The Cure For AIDS, Or Unexplainable Hatred?

Rally in New York City, N.Y.
(Copyright © 2006 by Marline Fry. Used with permission)

About 35 million people worldwide (one in every 200 humans) are infected with AIDS, according to the United Nations. The UN has committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to end it in his state by 2020.

At least one fundamentalist pastor says we can end it “by Christmas”.

“Turn to Leviticus 20:13 because I actually discovered the cure for AIDS. Now this is the cure for AIDS.

And you know, everybody’s talking about ‘Let’s have an AIDS-free world by 2020’. Look, we can have an AIDS-free world by Christmas. Okay, it wouldn’t be totally AIDS-free, but we’d be like 90-some% AIDS-free by Christmas. Okay, here’s what the bible says in Leviticus 20:13.

‘If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.’

And that, my friend, is the cure for AIDS. It was right there in the Bible all along — and they’re out spending billions of dollars in research and testing. It’s curable — right there. Because if you executed the homos like God recommends, you wouldn’t have all this AIDS running rampant.”

Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, is already known for saying controversial things from the pulpit. In 2009, he said he hated Barack Obama and wished he would die, telling his congregation to check Psalm 58, which asks God — referring to “the wicked” — to “break the teeth in their mouths… May they be like a slug that melts away as it moves along, like a stillborn child that never sees the sun… The righteous will be glad when they are avenged, when they dip their feet in the blood of the wicked.” He got a visit from the Secret Service over that one. Earlier this year, he made a big deal about a couple of Bible verses that say women should be “silent”, adding “they should wait until they get home” to speak to their husbands, ignoring a larger volume of scripture that refers to women preaching and prophesying (Luke 2:36-38, Acts 21:8-9, Acts 2:17, Joel 2:28, Exodus 15:20-21, and more).

So it’s really no surprise that he should come out in favor of executing “the homos”.

What does surprise me is Anderson’s use of the word “recommends” when referring to Leviticus. God didn’t make any recommendations in that book of the Bible (or any other, that I’m aware of). He issued edicts, commands. Like the one in Lev. 20:9: “Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death. Because they have cursed their father or mother, their blood will be on their own head.” Or the next verse: “If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Or 20:18: “‘If a man has sexual relations with a woman during her monthly period, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them are to be cut off from their people.” Or the last verse in the chapter: “A man or woman who is a medium or spiritist among you must be put to death. You are to stone them; their blood will be on their own heads.”

I have not listened to every Anderson sermon, so I don’t know whether he also pushes for the execution of cursing children, adulterers, or mediums, or the deportation of people who have sex during the woman’s period. I will guess that he hasn’t suggested those verses are for today — if I’m incorrect, and you have evidence that he has called for the execution of children who curse their parents, please send me a link. So what he’s done, and what many preachers and fundamentalist Christians have done when attacking the idea of homosexuality, is choose one verse out of a chapter filled with death-penalty-deserving sins and say that this one particular command of God from the Old Testament should be followed to the letter.

I don’t know whether Anderson or others of his ilk advocate burning to death a prostitute whose father is a priest (Lev. 21:9). Or whether they regularly burn one-year-old defectless lambs the day after the Sabbath (Lev. 23:11-12), excommunicate and deport anyone who works on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:29), put to death anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord (Lev. 24:15-16), or meticulously makes sure someone who caused injury has the same injury caused to them (Lev. 24:19-20).

Because if you don’t, if you don’t practice and preach these other “recommendations” of God from Leviticus, and the hundreds I skipped, then you have to shut your hateful mouth about Leviticus 20:13. Because your hypocrisy makes it clear that you’re not out to obey God’s commands from Leviticus (if you were, you would), but that you’re out to disparage a person who’s different from you, an entire group of people who are different from you, and that you’re doing it out of a sick, unexplainable hatred that you really should quit telling people about.

Part of a larger series I’ve begun calling “De-distorting Christianity”. Even if I later change the series title, this tag link should still work.

