Monday, December 1, 2008

The Disasters of December 1st: AIDS and Angels (of a lesser kind)

Today is World AIDS day. There will be remembrance and mourning, speeches and proclamations. People will decry the horror of a pandemic and its effects on the entire African Continent. December 1st, 1981 was the day that science "discovered" AIDS. You will experience concern and good will from governments and individuals.

You will also experience some of the greatest hypocrisy the world has ever known.

Today is also the anniversary of a catastrophe so terrible, that it changed fire codes across the country and around the world. December 1, 1958 was the date of the Our Lady of the Angels school fire.

From Wikipedia:

A total of 92 pupils and 3 nuns lost their lives when smoke, heat, and fire cut off their normal means of escape through corridors and stairways. Many perished while jumping from second-floor windows (which were as high as a third floor would be on level ground). Another 100 were seriously injured.

The disaster was the lead headline story in American, Canadian, and European newspapers. Pope John XXIII sent his condolences from the Vatican in Rome. The severity of the fire shocked the nation and surprised educational administrators of both public and private schools. The disaster led to major improvements in standards for school design and fire safety codes.
I was eleven years old at the time and lived about a mile from the school. The image that stayed with me of the tragic event was: priests trying to bless the charred bodies while being accompanied by altar boys with smelling salts to keep from fainting.

In a way, the Catholic Archdiocese was to blame for many of the deaths: the school was very old and somehow was "grandfathered-in" when new fire safety guidelines were enacted. For 1600 students and nuns, there was only ONE fire escape. Of course, the Archdiocese was never officially accused: these were "people of God."

The Our Lady of the Angels Fire, the Magdalene Laundries, The Duplessis Orphans: all vulnerable people victimized by greed and neglect.

So what's the connection to World AIDS Day? It's this: for 25 years, people with AIDS have suffered at the hands of "people of God" by greed and neglect. Many thousands of wonderful Americans were cast out of their homes and shunned, discounted, discarded while they were sick. Led by televangelists and politicians, American Christianity diverged from the road of true compassion.

And those same leaders of righteousness and justice have never come back.

Just a thought.

Don't Be A Christofascist: Numbers EVERYONE Should Know!

Vital Statistics


  • Over 22 million people have died from AIDS.
  • Over 42 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, and 74 percent of these infected people live in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Over 19 million women are living with HIV/AIDS.
  • By the year 2010, five countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, China, India, and Russia) with 40 percent of the world's population will add 50 to 75 million infected people to the worldwide pool of HIV disease.
  • There are 14,000 new infections every day (95 percent in developing countries). HIV/AIDS is a "disease of young people" with half of the 5 million new infections each year occurring among people ages 15 to 24.
  • The UN estimates that, currently, there are 14 million AIDS orphans and that by 2010 there will be 25 million.

United States:

  • An estimated one million people are currently living with HIV in the United States, with approximately 40,000 new infections occurring each year.
  • 70 percent of these new infections occur in men and 30 percent occur in women.
  • By race, 54 percent of the new infections in the United States occur among African Americans, and 64 percent of the new infections in women occur in African American women.
  • 75 percent of the new infections in women are heterosexually transmitted.
  • Half of all new infections in the United States occur in people 25 years of age or younger.
Add These Facts:

Outside San Francisco, there were no faith-based AIDS agencies until 1986. In those 5 years, 62,000 people had died. The Southern Baptist Convention still does not support any AIDS agencies inside this country - but some in Africa. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church supports AIDS efforts - in Africa.

WASHINGTON, May 23 /2006/U.S. Newswire/ --

As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to debate increasing the U.S. contribution to the Global Fund, they should be aware that the protections they put in the original Global Fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria are not being observed. Instead funding for drug legalization, needle exchange and prostitution are being promoted within the bureaucratic nightmare that is the Global Fund, the Family Research Council (FRC) says.

In other words, "Do things OUR way or no money." The FRC way was (and still is): no condom distribution (in particular to prostitutes), no sex education classes, but abstinence only classes.

How many people was the FRC willing to help? Who knows? A more important question may be: How many people was FRC willing to kill?

Just a thought.

AIDS: Creating Sinners The Christofascist Way

Do Some People NEED Sin?

