney himself is suffering from AIDS and his 13 month

old son died last summer from the disease. The first child died in the

womb during the mother's complicated pregnancy in 1981 and it was at the

time that Gaffney's wife, Mutsuko, received two units of blood, one of

which was AIDS contaminated. The second child born in 1983 was not

infected with the virus, but the third born in 1985 was the one who died at

13 months of age. This is a real tragedy especially in light of the fact

that the victims were not infected through promiscuity, as the G.I. in the

previous example, but through receiving contaminated blood. (11)

Fear is good when it makes us aware of danger. To be afraid of fire,

electricity or power tools makes us more cautious when we use these forces.

Fear of AIDS is healthy, but we should direct our fear in a proper manner.

This kind of disease could easily bring rampant paranoia and emotional

strain (if it hasn't already). The fear factor has been influential in all

areas of our society. "The Episcopal Bishop of California, for example,

recently issued a pastoral letter in response to the fears of parishioners

that they could get AIDS from drinking Communion wine from a common cup.

In his letter Bishop William Swing said he would not prohibit the use of

the common cup. However he urged 'pastoral understanding' for those who

choose not to drink from it." (12) Is it unreasonable for a person to not

want to drink from a common cup in light of AIDS? It seems good to me to

be cautious in the light of what is not known about AIDS.

With ever increasing numbers of AIDS cases occuring, it is correlative

that the economic cost will rise as well. It is estimated by one study

that health care costs for AIDS patients will run between eight and sixteen

billion dollars in 1991. (13) As the cases increase the long term hospital

stays will increase as the patients face sure death from the disease. The

figures mentioned are not comprehensive in that they do not include the

financial loses arising from the lost employment of the ill nor the costs

to family and friends as they personally care for the victims.

AIDS is not only a national problem but a world disaster. As

Christian citizens of the United States we should be doing what we can to

see that our governing bodies do their duties as the protectors of the

population. We have heard about the danger of AIDS and we know our own

concerns firsthand. It has been argued that the main issue in the 1988

elections will not be Iran-gate, nor the budget deficit, nor defense

spending, but AIDS. The NATIONAL REVIEW reported, "Four specific issues

are emerging (for 1988 elections): AIDS instruction in the public schools,

AIDS testing, AIDS quarantining, and federal funds for AIDS research and

treatment." (14) In the light of the nation's concern in this area we find

that our government is doing little about protecting the uninfected

citizens or our nation. What we find instead is concern for the rights of

the AIDS carriers.

The Department of Health and Human Services charged the Charlotte

Memorial Hospital with discrimination when it fired and AIDS carrying male

nurse. The charge was based on Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of

1973 which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in any

program or activity that receives federal funds. It was argued that the

nurse could have been transferred to a unit in which his AIDS would have

not been as great a threat to patients. (15) Is there any such location in

any hospital? Nurses change bandages on open wounds. They come in contact

with the mouth, eyes, nasal passages, and excretory system. A small cut on

the nurse's hand could transmit the disease. Is this protecting the rights

of the majority, or is it catering to the desires of a special interest

group whose lobbying is more effective than that of the majority?

What should our government do? Should the present inaction continue

or should we lobby for action to protect our families?

One article expresses the problem well, "The responses of governments

and public agencies to the threat to mankind from the rapid spread of AIDS

and its related diseases have been dangerously and perhaps fatally

inadequate. On the one hand, they want to prevent the disease from

becoming one of the biggest killers man has known. On the other, they are

over anxious to avoid offending high risk groups or arousing unreasonable

discrimination against known carriers of the disease. They are allowing an

understandable sensitivity to the rights and feelings of minorities to

outweigh their higher duty to protect the lives of all their citizens."

(16) Christopher Monckton goes on to call for: monthly testing for AIDS

and the quarantining of known AIDS carriers from the uninfected population.

It seems to me that monthly testing of the entire population of, in

Monckton's case, Great Britain is a logistic nightmare and would be a

financial and social disaster. If we were to expand this ideas to the

United States the problems would be four to five times greater. The idea

of quarantining, though, may become necessary in the light of the potential

danger to the world.

The purpose of quarantining is to protect the mass of the population

from contracting the disease. Through history the quarantine has been used

to protect people from cholera, leprosy, and tuberculosis. We find the

basis for the quarantine in Scripture in Leviticus 13:46 where we see that

the person tested for leprosy and found contagious should "dwell alone."

Some might argue that AIDS is not transmitted as easily as leprosy,

tuberculosis or cholera, which on the basis of present knowledge about AIDS

is true. The danger of contracting the disease from casual contact may not

be a real one, but the danger of purposefully being given the disease is

very real.

