LifeWalk

______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

Love Is The Cure June 20, 2013

loveisthecure
Love Is the Cure: On Life, Loss, and the End of AIDS
– By Elton John

While there is certainly some very interesting autobiographical material here, this is not primarily an autobiography.  It is a book about AIDS.

Elton looks at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, and then brings us up to date.  From the science to societal reaction we’re given the facts, as well as many stories of lives directly impacted by AIDS.  Of course, all our lives are impacted by AIDS.

We start with a story of a small town in Indiana called Kokomo, as we look at the life of Ryan White.  Ryan was a teenage hemophiliac who became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. We see, as Elton John states, that Ryan and his family were “true Christians.”  The story also reveals the very non-Christian actions and attitudes of many of the church-goers and residents of Kokomo at that time.  The majority of the townsfolk ostracize this afflicted boy and his family.  “It seemed like a modern-day witch hunt, and Ryan was to be burned at the stake.” Adults were worse than the kids who teased and tormented him. His entire family suffered. This is some sad, sad commentary on the nature of fear, religion, and those who propose to represent God.  But even through being shunned by the town, his classmates and his “church,” Ryan said “There’s always hope with the Lord. I have a lot of trust in God.”
Eventually, Ryan and his family did have to leave town so Ryan wouldn’t have to be buried in such a place of evil hatred.  The town he moved to, only miles away, welcomed him with open arms.  In the end, Ryan reached the entire nation.
The faith, love, and Christ-likeness of Ryan and his mother forever changed the life of Elton John.  Elton is very honest about how his addictions, anger and ego were in control of his life.  “You can’t imagine how selfish I was at the time, what an asshole I had become.” Seeing Ryan give out so much love in the face of so much hate helped E.J. face his own demons.  Elton entered rehab in 1990 and has been sober ever since.  His interactions and friendship with Ryan White also led to the creation of the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

Elton shares stories of personal loss, as so many of his friends and acquaintances were suffering and dying from this pandemic. There are stories of people like Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury.

We also see AIDS on more of a national level.  This, of course, includes people like Jerry Falwell, again on their religious high-horses proclaiming AIDS victims are just getting what they deserve.  Even some government leaders help spread the hate, fear, and misinformation that ads fuel to the fire of an already devastating crisis.

And we look at AIDS from a global perspective.
Over in Africa, we see that in addition to an extremely bad AIDS situation, there is also an epidemic of rape.  Someone is raped every 26 seconds.  The men and leaders seem to think this is normal behavior, and punish the women who attempt to report being raped.  These unreported atrocities give tremendous momentum to the spread of the disease.
Another disgusting story is about how the Bayer pharmaceutical company knowingly sold tainted, AIDS transmitting medication to other countries so they wouldn’t have to throw them out and lose money.

Throughout this book, we’re shown the many faces of AIDS.  The involvement of some famous warriors against this disease, like President Bill Clinton, Paul Michael Glaser, Princess Diana,  Elizabeth Taylor, and many others is discussed.  We examine what has been done, and where we need to go from here.

I would be remiss as a reviewer if I did not mention the book’s shortcomings.  They can be summed up by saying “Elton John is not an author.”  The writing stumbles from time to time, and there is much redundancy.
Having said that, the stories are far too interesting, and the information far too vital to miss reading “Love Is The Cure.”

I’ve always enjoyed Elton’s music.  At the same time, I sensed that he was pretty much a jerk.  Reading this book has helped me see a different side of Elton John:
A loving, helpful, mellowed-by-age-and-experience, redeemed Elton John.  When he speaks of his drug use, party-life, and “unprotected” multiple sexual encounters he says that it’s a “miracle” he never contracted AIDS.  I feel he does not use that word lightly.
His miracle is one with which I can totally identify.

“Love Is The Cure” is truly an eye-opener, and I thank God that Elton John has written it.


Buy the book. Click HERE.


