by John W. Ritenbaugh
Sometimes I think that if I did not have the hope of the return of Jesus Christ to establish the government of God on earth, I would live my life in tormented, screaming desperation. I get especially frustrated by the criminally careless, yet urbane and sophisticated pronouncements of people in positions of influence.
English writer and theologian C. S. Lewis made this observation:
The greatest evil is not done in those sordid dens of crime that Dickens loved to paint . . . it is conceived and moved, carried and minuted in clean-carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.
The prophet Amos exclaimed of the high and mighty of his day:
Thus says the LORD, "For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor [weak or powerless, not poverty stricken] for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble [the afflicted, the underdog]." (Amos 2:6-7)
One chapter later God invites the pagan nations to witness the decadence in Israel (Amos 3:9). Then He cries, "‘For they do not know to do right,' says the LORD, ‘who store up violence and robbery in their palaces'" (verse 10). He says our moral sense is so warped, our concepts of right and wrong so blurred, that while pagan nations plunder each other, Israelites plunder and violate each other. That is not what one would call even normal, human common sense, let alone a godly perception of true morality and responsibility.
In his day Isaiah prophesied of a worrisome circumstance that would befall Judah. In my judgment, this prophecy is surely being fulfilled in the United States and Canada today: "I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them" (Isaiah 3:4). He meant that their leaders would be people of immature minds, people without wisdom, self-centered, concerned mostly with "looking good" and being acceptable to the right people. Furthermore, these leaders would not really be concerned with principles or long-range effects of policies and decisions, but very willing to pass on to the next generation the problems their policies create. When God gave this prophecy to Isaiah, He had more than governmental leaders in mind. The same types of people are influential in business, education, religion, the professions and science.
A Troubling Book
I have just finished reading a thought-provoking and sobering book entitled,AIDS: What the Government Isn't Telling You, that certainly makes one cry out, "Your Kingdom come!" The author, Dr. Lorraine Day, was head orthopedic surgeon at San Francisco General Hospital, the only trauma hospital in that city, and taught on the faculty of the University of California, San Francisco for fifteen years. Because of practicing in the city of San Francisco, Dr. Day has probably operated on more AIDS-infected patients than any doctor in the United States. She makes her points well that AIDS is very serious business, that officials have been less than candid with the American public and that the fight against AIDS has been virtually paralyzed by fear of political effects.
Nobody knows how many people worldwide are infected. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that one of three people in Zaire is infected. But that is in far-off Africa and is easily put out of mind. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta says 500,000 are AIDS-infected in New York City alone, and each of these can infect others. According to present projections, in five years AIDS-infected people will fill half the New York City hospital beds, up from 5% today. The entire population of Charlotte, NC, is less than 500,000!
The WHO estimates that by 2002 there will be 14,000,000 AIDS-infected people in the United States. Within two years the number of people killed by AIDS will be five times higher than the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam war. The statistical projections are staggering. Before reading Dr. Day's book, I was aware of many of these statistics, but I was not terribly concerned. My mind was comforted by misinformation—perhaps outright lies—given by people I thought were in a position to know: primarily, doctors, researchers, and public health officials.
AIDS has been romanticized through movies, such as the one featuring the life of Randy White. In it the "villains" were not the blood banks that infected him, but the family's neighbors, whose natural instincts made them shy away from something so deadly and mysterious. But for political reasons, the AIDS-infected have to be treated as though nothing is wrong, as if they were not carriers of a deadly enemy to others. Randy was allowed to attend school with the rest of the kids—the same school that would have sent him home had he arrived there with measles, chicken pox, a common cold, ring worm or lice.
A Gruesome Disease
AIDS is not a pretty disease. The lungs fill with the body's secretions, making the infected struggle for air as though they were drowning. Purplish-black lesions break out all over the body, primarily on the arms, legs and face. Forgetfulness, poor concentration, confusion, loss of balance, weakness, depression, fatigue, paranoia, hallucinations, incontinence of both bladder and bowels, tremors, facial slackness, seizures and severe weight loss combine with a characteristic "wild-eyed appearance" (indicative of central nervous system damage) to make them look like prisoners of war. The end can be very painful.
Consider this: fourteen or fifteen years after AIDS-infected people began appearing with growing regularity at hospitals, NO ONE KNOWS WITH ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY WHAT CAUSES AIDS! We have been told authoritatively by people who are supposed to know that it is caused by HIV. Yet all researchers know for sure is that HIV is present when people show symptoms of AIDS. There can be a big difference between the two. HIV was known and isolated by researchers long before AIDS made its appearance. Presently, there is no test to discover AIDS, only tests to discover if HIV is present in the bloodstream.
Suppose for a moment that AIDS is caused by HIV. For years spokesmen for government agencies, with unquestioned authority, have trumpeted many misleading statements. They told us that one could not contract it through casual contact, that it is strictly a blood-borne infection. Wrong—dead wrong for some now! Although blood carries the heaviest concentration of HIV, it is found, alive and infective, in every bodily fluid, even in saliva, tears, urine and feces. A five-year-old boy in Germany contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. But before he died, he infected his eight-year-old brother with AIDS through a bite (witnessed by the mother) that did not break the skin! The scourge has even been transmitted through artificial insemination.