Those that argue against the use of quarantining AIDS carriers say the

"quarantining will help no one. Most AIDS patients are too sick to be

transmitting the virus. The virus is being spread largely by people who do

not have AIDS but are infected with the virus, and they may or may not even

know it. Quarantining would be totally futile." (17) Maybe the main

problem is the unknown carrier, but does that mean the known carrier should

be running free to infect the population? In an incident in Birmingham,

Alabama a 26 year old AIDS carrier intentionally threw rocks at a young

woman and spit on the woman's infant child. (18) One homosexual dying of

AIDS has said: "There has come the idea that if research money is not

forthcoming at a certain level by a certain date, all gay males should give

blood...whatever action is required to get national attention is valid. If

that includes blood terrorism, so be it." (19) Most recently, a man who

had purchased the services of a prostitute woke up the next morning to find

scrawled on the room mirror in lipstick, "Welcome to AIDS." The man had

been intentionally infected by the woman as he sinned with her.

In the light of such militant and hateful actions, is it unreasonable

to require AIDS carriers to be quarantined? The quarantine is not a means

of oppressing the diseased, but a means of protecting the public.

"Throughout history true humanitarianism has traditionally involved the

compassionate but firm segregation of those afflicted with communicable

diseases from the world. By carrying out such a policy, diseases have been

contained." (20)

It is argued that getting AIDS has nothing to do with who you are in

terms of race or sexual orientation. It is said it is not who you are, but

what you do that brings the infection. (21) To a degree this is true, but

our society is increasingly being victimized by those who DID do something.

The innocent victims who received the virus through blood transfusions, or

the medical technicians and nurses who contracted the virus through open

cuts that were exposes to AIDS infected blood, the innocent children born

to AIDS infected parents, or the women assaulted by AIDS carrying men did

not do anything other than be unwilling victims. Marital fidelity has been

under attack since the Fall of Eden and it seems that those who are

promiscuous do not care if they infect the obedient. Yes, "what you do" is

a major factor, but those who have been involved in nothing are suffering

the ravages of the disease as well.

The fight against the disease should be through the proclamation of

marital fidelity and faithfulness to sexual activity as defined by the Word

of God. "Unless HIV (AIDS carriers) unknown subjects are tested and

develop mutually faithful monogamous relationships with tested partners of

similar HIV status, intercourse, even with condoms, will carry some risk of

HIV transmission." (22) The question arises here whether the NEW ENGLAND

JOURNAL OF MEDICINE sees monogamous to mean heterosexual marriage in

fidelity or if monogamous is being used in a homosexual sense. That is,

the homosexuals should be tested and then remain "faithful" in their

perverted living. I think the language is ambiguous on purpose. This

article does point out that the only safe sex for heterosexuals is that

limited to the bounds of marriage.

In a recent publication the author tells of a "safe sex kit" that was

made available to all Dartmouth University students during the winter term

of 1987. The author describes the unbelievable contents of this "kit"

which are intended to protect people from AIDS. The instructive brochure

enclosed with the kit mentions heterosexual practice in passing, but it is

obvious the kit is intended to reach homosexuals. In the Dartmouth kit and

literature there was no mention of abstinence, only the instructions

concerning the use of the mechanical devices enclosed. (23)

There is no doubt that the society we live in is extremely promiscuous

and adulterous in the way it lives. Man continues to stand in the face of

God and shake his fist proclaiming, "I will do it any way but God's way!"

Homosexuality, adultery, and perverse practices are sin. This raises the

question that is common in the Christian community: "Is AIDS a judgment

from God?" What is usually meant by this question is, did God specifically

send AIDS to judge the promiscuity of the human race?

In order to understand this issue we must understand the nature of

sin. Sin has contaminated all of creation. This does not mean that all

creation is evil, but that evil has made a mark on what exists. We can

enjoy a beautiful flower and then we must bend to pull the weed from its

base. Disease is a result of sin. The flu, cancer, pneumonia, etc. are

here because of sin. In the eternal state we read in the book of

Revelation, "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there

shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be

any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (21:4). The

affliction of the body is here because of sin, whether it is the "sweat of

the brow" in laboring for a living, or the painful death of cancer. So,

disease in general is here because we are sinners living in a sinful world.

I think that Christians need to be very careful about calling anything

a judgment from God. It is tragic that Christians sometimes, with the best

intentions, counsel one another and blame each other's problems on a sin

that was committed. It is true we "reap what we sow," but not all we reap

can be traced back to some particular sin. We cannot forget that for the

Christian, "...all things work together for good to them that love God..."

