Sunday, August 3, 2008

Stigma! Stigma! Who's Got the Stigma?? Surely Today's Christians Aren't THAT Uncompassionate!

Guess Again!

Please note: This is not a Christian-bashing post. But then again... Oh hell, somebody's got to be made accountable for their decidedly UN-Christian actions!

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor 2 hours, 56 minutes ago

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New estimates show that least 56,000 people become infected with the AIDS virus every year in the United States -- 40 percent more than previous calculations, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Saturday.

Dr. Kevin Fenton, who heads the CDC's AIDS branch, said 15,000 to 18,000 Americans die every year of AIDS.

AIDS is now the common cause of death in Africa. It is of universal concern and religious groups from all countries are trying to come up with as many volunteers and non-profit agencies to fight AIDS in Africa. This is as it should be.

AIDS still carries a stigma, however, and, in a way, people die from the stigma as much as they die from the disease.
Unlike diseases, stigmas are entirely man-made. Most of us first read about stigma in the Bible: lepers were stigmatized , shunned and segregated. The term "leper" became a universal word for "outcast." Many people began to think that "lepers" were beset with God's punishment for some sin or another. Lepers and outcasts quickly came to equal SINNER!! (he says while pointing an accusing finger at you!).

So did God create leprosy as punishment for sin? No. Man created stigma for the reason of power; power over groups and individuals.
In 1981, AIDS started to give power to religious leaders. Rather than helping the people suffering and dying from the disease, these religious leaders instead jumped for joy because they could create a very powerful stigma: the combinations of two stigmas put together. To them, AIDS plus homosexuality meant that God was angry at the new "lepers." And as the disease began to spread and people were almost literally dying in the streets, "men of God" were (perhaps) dancing in the streets: "See, we were right about those filthy sinners. You must be righteous and shun them, cast them out!"

A Tribute to Father Damien of Molokai

Fast-forward to the early 1990's: medical authorities had known (for several years) that AIDS was not caused by casual contact and that men, women and children were all vulnerable. But the religious leaders kept up their odious song to AIDS being a "sinner's" disease. A few churches realized that compassion was late in coming, but administered it anyway. The Episcopal Archdiocese of Los Angeles started an AIDS faith-based agency in 1988, while several other "liberal" churches followed suit in the 90's.

The "stigma freaks" (if you will) still continue to harangue Americans with the "taint" of AIDS. But, have you noticed that even some fundamentalist churches have begun to have fund drives and missionaries for Africa? Somehow Africa is just a poor part of the world that has contracted the disease ...because it is a disease. Americans contract the disease because they are sinners, because they are gay, because they are drug users.
I've said it many times before: the churches of The Southern Baptist Convention still do not sponsor any AIDS organization in this country. Compassion is for Africa, not for gay Americans.

The Religious Right's feeling about AIDS in this country:

"[Homosexuals] want to come into churches and disrupt church services and throw blood all around and try to give people AIDS and spit in the face of ministers." --The 700 Club, January 18, 1995 - Pat Robertson

“AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals” - Jerry Falwell

"Only 1 percent of the homosexual population in America will die of old age. The average life expectancy for a homosexual in the United States of America is 43 years of age. A lesbian can only expect to live to be 45 years of age. Homosexuals represent 2 percent of the population, yet today they're carrying 60 percent of the known cases of syphilis."- Rod Parsley

On page 76 of, Silent No More, Rev. Parsley says, "Even without AIDS, the homosexual community is sick and dying."

(Dallas Morning News)

While most of his provocative claims are grounded in fact, Dr. Wright has asserted that HIV and crack cocaine were government plots aimed at African-Americans – claims that most historians say are false.

He [Rev. Jeremiah Wright] is hardly alone in those beliefs, however. According to one national poll, about half of African-Americans believe the AIDS virus is manmade. Many also accept the claim that the government brought illegal drugs to black neighborhoods.

But AIDS experts say that no scientist had the skill to craft the virus in the 1950s, when later medical tests say it first appeared in Africa.

Belief in the HIV conspiracy makes it harder to convince some patients to get care, said Dr. Keith Rawlings, medical director for the AIDS Arms/Peabody Health Center in Dallas.

Same sex marriage could actually help reduce AIDS:

(, 6/28/06)

Jorge Saavedra, Director of the Mexican government's National Center for Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS, said the following to participants at an HIV prevention conference this week:

"Marriage is a factor in the reduction of sexual partners for heterosexuals, it reduces the risk of contracting AIDS, which is why to open that possibility for homosexuals would be positive in reducing infection rates."

Compassion, reason, science are all on the side of Americans with AIDS. Unfortunately, others are not. They want the "culture war" to continue until...

Lenny Bruce

Lenny Bruce... Could you call him a comedian or a rebel...or both? I certainly didn't know THIS: (From wikipedia)

In 1951, he was arrested in Miami, Florida, for impersonating a priest. He was soliciting donations for a leper colony in British Guiana after he legally chartered the "Brother Mathias Foundation" (a name of his own invention- but possibly taken from the actual Brother Matthias who had befriended Babe Ruth at the orphanage that Ruth had been confined to as a child), and, unknown to the police, stole several priests' clergy shirts and a clerical collar while posing as a laundry man. He was found not guilty due to the legality of the New York state-chartered foundation, the actual existence of the Guiana leper colony, and the inability of the local clergy to expose him as an impostor. Later in his semifictional autobiography How to Talk Dirty and Influence People, he revealed that he had made approximately $8,000 in three weeks, sending $2,500 to the leper colony and keeping the rest.

That incident didn't deter him from later giving the Catholic Church the finger:

By the end of 1963, he had become a target of the Manhattan district attorney, Frank Hogan, who was working closely with Francis Cardinal Spellman, the Archbishop of New York. The association of Hogan and Spellman led to the often repeated speculation that Bruce's persecution was actually fueled by his status as the original comedic Catholic Church-basher.

As a recovering Catholic myself, I have to say on that note that Lenny certainly couldn't have been that bad. In fact, I believe world-famous columnist Herb Caen said it better than anybody about Lenny's performances:

He is a rebel, but not without a cause, for there are shirts that need un-stuffing, egos that need deflating. Sometimes you feel guilty laughing at some of Lenny's mordant jabs, but that disappears a second later when your inner voice tells you with pleased surprise 'but that's true'.

How true!

To Martin Sheen The Courageous Hottie!

Happy Birthday, Martin Sheen!

You've gotten awards for you're superlative acting, but very little for your humanity and courageous spirit. While people will always remember you for The West Wing, I will always remember you for That Certain Summer. Playing the part of a gay man in a committed relationship back in 1972 (before I came out of the closet!) took courage. You were probably the first actor to prove that a role like that wouldn't hurt your career. Let's hope that Heath Ledger isn't the last.

Of, course it helped that you were very cute at the time - and still are.

And we still wish Josiah Bartlett were President.

Religious Right-Wing Take Note:

Josiah Bartlett was a real person. According to wikipedia (he's not listed in Bartlett was an American physician and statesman who, as a delegate to the Continental Congress for New Hampshire, signed the Declaration of Independence. He was later Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court of Judicature and Governor of the state.