The Wrong Stuff

President Clinton, who has spent his public life emulating John F. Kennedy, thinks that he’s finally found his administration’s "moon shot." In 1961 President Kennedy vowed to put a man on the moon before the decade was out. In language that consciously echoed Kennedy’s challenge, Clinton vowed that America would commit itself to finding a vaccine for AIDS within the next 10 years. He announced that an AIDS vaccine research center would be created at the National Institutes of Health to pursue what he called the "first great triumph" of the twenty-first century. In the wake of the speech, most commentators focused on the feasibility of Clinton’s vision. It took Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer to spoil the party. He tossed political correctness to the winds and asked the only question that counted. "No one," Krauthammer writes, "seems to want to raise the obvious, if indelicate, question: Why embark on a huge national venture to create a vaccine for a disease that is already extraordinarily preventable?" By "extraordinarily preventable," Krauthammer means that we already have a vaccine, of sorts, for AIDS: All we have to do is avoid high-risk behavior such as homosexual sex or intravenous drug use. As Krauthammer puts it, is providing "vaccine-induced immunity" for these behaviors "really a top national priority?" Ironically, at the same time Clinton is calling for a vaccine, his administration is ignoring basic steps to prevent the spread of this deadly disease. In the interest of protecting gay sensibilities, our government is refusing to take the steps it’s taken in the fight against every other infectious disease— common-sense measures like testing, screening, and informing the sexual partners of those infected with HIV. "If we had a president with guts," Krauthammer writes, "he would be demanding these elementary measures to save people from getting AIDS today—instead of waving a wand and telling scientists to produce for him a magic vaccine 10 years from now." Krauthammer is absolutely right. But, unfortunately, only a handful of commentators have his moral courage to call the president on his lack of vision and integrity. The rest have been intimidated by the gay lobby. Apparently, they’re afraid of being labeled "homophobic" or of appearing callous to the needs of AIDS patients. That’s a risk I run with this commentary as well—that people will believe I’m motivated by animus toward homosexuals. Nothing could be further from the truth. During my regular prison visits, I embrace and pray with men dying from AIDS. What motivates Christians to speak out on this issue is the biblical command to love our neighbor as ourselves. That love constrains us to pray for a cure for this terrible disease and to lovingly minister to people dying of AIDS. But it also constrains us to speak the truth in love. More than three decades ago, President Kennedy’s dream of putting a man on the moon captured the imagination of the American people, and it galvanized this nation to heroic efforts. If President Clinton wants to do the same, he’s going to have to look beyond finding a vaccine for a disease that is, in Krauthammer’s words, "already extraordinarily preventable."


Chuck Colson


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