[For years, now, my wife and I have been involved in raising funds for our local AIDS Task Force here in Fort Wayne, Indiana through  their annual “AIDS Walk.”  This year’s walk is over, but you can still donate.
If you’d like to do so, click: www.Aids-Walk.info.
Thanks! Dave.]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Quotes:

– The bottom line is, we’re all human, and we all deserve to be helped and to be loved.
– I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the “Me” Decade ended in 1979. The Elton ego train kept rolling right through the ‘8Os.
– Ryan White inspired a nation, changed the course of a deadly epidemic, and helped save millions of lives.
– As a child with hemophilia, Ryan had been treated with compassion. As a child with AIDS, many treated him with contempt.
– Many religious institutions, governments, and the general public sent an unmistakable message to people with AIDS: We do not care about you.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– Falwell and his ilk helped guarantee the AIDS epidemic would get far worse.
– It still stings to recall the pure, unadulterated hatred that was spewed at gays and AIDS sufferers.
– What makes AIDS so frightening, so very lethal, is that it takes advantage of more than our biological weaknesses. It take advantage of our social weaknesses.
– Conservative religious and political leaders continue to stand in the way of implementing what we know for a hard fact will save millions upon millions of lives.
– Fighting stigma is difficult work. Instead of directing our animosity and fear at someone’s disease, we direct it at the person who is sick.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The discrimination that the LGBT community [in Haiti] faced after the earthquake is hard to stomach.
– Like many people, I deeply regretted much of what [George W. Bush] did in office, but [his] decision to take aggressive action [with his [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] saved millions of lives.
– There are 2.5 million people infected with HIV in India, and their government has said essentially, “We don’t care about any of you because some of you are gay.”
– We certainly can’t do it without religious institutions on our side. Their power is too great, their influence too far-reaching. There is no excuse for furthering pain and injustice in the name of any god.
– For a small fraction of what was spent on the war in Iraq, America would forever be heralded as the country that won the war against AIDS.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

– The cure for AIDS is a matter of changing hearts and educating minds.
– The fight against AIDS comes down to compassion.

Buy the book. Click HERE.



WE ALL HAVE AIDS

 

A Time To Embrace July 1, 2011

A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics
By William Stacy Johnson

First of all, let me say this is not what I consider a “casual” read. I could easily think of this as a text-book for some introductory college course on politics and religion.  Still, it’s a course worth taking.

At the end, there are 74 pages of end-notes, an index of names, an index of subjects, PLUS an index packed with scripture references!  All in all a well researched and very well documented book.
This book has two major sections, with a number of sub-sections.
The first portion deals with religion. The second covers both law and politics.

Religion:  There are 7 main theological viewpoints concerning same-gender relationships that are presented. Yeah, seven.
With all the “us vs. them” shouting matches going on, we may presume there are only two, diametrically opposed views. This is simply not true. There are those who will say “I only care about ONE viewpoint, and that’s what the BIBLE says!”

The realization from looking at this variety of viewpoints is that they all have some basis in scripture. So one of the best things about this book is that it helps us understand what others believe and why they believe what they do. This is especially important when dealing with opposing views by those whom all believe that they are honoring God.
(Certainly, they are not all actually doing so. Flying planes into buildings, bombing clinics, hanging men because they’re black, defending slavery, burning heretics, beating gay youths to death, and denying others their basic rights have all been done to “honor” God.
I assure you, God was not honored.)
Moving on.

Each of the 7 views discussed are approached from three additional perspectives:  That of Creation, of Reconciliation, and that of Redemption.
Then, each view is also approached in the light of the often quoted Pauline writings to the Romans. Since these texts are frequently brought up in discussions and debates, looking at each view in light of these scriptures is of extreme importance. As the author states, his list of religious views and approaches are not exhaustive, but there is an awful lot of ground covered!
Whatever your view, it’s probably expounded upon here.

This whole section on religion can help foster real discussion, not just debate. Debate rarely changes anyone’s mind, or moves us closer to any kind of unity (not to be confused with “uniformity”).

I’m so very, very tired of people just spouting out dogmatic beliefs while never truly having examined the issues and evidence; both biblical and extra-biblical. Reading this book is a good first step toward better understanding, and better communication.

I will say, Mr. Johnson is far more religious than I am or care to be. His emphasis on baptism is, to me, almost obsessive. But I suppose it is this dedication to tradition that could help his writings be considered by those who may not normally read anything substantive on the issue of marriage equality.