While some people look upon the needs of survival in our world as the usual food, shelter, clothing, air, water, etc., some people have different needs beyond those basics. Some people NEED sin. Specifically, they need sin to castigate, to feel righteous, to scapegoat. If the world were blameless (hence, sinless), these people would invent accusations. After all, what's the point of being in an exclusive club when everyone is in the club? Throughout history there have been various sins created by man: outcasts (lepers), non-believers (pagans and heathens), misfits (gays and criminals) and the sin of being born (Original Sin, created by one Augustine of Hippo).

In another post, I called AIDS the new Black Death for America's Christianity.

Sin: some people do it, while others need them to do it.

Just a thought.

"You're all sinners!"

Dec. 1, 1981: Christianty - Where the HELL WERE YOU??!!

Making The Most of Suffering?

It has always been my opinion that during the onslaught of the AIDS crisis, while people were (literally) dying in the streets, some people (and you might now find this perverse) were dancing in the streets: God had given those people a very effective weapon for their hatred of others. Of course, it's a bit odd to think of Jerry Falwell partnered by Pat Robertson, and Strom Thurmond in the arms of Jesse Helms, both couples dancing to an oh-so-modest waltz.

But waltz they did.

The AIDS crisis had two sides: the suffering and the self-righteous. The self-righteous made AIDS a symptom of sin so heinous that AIDS became a mortal sin in itself. Cancer and heart trouble were never made into sins, and venereal disease was treatable, forgiven and forgotten. AIDS, however, was untreatable and fatal. Wonderful! Churches would be swelling with the righteous and since the pagan homosexuals were dying quickly, and in large numbers, ministers were rushed to judgment. And that judgment was: homosexuals are obviously evil in the eyes of the Lord. Rebuke them, then shun them. They may eventually quarantined, but until then...

Readers have read this story many times, but there is no other more appropriate time to repeat it: When I was privileged to volunteer for the AIDS Emergency Fund in 1990, I was given the task of helping the office manager perform client intake. The office manager, by the way, was THE only paid person at the Fund the rest were all volunteers and the Board of about fourteen was a working Board: signing the checks for phone, heat, electric and rent bills. One third of all the checks went for funeral expenses that clients wanted to "prepay" (making sure their relatives weren't stuck with the bills).

Since the epidemic was at its most virulent and only AZT (a rather toxic drug) was the only medication taken to slow the disease, many of the clients we saw were ill in the extreme. Some passed out in front of my desk. And since doctors were still unsure if they wanted to diagnose AIDS, we were (at the time) privy to the client's medical records and could make a decision as to eligibility on the strength of their T-cell count.
We saw many men, some women and even some children. The kids were the hardest for me. Most of them, I knew, didn't have more than a year to live.

This is the point: many of our clients came to us first because they actually had no place else to go. We were the first place to experience the dreadful practice of putting out someone (usually a son or daughter) out of their home WHILE THEY WERE SICK AND DYING!!

O.K., I'll calm down the drama. We were literally seeing the results of what I called the three Rs: Robertson's Rotten Rhetoric. Although medical research had come to the conclusion that AIDS was not gotten by casual contact, Robertson, Helms, Falwell, were all playing on people's fears: God was smiting them with a terrible disease and it was highly contagious: AIDS was the new Black Death and its victims were perverted sinners.

I was a volunteer for the AEF for 6 years. I was lucky, in a sense, that I survived it - "burnout" was actually about 3 years. The most important thing I came away from the Fund was this: all of the AIDS volunteers and health care workers across the country (eventually several hundred thousand people) were doing wonderful work while much of American Christian community stood by and did next to nothing.

The very first faith-based AIDS outreach programs outside of San Francisco did not start until 1986 (Episcopal Archdiocese of Los Angeles, bless them). A handful of churches were doing work by 1990, but so minuscule was the ratio of faith-based organizations to other non-profits agencies that any new f-b agency being trumpeted (and trumpeted) was met with skepticism rather than relief.
It took over 25 years for America's Christianity to come to the aid of AIDS victims.

To date, the Southern Baptist Convention has not.

So, again, I ask Christians: on December 1, 1981
Where the HELL were YOU?
SBC and Christofascists: Don't even bother.