(Romans 8:25). The Christian needs to see the Lord's forgiveness and

blessing and not get hung-up on "judgment from God" ideas in his life, nor

should the Christian be ready to jump on an evangelical bandwagon and call

every natural disaster and epidemic a venting of the wrath of God.

With the preceding in mind we need to look at the AIDS epidemic in the

light of Scripture. In the book of Revelation, chapters 5-11, we read the

apocalyptic language describing the pattern of human history. From the

seals and trumpets we know that history is marked by times of famine,

death, destruction and drought. The Apocalypse displays the purpose of

these events is to bring people to repentance. When the Black Plague fell

on Europe it was an instrument of God to convict the people of their sin

and need for fellowship with Him. When the tornado strikes and loved ones

die, the purpose of the tragedy is to bring the victims, family, and

friends to the Lord. So, is the AIDS epidemic a judgment from God? In one

sense no one can answer this question absolutely because no one knows the

mind of the Lord, but in another sense we can say yes, God is judging the

sin or promiscuity with the intent of bringing the elect to repentance and

the reprobate to destruction.

If AIDS is a judgment in this sense then how should the Christian

respond to AIDS victims? We should recognize that when the drug addict or

homosexual feels guilt as a result of his disease it is because of his sin.

In one example a homosexual "minister" in Chicago acknowledged in TIME

magazine that people intellectually don't buy the idea of "God's judgment,"

but in their feelings and emotions there is guilt and conviction. (24)

AIDS, like cancer, a death in the family, a lost job, or a home lost in a

fire, can be a tool to bring people to repentance and faith in the Lord


Should we be concerned to see strenuous efforts made to find a cure

for AIDS? Some would say that if AIDS is a judgement from God we better

not interfere. (25) I doubt that the same group would argue against

ministering to the alcoholic or drug abuser, even though, like the AIDS

victim, these are suffering the results of their sin in their bodies. The

plagues and problems of life are a result of our condition as sinners, but

at the same time we are to fight these difficulties as we "fill the earth

and subdue it." For a Christian organization or individual to be against

AIDS research is as wrong as not stopping to help the beaten man in the

parable of the Good Samaritan.

It is difficult to maintain a balance between recognizing that a

person is ill because of their sin and rebellion, and being willing to show

compassion and the ministry of the Word to that person. In the case of

AIDS as in alcoholism, prostitution, child abuse, or drug addiction, the

Christian must be willing to minister to those in need.

Another side of the AIDS epidemic is to see that the disease has

changed people's behavior to conform more to the Bible. Some have come to

the Lord, but many who lived promiscuously have cleaned up their private

lives. In Nevada, where prostitution is legal, health officials say

patronage of the local houses has been off as much as 40% since the

publicity about AIDS began. In Japan the drop has been more dramatic in

some cases as business has dropped up to 90%. (26) AIDS shows the world

that if you step out of God's defined biblical bounds of marriage and sin

in promiscuity you will reap that which was sown.



What should concerned Christians do about this disease? It is the

kind of situation which breeds deep feelings of helplessness, but I believe

there are courses of action believers can take.

1. It has been proposed by President Reagan that immigrants seeking

to enter our country be tested for the AIDS virus and denied entrance if

found to be contaminated. This is a good move toward the protection of the

citizens of the nation.

2. Support the efforts of those proposing AIDS testing for marriage

licenses. If people are tested for other social diseases prior to the

issuing of a marriage license, why not such a deadly disease as AIDS?

3. Though it may be distasteful we must consider the use of the

quarantine to protect the population from the AIDS carriers who

intentionally seek to infect the nation and the world.

4. Support efforts to tell the public that the only "safe sex" is in

the monogamous marriage as God has ordained. In an article in the JOURNAL

OF THE CHRISTIAN MEDICAL SOCIETY, Joe S. McIlhaney Jr. M.D., makes the

point that it is the duty of Christian physicians to tell their patients

infected with the various venereal diseases, including AIDS, that their

illness is a result of promiscuity. The author states further that Doctors

should tell their patients that abstinence is the only "safe sex." (27)

5. Support efforts to find a cure for AIDS.

6. Remember that the presence of AIDS in anyone, whether homosexual,

drug addict, hemophiliac, or victim of a contaminated blood transfusion may

be the tool the Lord will use to bring His sheep to the fold.

7. In the midst of the terrors of the Black Plague of the early

fourteenth century both victims and the uninfected were looking for someone

to blame. One of the solutions seen as viable was the alleged plot by the

Jews to contaminate the drinking water of Europe. It is inherent in man's

nature that he will always look for someone "to pass the buck to" or

someone to become a scapegoat. Homosexuals and drug abusers are the

primary groups that carry the HIV and develop AIDS. It may be the feeling

of our society that such people "get what they deserve," or there may be

indifference about AIDS because it is seen to be the disease of homosexuals

and addicts. It is important for the Christian that he not find a

scapegoat to vent his anti-AIDS wrath against. There is always the danger

of developing the mentality that killed the Jews during the Black Plague.