  1. Shari says:

    What a terrible thing to say! (Him, not you).
    I hope that most Christians would recognize the difference between God’s plan for ancient Israel and His plan for the Church. While I don’t agree with those who say that the age of grace permits sin, the New Testament makes it clear to me that the correct response to sin is love and repentance, not death.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      “While I don’t agree with those who say that the age of grace permits sin”

      I think also that some of the definitions of “sin” changed between the OT and NT. For example, in the OT it was a sin to work on the Sabbath, to even gather wood, with severe punishments lined up. It’s even part of the Ten Commandments. But it’s not a sin anymore.

      In fact, Galatians 3:23-25 (the whole chapter really) indicates pretty strongly that the law of the old testament doesn’t any longer apply.

      “…the New Testament makes it clear to me that the correct response to sin is love and repentance, not death.”

      And in fact it also makes it clear that Christians aren’t even to judge what sin IS (for those outside the church) or who’s doing it. You’ll remember I Corinthians 5 was one of my favorite chapters. If the church defines something as sin, you can kick the sinner out of the church (“hand them over to Satan” is Paul’s way of putting it), but that’s about it. Just like with any group or club. He expressly forbids judging those outside the church and warns readers to leave it to God.

      (Edited to add: Example: a photo club has a rule — “no cropping; we must see your original composition of the photo”. Someone breaks that rule willfully, often enough, they can be kicked out. But the club can’t judge photographers outside the club who crop all they want to, because those photographers don’t want to be in the club in the first place.)

  2. Shari says:

    Those are all good points, which many of us would do well to consider. Last night as I thought the matter over, I made some nice connections in my brain, but this morning I can’t repeat the process. :) I do know that your comments fit well with the Mennonite “kingdom” theology.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      “Last night as I thought the matter over, I made some nice connections in my brain, but this morning I can’t repeat the process.”

      That exact process is the bane of my existence. Sigh. I’ve tried to solve it by keeping a notebook by my bed (which my kids disappeared), adding a notepad app and a voice-recording app to my phone (which I usually forget to use), and by leaving my computer on most of the day — all in case I have a thought that I need to write down NOW before I forget it.

      Sometimes it works; often it can’t work because “Daddy! Benjamin is doing something bad!” and I have to run. More often, I don’t even get the thought completed. :-/

      • Wil C. Fry says:

        I wonder if this is why some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, and scientists (also quite a few saints) have been childless (or rather, whether they eventually became known as such because they were childless). Certainly none of them were stay-at-home parents. :-)

        The huge downside for society of course is that such a great set of thinking genes is stopped in its tracks every time that happens…

  3. I’ve been thinking about hatred and bigotry a lot more lately, and I’m trying to cobble together some kind of a blog piece about its evolutionary role, as a survival strategy that has turned against us in the modern world. Ideas?

    Also this appalling anecdote: in about 1986, then-girlfriend Kathy and I heard a talk show that took a call-in from someone claiming to have found that the cure for AIDS was to take lots of laxatives, “that way you’ll know what your asshole’s for.”

    It was an enlightened moment for all.

    • Wil C. Fry says:

      Appalling indeed, that anecdote.

      “…its evolutionary role, as a survival strategy that has turned against us in the modern world.”

      The us-vs-them idea seems permanently implanted in our brains, doesn’t it? And not just race/ethnicity, but nationalism, sports teams, my religion is better than yours, my town is better than your town, and so on.

      I suppose it could have come in handy in the early days of humanity, when most groups were at the family or tribal level — anything strange or new could be deadly and scary. Having young children of my own, I can see how a primitive parent wouldn’t have the ability to explain to a child the actual reasons for avoiding another tribe and so instead would invent something about them being lesser somehow.

      There have been some (not many, apparently) studies about this:

      Richard Dawkins talked a bit about it in his book The Selfish Gene (which I have not yet read), but it’s quoted a few places online, including the Wikipedia section I linked to above.

      “Dawkins writes that racial prejudice, while not evolutionarily adaptive, ‘could be interpreted as an irrational generalization of a kin-selected tendency to identify with individuals physically resembling oneself, and to be nasty to individuals different in appearance’.”

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