A factor in the monkeypox outbreak I hesitated to discuss

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A factor in the monkeypox outbreak I hesitated to discuss

May 24, 2022 - Dr. Jim Denison

This 1997 image provided by the CDC during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, and depicts the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a monkeypox case patient, who was displaying the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recuperative stage. As more cases of monkeypox are detected in Europe and North America in 2022, some scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks in Africa say they are baffled by the unusual disease's spread in developed countries. (CDC via AP)

This 1997 image provided by the CDC during an investigation into an outbreak of monkeypox, which took place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, and depicts the dorsal surfaces of the hands of a monkeypox case patient, who was displaying the appearance of the characteristic rash during its recuperative stage. As more cases of monkeypox are detected in Europe and North America in 2022, some scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks in Africa say they are baffled by the unusual disease's spread in developed countries. (CDC via AP)

“If it were to spread, it would be consequential.” This is how President Biden described an outbreak of monkeypox now making global headlines. The World Health Organization said today there have been 131 confirmed cases and 106 further suspected cases since the first was reported on May 7. After more than one million American deaths from COVID-19, many are asking if this will become the next pandemic.

Here’s what we know: according to the New York Times, monkeypox is “a more benign version of smallpox.” The virus creates a rash that begins with flat red marks that become raised and filled with pus. It also causes fever and body aches. The CDC says there is “no proven, safe treatment” for monkeypox, but the FDA has approved the use of smallpox vaccines and antiviral treatments to control outbreaks.

The good news is that this virus does not typically lead to major outbreaks. In fact, in most years there are just a handful of cases outside of Africa. The Times notes that “the likelihood of the virus being spread during sexual contact is high, but the risk of transmission from other forms of close contact is low.” Its symptoms are mild, though the virus had a fatality rate of about 3.3 percent in Nigeria.

Here’s a quote from the Times article that I hesitated to mention: “The majority of cases this year have been in young men, many of whom self-identified as men who have sex with men.” The article describes in anatomical detail how such transmission occurs.

Why I struggled with writing this article

Why would I hesitate to note this factor?

On one hand, I would not want to stigmatize those who suffer from monkeypox by labeling it a “gay disease” as happened in the early years of the AIDS epidemic. Nor would I want to single out gay men as somehow “deserving” of this disease or encourage anyone to label monkeypox as God’s “judgment” on them.

But here’s the larger sentiment with which I struggled in writing this article: homosexuality has become so normalized in our culture that even mentioning gay sex as a significant factor will cause some to label me as homophobic. This is a battle I am willing to wage when I must, but not one I aspire to fight unnecessarily.

I often state that Christians must hold four biblical facts in balance:

  • Homosexuality is not God’s design for us.
  • God loves all of us, whatever our sexual orientation.
  • We are all broken sexually.
  • And no one is beyond his redeeming and transforming grace (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9–11).

However, in a culture that has reduced morality to tweet-sized “personal truth,” you must either condemn all LGBTQ people or you must accept all LGBTQ claims. If you choose one of these sides, you’ll be condemned by the other; if you choose a third approach, you’ll be condemned by both.

In addition to the price we must pay in defending biblical morality in an immoral culture, there’s another factor to consider, one that strikes even closer to home.

288 grievous pages

Yesterday, I read the entire 288-page investigative report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Its findings are grievous. It describes in detail incidents of sexual abuse perpetrated by pastors and other ministers and documents ways the denomination’s leaders failed to respond compassionately and effectively to victims.

With more than fourteen million members, the SBC is America’s largest Protestant denomination. This report now stands alongside the ongoing clergy abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. Unsurprisingly, the secular press has been quick to highlight both crises.

Our postmodern, post-Christian culture has been working hard to undermine and delegitimize biblical morality for many years. The so-called “sexual revolution” has normalized immorality on an unprecedented level. Those who disagree are stigmatized as hateful and homophobic; such disagreement is increasingly criminalized as well.

Clergy abuse scandals undermine our diminishing moral authority even further. In a day when “personal truth” trumps biblical morality and endorses anything anyone wants to do that is not considered hurtful to someone else, why would lost people consider the moral claims of our faith? Why would they repent of their sins if we have our sins of which to repent? Why would they believe that God’s word is transformative if we are not transformed?

A transforming classic

The path to a more holistic holiness is not simply trying harder to do better. On the contrary, fallen people need the work of the Holy Spirit to be made holy people.

Our job is to submit every dimension of our lives to the Spirit each day (Ephesians 5:18), asking him to cleanse all that is impure (1 John 1:9), transform all that is not Christlike (Romans 8:29), and empower us to “be holy in all your conduct” (1 Peter 1:15). To this end, I want to recommend a small booklet that has inspired more than ten million readers, myself among them.

My Heart—Christ’s Home was first a sermon that became a book that became a best-selling classic. The author imagines what it would be like to ask Christ to come into the home of our hearts, room by room. He encourages us to:

  • Fill the shelves of our “study” through daily Bible study.
  • Make him Lord of our “dining room” by seeking the “food” that comes from pleasing him.
  • Meet with him in our “living room” as an invited and welcome guest.
  • Partner with him in our “work room” as he guides and empowers our daily tasks.
  • Enjoy his presence in our “rec room” as the giver of abundant life.
  • Seek sexual purity in our “bedroom.”
  • Gather for transformative community with fellow believers in our “family room.”
  • Allow others to partner with us in our “kitchen.”
  • Open every “closet” to his presence.
  • Transfer the “title” of our home to his kingship.

Which “room” will you open next to your Lord?

 

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