Book Review: “The Good Thing About AIDS/The Bad Thing About AIDS” (Jan-Apr 2006)

By Matt Dabbs

by Anne-Geri’ Fann
January – April, 2006

[from NBC’S Will & Grace]
Grace: “Well, you’ve come on a good night. Jack’s mother is going to be joining us, and she doesn’t know Jack’s gay.”
Karen: “How could she not know? What is she, headless?”

There are many arguments surrounding the “invasion” of the gay agenda into our culture on television and other forms of media. Some find it refreshing and open, while others find it offensive and intimidating. Oh true, there may be dangers in playing with the fire that is pluralism, but is there also something positive to be said about this society that has begun to embrace homosexuality as normality?

I believe so. It is not a bunch of TV shows and gay church life groups that wrap themselves up in a too-encompassing word like “tolerance.” Characters like Will and Grace might make light of a difficult subject, however filtered the listener has to be (laughter can truly tear down walls). But this Emmy-winning show has no unbeatable value over Jesus, whose love blows “tolerance” off the charts with real relationships; he also tears down the walls that are built around gay men and women, regardless of who put them there. It doesn’t have to do with embracing homosexuality. It is because a Jesus-type of love has everything to do with embracing homosexuals.

This is still a difficult thing for many Christians to do. We have countless drug and alcohol abuse programs in our churches; I have heard many a testimony from those who have been changed by addiction, those who are coming out of it, and those who truly want to change and come forward with open, bleeding hearts. But what of the homosexuals? Is this something we feel comfortable addressing in our churches? Few members come forward to confess it; that much is certainly true.

The Good Thing About AIDS / The Bad Thing About AIDSAnd how would you feel if you found out your son is gay? And what if he had to tell you he also has AIDS? Elaine Young McGuire, a mother experienced in these complicated subjects, engages those who must address these concerns in her brilliantly illustrated book. It doesn’t take long to read through her The Good Thing About AIDS, The Bad Thing About AIDS: A Picture Album About Living & Dying. Its flip book-style narrative lends ease in reading enhanced with Roy Chung’s clever illustrations which tell a deeper story. But there is nothing simple about this manuscript. It is not merely a list of pros and cons for people dealing with the effects of AIDS. It is a demanding taste of harsh reality that interweaves the beauty of savouring every moment. It is about learning how to die, and then how to live again. It is about grace and truth and the healing hands that can cure something more profound than simply the wounds of an illness.

In Elaine’s own words:

In this scrapbook album the beginning is the ending and the ending is the beginning. I believe each of us is on a journey from life to death to life. Many living with HIV/AIDS are tethered to fear and uncertainty and experience sudden and conflicting emotions that concurrently wound and heal. The ambiguity of these feelings can be toxic; therefore a conscious decision must be made to focus on positive thinking. This same choice is important for anyone living with a terminal illness or in unrelenting physical or emotional pain. My prayer is that the “snapshots of emotion” shared in this book will make you sympathetically aware of both the beauty and pathos that is the reality of learning to live while suffering and dying.

It does, Elaine. One “snapshot” of a young man looking through a spider’s web says, “The good thing about having AIDS is that I have the time to observe a spider spin her delicate web, and then the reflective time to marvel at the intricate beauty of it. My heightened respect for all life calls forth a protective urge in me to help insure the completion of her task.” For Christians who grew up hearing the Puritan sermon which illustrates us all as spiders, dangling over the pit of hell into which God may loose us at will, this vision of His grace here is welcome.

Elaine’s book is not just addressed to those affected by homosexuality in one way or another because there are many ways to contract immune deficiency. However, as this is her experience, its message is clear. Love makes a world of difference. Elaine loved her son and did not stop loving her son when she learned about his lifestyle. She was not “headless” or intolerant and did not take it personally. She knew. She cherished him to the end and is devoted to him still. She wrote this book for him, for others who suffer through AIDS, and for those who need to be reminded what it truly means to love.

In a Christian culture that feels invaded by an agenda, we must remember that Jesus loved before he ever healed. The snapshots in this book could never have been taken without that kind of devotion. Love goes a long way. Thank you, Elaine, for taking us on that journey, and, although it came at great cost to you, may your book touch many lives with the embracing ways of Jesus.

The Good Thing About AIDS / The Bad Thing About AIDSNew Wineskins

Anne-Geri FannAnne-Geri’ (“Angie”) and her extremely cool husband David love laughing with friends so hard that beverage comes out of their noses. Her mission experience extends from her birthplace of New Zealand to all over the world, but her primary work is in Honduras where she has co-directed youth camps and lead short-term mission teams for almost 20 years. She has written a book about short-term mission work to be published April 2006. She is a little bit of a hippie who enjoys her large organic garden and a good cup of hot tea after a hearty hike in the mountains. Her favourite animal is the donkey because when it brays it reminds her that even on her best day as a human being she sounds pretty ridiculous compared to her great God. Angie is a High School Spanish teacher and often teaches Religion courses on the university level. She is fluent in Spanish and dangerous in German, but her Klingon is hopeless.

She has written a book being published soon.

Follow her life journey at [www.annegeri.blogspot.com].

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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