Health officials have told us that the virus is fragile, that it cannot live long outside the body. But it survives freezing. It lives for seven days in a dry environment and fourteen days in a moist one. What does that mean regarding toilet seats and water fountains? Nobody knows, but the problem is steadily building, as more people contract the disease, and as the government continues to pander to the wishes of a select group.
What does this fact mean for those who have their children in day care centers, where children constantly put each other's toys in their mouths? Who knows whether a child has AIDS? No one is allowed to know, not even the doctor treating a person, unless the AIDS carrier chooses to tell.
A person with tuberculosis is not permitted to work in a restaurant because they might cough on food served to patrons and infect them. But an AIDS carrier cannot be prohibited from that kind of employment. He can cough and sneeze on the food. How much danger is there? Nobody knows because these same groups hinder research in these areas. By granting special dispensations to a special interest group, politics has put the innocent at risk to guarantee a voting block or maintain personal privacy.
A Problem with Blood Banks
Blood banks derive their income by selling donated blood (in most cases) to hospitals, where it is needed during surgery for transfusions. The blood banks have been loathe to test donors, out of fear of offending them and diminishing the bank's income. For a bank to exist and make money, they must maintain a steady stream of donors. Between 1978 and 1985, as the incidence of AIDS rose rapidly and concern about the quality of blood rose in response, blood banks told the public that the chances of contracting AIDS through a transfusion was one in 100,000, slim odds indeed.
The truth was not admitted to the public until 1987, when investigative reporting forced a blood bank administration to talk. The true odds were one in 100! Over that eight-year period 29,000 Americans were consigned to an early, expensive, horribly debilitating and painful death because of AIDS-contaminated blood transfusions. Businessmen knew the truth, but hid it to continue doing business.
The problem has been lessened greatly by introducing two tests to screen for HIV, but it is not entirely resolved. Why? These tests are designed only to reveal HIV antibodies. Unfortunately, HIV can remain dormant and unseen in the blood for as long as thirty-five months, according to Lancet, a British medical journal. During that period, an infected person may donate seemingly HIV-negative blood, but it is there, ready to awaken after transfusion into another person. Researchers do not yet know what finally triggers it to come "suddenly" to life.
Through the banks efforts to treat and purify it, the blood is now pronounced 99.5% safe. But it is that safe only if both tests available are used. With their record of mangling the truth, one wonders.
Questions About Safety
Finally, experts caution us to have "safe" sex, which generally seems to mean "use a condom." That is a macabre and possibly deadly joke. We would not take a person seriously if he advised us to "just be careful when having sex with someone with smallpox"! When in surgery, Dr. Day wore three pairs of gloves to protect herself from the blood of her patients. She wore latex gloves against her skin (same material as a condom), cloth gloves over that pair, then another pair of latex gloves over the cloth ones. In addition, she donned a special breathing mask, a visor to cover her entire face, rubber boots and a uniform dubbed by co-workers as a "space suit."
Why did she go to such extreme measures? Do you know how small the HIV virus is? It would take two million of them to cover the dot at the end of this sentence! Latex may look solid, but it has holes in it. Testing has shown the holes to be 5 microns. Though that is very small, the HIV virus is smaller still, measuring 0.1 micron—fifty times smaller.
To my knowledge, never in American history have people in authority treated a disease in this manner. In the political arena, virtually every measure taken has been to protect the rights of the AIDS-infected, while the uninfected public has had to function on half-truths and lies, persecuted if they dared to question a policy that did not seem to make even common sense. Public health officials and businessmen have frequently evaded the truth to protect profits, avoid panic or protect homosexuals.
God's Word clearly establishes the principle of quarantine beginning in Leviticus 13. "Who is God?" the nation's leaders say. "Why should we look to Him for authority? What did the ancients know?" But God's Word is truth, and He prophesies, "The Lord will strike you with the boils of Egypt, with tumors, with scab, and with the itch, from which you cannot be healed. The Lord will strike you with madness, and blindness and confusion of heart" (Deuteronomy 28:27-28). Surely we live in this period of time. Sin is the cause of this horrible plague, and we are witnessing its growth into an international problem. "Truth," God says, "is fallen in the street" (Isaiah 59:14).
There is no reason to be frightened. People like Dr. Day have worked in its presence for fairly long periods without contracting it, another riddle no one knows the answer to. But we should be sobered into being careful and not tempting God. Research is being done that indicates that a healthy person's body will throw off or completely hold in check the invasion of this disease. Something seems to trigger the HIV to surge and overwhelm the body when its overall health breaks down from other causes. It points to our need to be careful about our health, a responsibility from God.
It also points to our need for the broken body and shed blood of Jesus Christ for healing and the protection (salvation and grace) of God to shield us. Everywhere in the Old Testament, widespread disease is seen as a sign that the relationship with God has broken down through sin. That has certainly happened in this nation; don't let it happen to you individually.
In this season let us look soberly and yet joyfully at what the sacrifice of Jesus Christ affords us. He has restored our fellowship with God and given us access to all the awesome promises of God that fill us with hope. Have a wonderful and inspiring spring festival season as together we look forward to Christ's return!