The Guilt Myth
By Aless Piper
August 4, 2011
My very Christian friend won't pray for my friend with AIDS who is currently going through a rough time medically. Yes, I am pissed off. This is a person who will pray -- without hesitation -- for a man with lung cancer who smoked a pack a day (or more) since the age of 12 and is now sixty-odd. But because to my Christian friend's mind anyway, my friend had to have done something to get AIDS, s/he will not pray for him/her. Where's the logic in that one?
Now I'm not too sure if this person would appreciate prayers in the first place. S/he is an atheist, as are most of the people I know with HIV/AIDS. But that's not the point. The point is, my very Christian friend won't even offer to pray for him/her, or even to keep him/her in their thoughts.
I could continue to talk to a wall, but I want to talk it out here instead. Why is that love the sinner hate the sin mentality, which so many Christians boast, oddly absent when it comes to HIV/AIDS in America?
Subscribing to the school of thought that you shouldn't ask a question unless you have a half decent idea of the answer, I have a theory and it all comes down to this: guilt and innocence.
Edward explained it to me in 2005: "Some people use it [the knowledge of how someone was infected] to see if they can (morally/based on their value system) accept you. People who were infected through the blood system and secondarily infected are thought to be 'victims' while gay men are thought to be 'deserving' of it. No one deserves HIV. How we become infected is irrelevant."
Would you ask someone with lung cancer how they got it? More important, would it matter?
Somebody very familiar with the guilt myth is the Toronto politician who said that "... I personally think it's a preventable disease. From what I know, if you're not gay and you're not an IV drug user, you probably won't get AIDS." He's now the mayor of Toronto and back in 2006 he continued to say that "I hear 90 per cent of the cases are if you're gay or you're doing needles to do drugs, then you're going to get AIDS. Now that's what I wanted to clarify because we're spending $1.5 million and when I read through this it's extremely frustrating because in the course of these groups it looks like drugs or gays."
Personally I have an issue with anyone getting HIV. I think it's undeniably tragic regardless of what they may have done. Nobody deserves HIV, the same way nobody deserves cancer ... even if they have smoked a pack a day for several decades. And maybe, just maybe, although I don't know the particulars of this case, that $1.5 million actually did something. Radical idea, right?
(Side note: while Ford was running for mayor, one of the members of his campaign retweeted this: "Smitherman should spend less time attacking Ford for telling truth about AIDS, more time coming up with actual policies." The campaign member was fired, but if the campaign member actually thinks Ford was telling the "truth" about AIDS, how frightening is that?? Also, in 2010 in the course of his campaign he apologized to a gay man for his 2006 comments, saying "I apologize if I offended you or your husband in any way -- that's not my style." A few months later, he had a bit of an issue with the guy he famously apologized to.)
But here's the thing: I could be sitting on the bombshell that s/he is a hemophiliac and got it through tainted Factor 8, or that s/he was born with it. Would that then make him/her innocent in the eyes of the Christians, and of politicians more or less everywhere? Isn't that kind of hypocritical?
Personally, I choose to live by Mother Theresa's words that if you judge people, you have no time to love them. There are some far more qualified than I, or my oh-so-Christian friends, to determine guilt or innocence. I can tell you one thing: It cannot be divined from knowing how one contracted HIV/AIDS or any other disease.
Aless Piper is a 20-something office assistant by day, world-changer by night. She is a voracious reader, and addicted to iced caramel correttos from her favorite coffee shop. She has been reading TheBody.com for more than half her life.
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