Homosexuality is sin. Adultery is sin. Prostitution is sin. We must

learn to look past the actions of the sinful heart and see the need of the

homosexual, addict, or prostitute to be redeemed by Christ.


1. "A Dose of Straight Talk of AIDS," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,


2. "AIDS, At the Dawn of Fear," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,

1/12/87, p61.

3. ibid, p64.

4. "NBC's Bazell Claims AIDS Is Devastating Central Africa," WORLD,

5/25/87, p4.

5. ibid, p4.

6. "AIDS: A Growing Pandemic?," NEWSWEEK, 4/29/85, p71.

7. Barnes, Deborah M.,"Grim Projections for AIDS Epidemic," SCIENCE, V.

232, 6/86, p1590.

8. Mano, Keith, "AIDS Update," NATIONAL REVIEW, 2/14/86, p60.

9. "The AIDS Question," NATIONAL REVIEW, Universal Press Syndicate,

10/18/85, p63.

10. "AIDS: At the Dawn of Fear," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 1/12/87, p60.


12. Frame, Randy, "The Church's Response to AIDS," CHRISTIANITY TODAY,

11/22/85, p51.

13. Barnes, p1589.

14. McLaughlin, John,"AIDS in '88," NATIONAL REVIEW, 5/8/87, p24.


16. Monckton, Christopher, "AIDS: A British View," THE AMERICAN SPECTATOR,

1/87, p29.

17. "Quarantining Will Help No One," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 1/12/87,


18. "AIDS Carrier Accused of Spitting on Baby," THE MIAMI HERALD, 3/5/87,


19. Provan, Charles, M.D., "A Doctor Warns of the AIDS Plague,"


20. Restak, Richard, "Society's Survival, Then Victim's Rights,"


21. "AIDS: At the Dawn of Fear," p62.

22. Goedert, James J., "What is Safe Sex," NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, V.

316, No. 21, 5/21/87, p1341.

23. Hart, Jeffrey, "Safe Sex and the Presence of the Absence," NATIONAL

REVIEW, 5/8/87, pp43,62.

24. Miller, C. John, "AIDS: The Gay 80's," ETERNITY, 11/86, p16.

25. Frame, p50.

26. "Fear of AIDS Chills Sex Industry," U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT,

2/16/87, p25.

27. McIlhaney, Joe S., Jr., M.D., "Here's What a Christian Physician Can Do

About Sexually Transmitted Diseases," JOURNAL OF THE CHRISTIAN MEDICAL

SOCIETY, V. 13, No. 1, Winter '87, pp26-30.




The above notes are based on information in the data files of the

Jonathan Edwards Society, 428 North Watkins, Memphis, TN. 38104. If you

are interested in more information about the Society just write and they

will be glad to help. Membership is available for $12.00 per year ($15.00

outside U.S.) and includes a subscription to their informative newsletter.




For more information on this subject, read the following books. They are

probably available at a Christian bookstore near you, or you can order them

from The Counsel of Chalcedon for the indicated donation amount from the

address below:

THE AIDS COVER-UP? The Real and Alarming Facts About Aids by Gene Antonio


HOMOSEXUALITY: A Biblical View by Greg Bahnsen ($20)

THE AIDS EPIDEMIC, A Citizen's Guide to Protecting your Family and Community

from the Gay Plague by Lawrence E. Lockman ($15)

The address is:

The Counsel of Chalcedon 3032 Hacienda Court Marrieta, GA 30066

By the way, a subscription to The Councel of Chalcedon newsletter, one of

the best Christian newsletters available, is $15 a year.


Also, the following cassette tape series by Joseph C. Morecraft, III, pastor

of the Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Atlanta, is available:

Homosexuality & AIDS I (I Corinthians 6:9-11) Homosexuality & AIDS II (Deut.

28:15-22; Rev. 6:7-8) How God Removes Dross From a Culture (Isaiah 1:18-26)

This set of crucial messages can be ordered for $12 from:

Multi-Media Ministries P. O. Box 28358 Atlanta, GA 30358


An interview with Gene Antonio, author of THE AIDS COVER-UP? is available

on cassette tape for a donation of $10 from:

Focus on the Family Box 500 Arcadia, CA 91006



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Please share it freely with everyone you can. Thanks... BN 8-2-87


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