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'Intolerance a great evil on this campus, world'

Nov. 10, 1999

A quick word about intolerance.

Because evils like racism still run rampant in the world, many have finally dismissed injustice as the natural order of things. Though Jesus took dinner with sinners and made women his apostles, many Christians I know cling to their prejudices with a tighter and tighter grip.

Now that AIDS awareness week is approaching, I reflect on the 'modern day' social injustices toward people with the disease. The great stigma people with AIDS must weather stems from a misunderstanding of both science and of humankind.

A friend of mine told me that AIDS was eloquently described as a 'gay disease' in a classroom discussion recently. Early on, a common name for the disease was 'gay cancer.' Science quickly debunked the idea that homosexuals alone could get AIDS, but that misconception still floats in the minds of the ignorant.

When I was in eighth grade I went to a youth conference in Dallas. There I heard a speaker describe AIDS as an epidemic sent by God to punish the sexually deviant. An interesting thought, though I immediately recognized the hogwash coming from the stage. That memory still lingers in my mind as a monument to intolerance.

The fact is AIDS, and other retroviruses, emerged as a result of over deforestation. Viruses that laid dormant for thousands of years in carrier species have now infected an animal that was unable to handle it, humans. That is the truth.

Ebola is another such virus. I have never heard anyone claim that Ebola was sent to punish the people of Africa, though Africa plays host to periodic outbreaks of the disease.

The way AIDS is spread is also shrouded in

misconception. People quickly saw how severe a disease AIDS is. Because of this, they concluded the epidemic would be as severe. Scientists discredited that idea, as well, but these prejudices remain ingrained in many. My father told me of his first encounter with a man he knew had AIDS. Intellectually, my dad knew AIDS was not spread through skin contact, but the misconceptions of a culture had even reached him. He described the handshake with the man as a triumph in his own life as he took a step of faith in science to overcome the fear of a modern day myth.

It is in these victories we that see the importance of religion. One function of religion is to combat the ignorance and selfishness that leads to intolerance.

When we rise above our normal level of existence, (and when the TV finally goes off in the dead of the night), we are left alone with the silence of the universe. The emptiness we feel is symbolically pictured in the vast deadness of space. The black goes on forever, with only a distant myth of a beginning offered by a few scientists. The contemplation of time has done more than spur a few pop songs; it has also created a dark despair among some of the most enlightened people of history. Ernest Hemingway is an excellent example.

Whether one believes humans evolved a sense of spiritual need or if it is given by God, it is apparent that religion is here to fill that void. What I find so disturbing about the Christian environment I am subject to is its apparent disinterest in the grander picture and its intolerance toward those different than the Judeo-Christian standard. I do not wish to say all Christians think this way. In fact, some of the finest people I know exercise a life of Christianity and tolerance.

I like Paul Simon's song 'Blessed' for what it says about us. He sings, 'Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on . . .blessed is the lamb and the kingdom . . blessed are the meth drinkers, pot sellers, illusion dwellers . . . blessed are the cheap hookers . . .' I would like to add a few to that list. Blessed are the youth ministers, the gang-bangers.

Blessed is the racist, the oppressed. Blessed are the pious, the debauched. Blessed are the lovers, the haters. Blessed are the tyrants, the heroes.

There is an often-told story of a congressman who said, 'A million here, a million there, and pretty soon you are talking about some real money.' I say, a little insincerity here, some hatred there, and pretty soon you are talking about some real evil. I am not talking about Satan and his demons. I am talking about humans taking advantage of humans, of men subordinating women, of whites rejecting blacks, of Christians looking down on homosexuals, of pastors talking about AIDS as God's wrath.

Intolerance is a great evil on this campus and in the world.

David Irvin is a sophomore MIS major from San Antonio.