Part Two:  Law and politics.

This is a great “mini-course” on our legal system. We look at a lot of actual case law, and the evolving nature of the laws themselves. Most of us have probably heard of old laws, still on the books, that we laugh at and wonder why they’re still there. From this we should see that laws MUST change and adapt as society changes.

It’s essential here to realize that although some of our founding fathers were theists, this country is not, nor has it ever been, a “Christian” nation.
Nor should it be. This county was born, in part, to get out from under “church” control. Our religious beliefs will certainly influence our political system, but must never control it. (Read “The Myth of a Christian Nation“)

Anyway, we see that a “democracy” is not the same as “majority rule.” In fact, democracy can often be in direct opposition to majority rule. Johnson points out that one of the main functions of a true democracy is to assure that the majority doesn’t “ride roughshod over the rights of the minority.” The courts can, and must at times, go against the wishes of the majority. This should be evident from our own history of slavery, racism, and sexism. Some things should not be simply presented to the masses for a vote.

We learn about how the Supreme Court applies “minimal, intermediate, and strict scrutiny” when deciding issues of equality.  We examine the six basic features of a “deliberative democracy.”
We look at the particulars of both equality and marriage from a strictly legal perspective.  We see that “Marriage in the United States is a civil institution.  There is no requirement in law that marriage be approved by the church or any other religious community.
There is nothing inherent in the structure or content of marriage that should bar gay couples from getting married.”  One interesting side-light is that it was the Protestant church itself that demanded marriage be controlled by the secular state!

This author is more than fair in his discussion.  More so than I would likely be.  He makes it clear that “Pronouncements of mutual condemnation do not help to move us forward.”  This echoes the “elevating the conversation” ideals of people like Andrew Marin or Brian McLaren.  We simply must be able to carry on discussions without yelling at each other.

There is much here from which to learn and grow; and to do so together.
Both pro-gay and anti-gay activists can gain tremendous insights from reading this book.
If you desire dialog; if you desire to understand the various viewpoints instead of just condemning those who have them, you
owe it to yourself and the rest of us to read this book.

There is a time for everything.  Now is the time to embrace.
Embrace God.
Embrace God by embracing equality for all of His children.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————————————–

Some Quotes:

Remember that a generation ago, Protestant churches were arguing not over gays but over whether divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.

One of the major self-deceptions is the assertion that marriage is an institution that has remained the same for millennia.
This is simply not true.

That the early church did not foresee the full implications of [welcoming] same-gender orientation does not limit that text’s meaning for us today any more that the early church’s inability to foresee the end of slavery or the imperative of equality for women means that we should practice slavery or the subjugation of women today.

Supporting exclusively committed gay unions represents not a departure from our biblical and theological traditions, but rather a deepening of them.

[There are many who] have moral and religious reasons for favoring same-gender marriage.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Biblical prohibitions were addressed specifically to hedonistic or exploitative forms of sexual conduct… These biblical passages are silent about mutually and exclusively committed same-gender love.

For more than a thousand years, the term “sodomy” applied to any  sexual activity that departed from heterosexual vaginal intercourse.  Thus, oral sex between a man and a woman — even between husbands and wife — was condemned and outlawed as sodomy.
[For a proper biblical definition of sodomy, read Ezekiel 16:48-50 – ed.]

Of all the decisions made in a democracy, these deeply divisive ones are the last ones we should toss out to the electorate at large.

It is not permissible for a majority to eliminate the constitutional rights of a minority.

When religious fundamentalists refuse to deliberate with others because they believe they already have a monopoly on revealed truth, political results that are welcoming to all become impossible.

There is currently no moral screening for heterosexuals before they may procure a marriage license.

The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment that belongs to the species as a whole, not to each individual. (Can I get a “Duh!” – ed.)

American society…appears willing to tolerate, somewhat grudgingly, the existence of lesbians and gay men — provided it does not have to put up with their happiness… [Martha Nussbaum]

Eventually, marriage equality will prevail. [Amen!]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. [Martin Luther King Jr.]

On October 12, 1998, a twenty-one-year-old gay man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die hanging on a fence. Almost all gay men report having been subjected to some form of abuse or intimidation.

 

 
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